My name is Olivia (she/her), and I am a Peer Supporter at Life Matters. I just finished my bachelor’s degree in psychology and Education studies and am working on my honours in Education Studies with a focus on systemic barriers to equitable mental health access within the under-16 age group. My aim is to eventually become a child psychologist and provide support to those who need it at a young age. I am originally from the United States but grew up visiting family throughout the North Island and decided I wanted to move out to Aotearoa permanently after high school. I am Deaf, my first language was American Sign Language, and I did not learn to speak English until I entered the school system at age five. I communicate aurally now but have been learning New Zealand Sign Language to better communicate with other d/Deaf people in Aotearoa.
I have lost multiple friends and family members through mental illness and addiction, and I know what it is like to personally struggle. Because of my personal experience and the way that I have seen others become effected, it has only made my passion for mental health awareness and reducing the suicide rate even stronger. Volunteering at Life Matters has given me the opportunity to provide the support that my childhood friends were never afforded. Participating in the safeTALK workshops has also given me there sources to raise awareness for people in my community and be able to recognize signs earlier. It has been an invaluable experience, both in my personal learning and through educating others.
This will be my third-year volunteering at Life Matters, and it has been a wonderful insight into how mental health is addressed and the culture around it. I have enjoyed the friendships I have made with other Peer Supporters and learning more about the intricacies of the mental health system. Peer Support is an incredible tool to provide empathy and a listening ear for people who are struggling. We are a safe, non-judgmental space and always ready to hear what you have to say. I have been in a similar position that many people who come through our doors have and getting to know everyone, and their stories has only helped to further my passion for mental health awareness and prevention.