Peer support workers to provide low intensity mental health services to people in need

  15 June 2020  NWMPHN   

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) has awarded $660,000 to three initiatives led by cohealth, Foundation House and Orygen to help build peer workforce roles in primary mental health through delivery of low-intensity mental health services.

It is estimated that by 2021, over 260,000 people living in north western Melbourne will experience mild to moderate mental health needs.

The providers will use the funding to develop approaches that employ mental health peer workers to provide care and support for people in their communities. These peer work projects will be providing low intensity supports and these will contribute to mental health stepped care services delivered across the NWMPHN region.

Peer support workers draw on their own lived experience of mental health recovery to support people to better understand their conditions and to find the supports that will best meeting their needs.

Peer workers base their support more on their knowledge of community support and resources rather than treatment approaches based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. Peer support workers do however receive professional development, training, and supervision and are aware of the need to assist people to access treatment if recommended.

cohealth will be focusing on a specialist LGBTIQ+ mental health peer work program, Orygen will be taking a family peer work development approach and Foundation House will be focusing on peer work for Syrian and Iraqi people from a refugee background. The projects will deliver inclusive and culturally responsive care as they will be delivered by people from diverse backgrounds.

NWMPHN CEO Adjunct Associate Professor Christopher Carter said that NWMPHN recognises the value of peer support as being an effective approach to mental health.

“For someone experiencing mild to moderate health conditions, receiving appropriate offers of support at the right time can be hugely beneficial and might avoid the need for more intensive support and care,” A/Prof Carter said.

Mardi Stow, Manager of Community Capacity Building Program at Foundation House, said opening up conversations about mental health and providing information about available services can increase the possibility of earlier interventions.

“Normalising mental health issues within the community and drawing on community members who have accessed mental health services effectively to share their experiences, will build trust within the community and open up conversations about mental health issues so that individuals are more prepared to seek help,” Ms Stow said.

This funding will ensure innovative approaches to low intensity mental health support are delivered to those at need in our community. NWMPHN are looking forward to working on these approaches with cohealth, Orygen and Foundation House.

For more information on the NWMPHN stepped care approach to mental health, visit