Kia ora, my name is Sam and I have been a Peer Support Volunteer since 2020.
In a country with troubling mental health statistics, myself and so many others are grateful for Life Matters and people like Corinda who work tirelessly to support the community and see zero suicides occur in Aotearoa. I love being a Peer Supporter as you’re acutely aware of the power of conversation when it comes to supporting mental health. My role as a peer supporter is not so counsel people on how to ‘fix’ their problems, but instead to lend an ear and allow them to share their story. I feel like what someone learns for themselves in a session will be much more poignant and powerful for them than any advice I could give; as such my, my role in our conversation is to empower the other person to express themselves by being genuinely empathetic.
What makes a peer supporter-supportee relationship a little different from regular mental health services is that it goes two ways. Every one of us has a unique story and worldview, so I find that I can also get a lot out of sessions through the attitude of ‘what can I learnt from this person?’. This awareness grounds the conversation in a sense of mutuality and equal footing, so a session is less akin to doctor-patient and more akin to friend-friend. This helps massively in the goal of, not telling, but empowering a person to look for hope and the rays of light within themselves which can help improve their situation andwellbeing.
Overall being a peer supporter is extremely rewarding. I encourage you to get in contact with Life Matters if you’re interested. You can help change lives through conversation and play a part in the wonderful goal of a suicide-free Aotearoa.