New Plymouth’s first respite centre

Carers at Harmony House Te Whare Marire – a new centre for New Plymouth residents battling mental health and addiction issues – have “walked the walk”.

The Whalers Gate facility which opens today (August Friday 17) is the first peer-supported respite centre in the city.

“We’re not there as councillors, we’re there to let people rest and families also. It’s a place of safety for them,” said team leader Karen Wehle.

“That’s the message we’re trying to get across with this, we’ve walked the same walk. Everyone’s story isn’t the same but the journey to recovery is.”

Ms Wehle, a trained mental health support worker, said she has had her share of struggles with “mental un-wellness”.

“Having peer support from people who had had their own experience of a mental illness or addiction gave me hope and encouragement rather than service providers who had not experienced it themselves,” she said.

The new centre which has three floors and four bedrooms will cater for anyone from 16 to 65.

It will be staffed by a team of about 10 volunteers, most graduates of Witt’s Mental Health Support Worker Certificate, and one person will be on duty 24 hours seven days a week.

Like Minds Taranaki manager Gordon Hudson said he was pleased the project had got off the ground.

“It is a first for Taranaki, putting as it does, people with personal experience of mental illness at the forefront of ownership and decision making – where it belongs.  

“There is an acknowledged real need in Taranaki for peer-led and peer-managed services for people with experience of mental illness,” he said.

Taranaki DHB Mental Health and Addiction Services support the centre’s concept and the Ministry of Health had acknowledged the need for it, Mr Hudson said.

Ms Wehle hoped Harmony House would be a benefit the community as a whole and help reduce prejudice surrounding mental illness.

 “I think there’s still a lot of stigma and discrimination around mental health although it is getting better.”

Karen Wehle says that the team have walked the walk

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