Drop-in support centre marking 20 years

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by Greta Yeoman

It has been 20 years since AMPSS 101 began, but the mental health and addictions support drop-in centre is needed just as much as when it began.

AMPSS stands for Addictions, Mental Health Peer Support Services, and the “101” is taken from the organisation’s original address at 101 Stafford St.

Now based in Church St, the drop-in centre is open five days a week and provides a place for people to gather, and gain support from one another, manager Jan Andrews says.

POINTS TO PONDER

To tie in with The Courier‘s stories on mental health, as well as the 20th anniversary of AMPSS 101, The Courier asked manager Jan Andrews and AMPSS clients to compile a list of 10 things they wished people understood about mental health issues.

1. Having mental health issues does not equate to stupidity.

2. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

3.We all are unique.

4. Mental health issues are real; how your brain operates is real.

5.We don’t pretend to be unwell.

6. It is not as easy as saying “take your pills and get over it”.

7. The term “mental health issues” should not be used as a label.

8. Mental health issues don’t define who we are.

9. Having mental health issues doesn’t constitute a personal failure.

10. People should be accepted for who they are.

The organisation started in September 1999, under the name “Anti-Discrimination Group” (ADG 101).

Although it was initially run by people with mental health issues for their peers, the service had been staffed by accredited support workers for about a decade, Ms Andrews said.

It has always been a non-referral service, meaning anyone over 18 can drop in at any time.

“That takes down a huge barrier.”

AMPSS 101 is an NGO with close ties to the South Canterbury District Health Board.

Long-time client Jeff, who has been part of the organisation since its beginning and is a former staff member, says it was set up to be an additional service like Victoria House.

Victoria House provides a range of daily scheduled activities, along with a drop-in centre.

Jeff said while public attitudes and understanding of mental health issues had changed a bit over the past two decades, “there’s still the odd stigma from people”.

He believed the group had grown in size over the years, from about 18 in the beginning to close to 30.

AMPSS 101 was a “wonderful” group.

It is a sentiment echoed by another client, who said the service had been a life-saver.

“This place saved my life.

“You come in here and you can be who you are and it’s OK,” she said.

“So much good has happened to me because of this place.”

Since beginning at AMPSS 101, she had discovered a talent for flax weaving – many of her flax creations decorate the “quiet room” – and she had taken up teaching other clients to weave flax.

One of her students had made huge progress with her weaving, which has been positive for both of them, she said.

“She’s getting joy out of it.

“I really want people to know [that] the staff [at AMPSS 101] are lovely – the support you get . . . even just [people] saying a couple of times a day that ‘you can do it’.”

“So much good has happened to me because of this place.”

AMPSS 101 will celebrate its 20th anniversary on September 12, at 11.30am. The drop-in centre is based at 24a Church St.