Health hub aims to save lives

The Otepoti Peer Support Lounge team (from left) Matthew Peppercorn, Rob Willers, Holly Brammall...
The Otepoti Peer Support Lounge team (from left) Matthew Peppercorn, Rob Willers, Holly Brammall and Natasha Squire welcome people with mental health or wellbeing concerns to the hub at 42 Filleul St. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Steering people away from the path of self-harm is the aim of the Otepoti Peer Support Lounge. Simon Henderson reports.

The mental health and wellbeing hub Otepoti Peer Support Lounge provides assistance and advice in a safe and welcoming environment.

The hub is run by mental health organisation Wellness Empathy Kindness Aotearoa (Weka).

The core team members are Matthew Peppercorn, Rob Willers, Holly Brammall and Natasha Squire.

Mr Peppercorn said the aim of the lounge was to provide a space for people who were experiencing distress about their mental health including self harm, suicidal ideation, addiction relapses and other challenges.

"Peer support means having lived experience of distress, and using that experience to support others."

Although the Emergency Psychiatric Service did a good job, it was only for people who were on the "paramount edge of emergency".

Instead, the aim of the lounge was to provide earlier intervention.

"We noticed there was a need for a crisis organisation."

"Literally, we need to save lives now."

Accessibility was a key part of the aim, so people did not need a referral to visit.

"We are open to anybody really."

"Speaking for myself, personally, as a mental health nurse, working in services for 30 years made me mentally unwell, so I walk a fine line between having that experience as a mental health nurse and lived experience."

"But it's quite fortuitous because the current best practice that is coming out for peer support services is saying that having a clinician with lived experience is paramount to the success of a crisis service," Mr Peppercorn said.

The upstairs hub at 42 Filleul St includes an art space, kitchen, education rooms and quiet rooms.

Community sessions include journal writing, positive thinking, stigma and discrimination, supporting distressed people, creative healing and mindfulness.

The hub ran one-on-one sessions and gave advice on other health services available to people.

Mr Willers and Mr Peppercorn provided funding to establish the lounge which opened about three months ago.

The team needs constant community fundraising to help offset ongoing costs.

"Everybody works here for free," Mr Peppercorn said.

"It is a grassroots organisation."

About 15 to 20 volunteers support the core team.

Holly Brammall said the volunteers were a key part of the operation.

"The volunteers are our aroha, they really are at the heart of where we are."

 - The lounge is open 2pm to 8pm Wednesday to Saturday.

Visit wekanewzealand.org for details.

Where to get help

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666

Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797

General mental health inquiries: 0800 44 33 66

The Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter