I’m Mike Mathers, I work for PACT, North Otago. I’m Manager of the North Otago area. Quite a large area I work within – Palmerston South, right through to Twizel in the Mackenzie Country, working down the Waitaki River and back through into Oamaru. It’s a large area, you can travel up to two hours in either direction from Oamaru to get to where our clients are. I was born and raised in Oamaru, and I think for a lot of Support Workers, everyone’s got a personal connection to mental illness one way or another. A lot of the people that we do support, we’re going into their own homes, which can be very difficult for somebody, so we need a Support Worker that’s very onboard, and at the same level with the person that we’re working with, so they need a full understanding of mental illness. For a lot of our… the clients, they are coming out of acute units, or just moved out of their situation because of family not either wanting them around, or they’ve had a marriage breakup, so they’re generally living by themselves. That’s where a lot of our referrals come through. There’s a huge gap between where Psychiatric District Nurses are, and for where families are, and where someone is actually in a space by themselves, we step in and support people who may just be insecure of what they’re doing, have a low self-esteem. Loneliness as well. The goals are set solely by the client themselves. For some of those it’s just to get out of their home, to go down to pay a bill, to go to the doctors, to attend a meeting. We’re not advocating there, but we’re supporting them to advocate for themselves. It takes quite a long time for people to open up sometimes; it’s going to take two or three visits for that rapport to be built before we move into goal setting. Someone with mental illness isn’t generally where they would like to be at that time. They have got goals, they’ve got aspirations. The Support Worker’s there to help them along the way. There are going to be many hurdles which may not be able to be overcome, but we may be able to actually sidestep them and go around those hurdles, and it’s a team approach. Sometimes if you haven’t got that net or that group of people around you, you know, things aren’t going to go too well for the client at all. Family get very busy nowadays too; sometimes they do get pulled apart from their loved ones. But there’s times, too, where clients are well and families are brought back together. And for families, too, to see supports put in place can actually be a getting togetherness, you know, things aren’t as bad as what they seemed. When you are putting support services in for clients, there’s no stigmatisation. You do get the odd time where the person or the service on the other side of the counter’s talking to the support worker and not the client. The Support Workers themselves will just step away from that situation, making it obvious to the person the other side of the counter ‘hey, wait a second, I’m not the person you’re meant to be talking to, this person is’. Those encounters have lessened over the years. There was a committee set up about a year ago, the North Otago Suicide Prevention Committee, and we talked about the organisations within the community, and how to reduce the community’s conception, or what’s happening in the community around suicide. When there was a suicide, the media would make a large thing of it in the papers to a point where it provoked general negativity. Support Workers were coming back to me and just discussing the negative impact it’s had on their clients. All they’re wanting to talk about is suicide, so it was just bringing back a memory which they may have forgotten about and it’s just brought back to the front of their mind to say, ‘hey, you know, there’s other people out there, this is the way they’ve fixed things or ended things, hey, this is another option’ and, you know, that’s a negative thing. We are fulfilling a gap between services to support the client in acknowledging their thoughts to us, and also us supporting them to keep busy, to keep active and to be in the community as a whole. So we have a very set schedule; we have a certain amount of hours, we’ll go in on this day, this time, so it becomes a regular pattern. We’re not just turning up to someone’s door and going ‘hey, I’m here, what’s happening’, you know. I just like seeing people achieve, strive, it doesn’t matter how long they take to achieve those goals, it’s about the person themselves enjoying their journey along the way. The best moment in eight years is actually seeing people transitioning from being very unwell to actually getting back out in the community, coming back to me, ‘Hey, have you got a job?’ And actually wanting to support others.

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