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PEER SUPPORT SERVICES 

What is Peer Support?

 

Peer Support may be defined as the help and support that people with lived experience of mental distress are able to give to one another. It may be social, emotional or practical support but importantly this support is mutually offered and reciprocal, allowing peers to benefit from the support whether they are giving or receiving it. Non-judgemental and personal. Key elements of Peer Support in mental health include that it is built on shared personal experience and empathy, it focuses on an individual’s strengths not weaknesses, and works towards the individual’s wellbeing and recovery.

 

What is a Peer Support Group?

 

It is a non-clinical intervention for people experiencing mental distress (or other condition or issue) and based on a formal therapeutic relationship between peers (people who have experienced similar adversity). Our peer support group are regular gatherings of people with lived experience of anxiety.

 

One or two trained peer support specialists, who may be psychologists, help to facilitate and all groups are generally held every two weeks. Group members share with one another about their experiences, struggles and challenges. The support group may act as an anchor as people focus developing skills to live well. A peer support group can help to free people from self-stigma and normalise the range of feelings and challenges that people experience, in a safe, supported and hope-focused environment.

 

What happens in Peer Support?

 

Grounded in the belief that people are their own greatest resource and that adverse life experiences can be sources of resilience and knowledge. • Draws on a shared understanding of recovery. • Focuses on what will sustain recovery – employment, reconnection with family/whānau, achievement and purposeful activities, as well as being included in communities. • Instils hope by being with someone who has been there and ‘through it’. • Not about ‘fixing things’ but building on strengths.

 

What are the benefits of Peer Support?

 

• A sense of connection and participation • Increased self-esteem and self-confidence • A sense of purpose • A greater sense of wellbeing, including less symptom distress • Increases in the quality and number of relationships – greater social support network • Longer periods of wellbeing •  Increased involvement in meaningful activities • Increased resilience and quality of life • Increased motivation to implement life changes.

 

What Peer Groups do you offer?

There are currently four Peer Support Groups on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays for people aged 18 years +. Groups may be held online in Alert Level 4, 3 and 2. You can read more about each group below.

 

What does it cost?

The Peer Support Groups are provided for free. They are a DHB funded service provided by Anxiety NZ Trust.

 

How do I join:

 

The group is open to people who are eligible to access healthcare services in NZ (a NZ resident, citizen etc.) and have a primary diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. You can ask your GP or other health professional for a referral to the Peer Support Group.  They can refer on our website, by email, fax or through Medtech or Healthlink.

 

If this isn’t possible you can fill out a self-referral on our website and we will be in touch.

 

Before joining the group a psychologist or peer group facilitator will arrange a time by phone or ZOOM to talk with you, to answer questions about the group, check-in with how you are feeling, and help to identify if a peer group environment would be appropriate and a helpful next step for you. If the group of choice is full we may offer for you to go on a waiting list until a space becomes available.

 

If you join the group, there will be a consent form to read and agree to and sign and there are some group conduct guidelines to help keep it a safe, confidential and helpful space for all members.

 

Anxiety NZ also submits coded, confidential demographic data to the Ministry of Health which you can read more about here: More information about ‘What happens to your mental health and addiction information?’ This includes smoking/vaping, housing, education, caregiver and support status, and if a wellbeing plan in place. If you don’t have a wellbeing plan we can help you with one. Every 6 months we will ask about changes in these areas.

 

Leaving the group:

 

If you would like to finish your Peer Group experience or can no longer come to the group regularly please let us know. We may be able to assist with a referral to other services or connecting you with resources to help maintain your health and wellbeing. If someone is unable to come for three groups in a row (unless otherwise arranged) we will make that space available for another person to join in their place. There is no limitation on how long a person can be in the group for and previous group members are welcome to get in touch about re-joining in the future.

 

What Group Members are saying:

 

“Anxiety NZ’s Peer Support Group helps to keep me connected with the things I value. One of the best things is truly knowing I’m never alone in how I feel. Making time for activities that have a positive impact on my health and wellbeing has made a huge difference to how I feel”.

 

“I was pretty nervous and it was a big effort to get myself to the first group. For ages I felt a huge amount of anxiety around other people and mostly just avoided social stuff where I could. This made Uni, work, and making friends that weren’t online, really tough. In the group I learnt so much about getting my mental wellbeing in shape and why my social anxiety was trying to help me out – but doing it in an unhelpful way!  

