Kia ora koutou! My name is Mitch Lagera (she/her), and I have been a Peer Supporter at Life Matters for a year now. I graduated with an Honours degree in Psychology last year at the University of Otago, and am currently a distance clinical psychology student under Massey University. I am highly passionate about mental health and supporting others through their recovery. This passion resonates through my professional and personal life.
My family originated from the Philippines, and we migrated to Aotearoa when I was 11years old. Mental distress plays a huge role in my whānau. Growing up, however, we struggled to speak about mental health due to the misunderstandings that surround it in our culture. Fortunately, through my degree, I was able to open the discussion and challenge the stigmas that my family previously had, helping them better understand their own experiences. My ultimate life goal is to create a safe therapeutic space for fellow immigrants (and anyone) who struggle to have kōrero about their mental health. I want to shift their thinking from focusing on “deficits” or “diagnoses” to the recovery and journey of their life stories, just as I did with my family.
Being a peer supporter has been one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences. I m so grateful to be part of a team that advocates for the importance of speaking out about mental health, especially suicide prevention. Suicide should not be a taboo matter. Increased awareness on how to support someone who is in crisis is so crucial in today’s day and age. The Hope Centre is a safe space where we can have these conversations without judgement or stigma. We can provide you support with navigating the mental health system while also listening and validating you through your experiences.
The ability to connect with so many people from all walks of life and listen to their lived experiences is what I love the most about peer support. I have been inspired by many different interactions and learnt so much from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, which I intend to carry with me through my career endeavours. The power of human connection is so underestimated and sometimes all we need is for someone to tell us that we are not alone. Though the best person who can heal our distresses is our own self, this does not mean we need to undergo this journey on our own. I believe this is what’s so beautiful about peer support.