Walking alongside people who need a helping hand

Life’s challenges can be difficult to overcome on your own, but an expanding team of Te Tumu Waiora Support Workers are walking alongside people who need a helping hand.


Clinical Implementation Lead Shelley McCabe says Te Tumu Waiora, te reo for to head towards wellness, is a support service for people who need support with their mental health and wellbeing.


“Support Workers see people who have been introduced to a Te Tumu Waiora Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP) and /or Health Coach at their general practice but need some more help in the community to support day-to-day activities,” says Shelley.


Support Worker for Three Rivers Health in Ashburton, Angela Williams, has a background in aged care and mental health and lived experience with her own wellbeing journey. This means she can really empathise with the people she’s supporting.


“We’re able to spend time with people to listen and understand their issues. We often visit their homes, so see parts of their life not obvious to their practice, such as their diet and if their home is clean and safe,” says Angela.


“I recently visited a couple in their home, and it became clear that their children also needed support, so I worked with the practice to put plans in place for the whole whānau.”


“I also help people with strategies to deal with stressful situations and accompany people to health and social service appointments, such as Work and Income and hospitals.”


Seeing someone get a job who was anxious about job interviews and someone who was homeless find a permanent home have been highlights for Angela.


“If someone needs more specialised care, we work with the practice to refer to the relevant organisation, but we only step away once the support is in place, so they never feel alone.”


The Three Rivers Health team has been seeing the benefits of having a community-based Support Worker. For the practice’s HIP and Health Coach, Sue Louter and Steve Peseta, having a Support Worker means patients get help where they need it.

“The fact that Angela is out in the community is the big benefit – it can be hard for people to link with community services, but Angela can walk alongside them,” says Steve.


Sue adds that the accessibility of this role is hugely important. “Patients have been very grateful for how quickly they can see Angela – sometimes within an hour. The immediacy is very helpful in supporting patient’s needs.”


Reg Savage, Support Worker for Linwood Medical Centre and Piki Te Ora, has just started in the role. He believes being tangata whaiora, which means someone with a lived experience of mental health, is vital to making a difference to the people you support.


“When I applied for the position, I brought to the table 20 years of working in mental health, my own experience with wellbeing and the healing that being a musician has given me,” says Reg.


“I’ve seen great success through music groups I’ve helped to set up for people with disabilities and at the Christchurch City Mission. It gives people self-worth and confidence, so I’m planning to use music in this role too.


“I’ve also noticed that transport is often a barrier – people with high anxiety sometimes don’t want to go on public transport. I have a work car, so can help with that and support them to become comfortable using buses.”


Reg believes that resources and services are available, but often people don’t know it’s there or how to access it, so he explores what’s right for that person and walks alongside them to get there. This has recently included making a walking and swimming plan with someone and helping them with transport.”


Angela and Reg both agree that the smile on a person’s face when they overcome a struggle, or realise they’re supported, makes their roles so worthwhile.


Lurita Kurene, Health Coach / Support Worker Lead, thinks the Support Worker role is pivotal to making the model a success. There will soon be seven Support Workers working across Canterbury general practices including in Linwood, New Brighton, Ashburton, Rangiora, Rolleston, East and Central Christchurch. They are employed by a network of mental health NGOs, which specialises in providing community, cultural and peer support for people needing mental health and wellbeing support.