Life-saving services’ expansion welcomed

Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust staff (from left) Nusa Sione, Corinda Taylor, Clare Curran,...
Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust staff (from left) Nusa Sione, Corinda Taylor, Clare Curran, Christine Barker, Amy Myles, Will Paterson, Cuba Rust, and Tai Davies gather outside the trust's base in Hanover St. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The major expansion of a Dunedin organisation’s life-saving services are a relief for those in need, a staff member says.

The Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust launched its new opening hours last week, after a funding boost from Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand last year enabled it to triple the numbers of paid staff.

Its Hanover St base is now open 60 hours a week, up from 42 hours; it is open every day except Monday, and 9pm is now the usual closing time.

Senior peer support worker Cuba Rust described positive responses to the new timeframe by those the service helped.

"When you tell them ‘you can drop in anytime this day, this day, this day up until 9pm,’ you see the relief that there's going to be a space, especially on weekends when ED can get really really busy."

"There’s an alternative ... that’s safe and warm and friendly."

Peer support was an approach that using lived experience as a way to connect with people, and was very collaborative, she said.

It also worked well in conjunction with clinical services to provide a different type of support.

Having worked for the trust for almost two years, she had seen a lot of change in capacity.

"More and more people are coming through the doors, which is fantastic."

Co-general manager Clare Curran said in recent months a lot of energy had been put into recruiting people with lived experience of mental distress, and training them in supporting others.

"We've gone from a very, very small kernel of paid people and quite a lot of volunteers to quite a lot of paid people."

A handful of volunteers still provided help, and not everybody who worked at the trust did so full time.

However the number of paid full-time equivalent staff had jumped from almost four to almost 13.

On Tuesdays the trust would still close at 5.30pm, and a seven-day service had not quite been possible.

However it was a big, exciting change — one that would help in an environment of stretched mental health services, she said.

"We offer an opportunity to try and take some of that pressure off."