 

"I did work hard to actually practice the skills my peers recommended and they do work! Now I work with my anxiety, and make it work for me, so I’m doing the things I actually want to do, and avoiding much less stuff. I highly recommend being brave and getting support.”

 

More information

 

Read more about the Power of Peer Support here >

Power of Peer Support Services (mentalhealth.org.nz)

Peer Support Group

Group Guidelines and Goals PDF >

What happens to your information guide ≥

SERVICE USER AND FAMILY/WHĀNAU PARTICIPATION

Downloads:

Family Whānau Participation in Service Planning Implementation and Delivery Policy >

Service User Participation in Service Planning Implementation & Delivery Policy >

PEER SUPPORT GROUPS FOR ADULTS - FOUR FREE OPTIONS

SOCIAL ANXIETY PEER SUPPORT GROUP - SATURDAYS

A small and safe group supporting those who experience social anxiety or social phobia.. Facilitated by a registered psychologist and intern psychologist. An excellent opportunity to learn and practice new skills in a supported space.

 

Every second Saturday 3.30pm - 5.00pm, ongoing. 

Self referral or health professional referral required

Location: Anxiety NZ Trust, 77 Morningside Drive, St Lukes.

GENERAL PEER SUPPORT GROUP -THURSDAYS

Fun, friendship, sharing and understanding in a safe and supportive environment. Facilitated by a registered psychologist and Support Worker.

Fortnightly Thursdays 6.00pm - 8.00 pm.

Self referral or health professional referral required

Location: Anxiety NZ Trust, 77 Morningside Drive, St Lukes.

BALANCE PEER SUPPORT GROUP - THURSDAYS

A safe space for women with anxiety to meet and have meaningful conversations in a confidential and supportive environment. Components of the meetings include psychoeducation, sharing experiences, practical strategies and resources.

Facilitated by a Registered Psychologist and Support Worker.

Fortnightly Thursday 6.00pm - 8.00 pm.

Self referral or health professional referral required

Location: Anxiety NZ Trust, 77 Morningside Drive, St Lukes.

WELLBEING PEER SUPPORT GROUP - MONDAY

During the Covid-19's social restrictions our regular support group was transferred to a virtual platform (Zoom). 

Location: Online (using ZOOM and closed Facebook group option)

 

MORE ABOUT RESILIENCE 

Everyone experiences bumps in their life, yet we all deal with these twists and turns differently. Resilience is the ability to adapt to and cope with the events in our lives. 

 

“Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.”  -  American Psychological Association

 

How do you increase resilience?

Research has shown that there are many different ways to increase resilience. Examples include;

 

Building connections:

Having supportive relationships with friends, family or whanau. People who have positive relationships with others which include reassurance and encouragements, are able to cope better when something goes wrong and rebound more quickly. Prioritize relationships to build resilience. 

 

Self-care: 

Having a positive view of yourself and your abilities in life can increase your resilience. This means you are able to recognise your own assets and potentials, in a realistic way. Those who see themselves for who they really are likely to be more resilient. Encourage positive self-talk among your peers in order build resilience. 

 

Taking care of your body:

Research shows that having a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition, sleep, hydration and regular exercise can strengthen you body to adapt to stress and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Look to eat foods such as fish, nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, and limit packaged or processed foods or foods high in sugar.  

 

Practicing mindfulness:

Meditation, yoga and mindful journaling have also shown to help people build connections and deal with situations that require resilience. 

 

Setting goals: 

Setting realistic goals for the day and ticking them off is a rewarding activity which can help build resilience. Write down what you want to achieve today, not matter how big or small. Doing something regular which enables you to move towards what you’d like to accomplish can help build resilience. 

 

Getting help:

When you need it, getting help is vital in building resilience. Whether it be talking with friends, family and whanau or seeking professional help when you feel you are unable to go about your daily life. 

 

For more information, contact us on 09 846 9776.

 

SUPPORT FOR WHĀNAU / FAMILY

Families play an important role in the recovery journey of people experiencing mental illness. Whānau / Family can refer to anyone who supports or cares for a person experiencing mental illness. When someone you love is experiencing mental illness it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster and a challenge for you, your relationships and your family.

 

Acceptance, love and boundary setting can be pivotal in helping a loved one recover. Denial, disapproval, blame and judgement is likely to worsen the situation. As family / whānau there is a lot you can do to help. It’s important to keep your self-care as a priority in order do to your best for your loved one. 
 

We have outlined the main points to consider below. You can download a help-sheet with full details of each point:

 Practice Self-Care

 Resource yourself 

 Be patient 

 Stay in touch 

 Be persistently kind 

 Be positive 

 Start conversations and not conflict 

 Make sure you have resources 

 Find a support network and keep it active 

Help resources for parents, family and friends

Commonground – a website hub providing parents, family, whānau and friends with access to information, tools and support to help a young person who is struggling.

Parent Help – 0800 568 856 for parents/whānau seeking support, advice and practical strategies on all parenting concerns. Anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.

Family Services 211 Helpline –  0800 211 211 for help finding (and direct transfer to) community based health and social support services in your area.

Skylight – 0800 299 100 for support through trauma, loss and grief; 9am–5pm weekdays.

Yellow Brick Road (formerly Supporting Families) –  For families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness. Auckland 0800 732 825. Find other regions' contact details here.

For more resources visit the section on our website here >

 

RELATIONSHIPS, DIET & EXERCISE GUIDANCE

As part of a holistic approach to managing your experiences with anxiety, depression, OCD and phobia – maintaining healthy relationships, an intake of healthy food and regular exercise will create noticeable benefits and improvements to your ongoing mental state. We've outline a few points below, which may seem obvious at first, but it's worth reminding ourselves from time to time.

Relationships

If you are in a relationship, a partner who understands your condition and supports you is vital. As always, discussions with partners regarding your condition should be approached as an open and positive conversation. Accept that often the people around you won't have a complete understanding of your symptoms or their causes. Education, information and patience will be your most powerful tools to help them help you. If your partner struggles to understand your condition, you can refer them to the section above on Whānau / Family, or they may wish to take part in one of our workshops for Whānau / Family. See more here.

Abusive relationships or partners who have substance abuse issues should be avoided if possible. If not, they should also seek help. Drug Alcohol Helpline: 0800 787 797

Shine, help for domestic violence: 0508 744 633

Diet / healthy eating

It may seem obvious to some, but a healthy balanced diet can have significant effects on your general mood and have a positive impact on your recovery. Fresh fruit and vegetables making up your 'five-a-day', fresh home cooked meals and healthy drinks will significantly help your recovery. An excess of fast food, fried food, high sugar content snacks, highly processed foods and alcohol should be avoided. If your diet currently contains many of these foods, try a healthier diet for just few days and you will likely experience a positive change in your mood and mental state. A guide to healthy eating as it relates to mental health issues can be downloaded here and is provided by MentalHealth.org.nz.

Exercise

Often it can seem like the easiest most relaxing thing to do when you experience anxiety, depression or other mental health issues is to stay indoors, or lie on the couch with a film. But research has shown that even moderate exercise produces 'endorphins' – or in other words the brain's natural 'happiness' chemicals. 

Regular exercise at a level you feel comfortable with is important and can play a big part on your journey of recovery. Find an activity that you enjoy, which could be as simple as running, walking or tennis and you will soon notice the benefits. For more advice and information regarding exercise and mental health issues, you can download a PDF provided by MentalHealth.org.nz

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BRIEF INTERVENTIONS FOR ANXIOUS CHILDREN

If you have child who is experiencing anxiety, try some of the breathing and action techniques below.

Bubble-breathing

Fill a glass to halfway with water or your child’s favourite drink (we always encourage a healthy sugar free drink of water or milk). Place a straw in the glass and ask your child to take a deep belly breath (see Belly Breathing exercise for how to do this) and hold for 3 seconds, then blow into the straw slowly through their mouth. Repeat this 5 – 10 times (or as many as your child needs to feel less anxious).

 

Belly Breathing

Place on your child’s hands on their chest and one on their belly. Breathe in through the nose for half their age in seconds, hold for half their age in seconds and breathe out for their full age in seconds. This methods works well up to age 8. The structure would be: – 4 seconds breathing in, hold for 4s and out for 8. If your child or young person is over 8, use the following: – 4 seconds breath in, hold for 5 and breathe out for 8. (adjust this as per the needs of the child or young person).

 

Robots, Jellyfish and Towers

The aim of this game is to practice progressive muscle relaxation. You call out each of these names and your child mimics the behaviour of each one: – Robots, who are stiff and robotic in their movements. – Jellyfish, who are floppy and relaxed. – Towers, which are strong and stretch up high into the sky. The game begins with each person cycling through the actions a couple times. Try to keep mixing the order of the names up and ensuring there’s a jellyfish movement after the tense movements.

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