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Janet Peters

Janet is a Registered Psychologist with knowledge of mental health and addiction issues. She also writes on this subject, networking both in New Zealand and internationally.

Janet PetersWhat do you do on an average work day?

My main contract is as New Zealand Liaison for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL). This is an eight-country virtual organisation aimed at improving outcomes for people with mental health problems and/or addiction in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland,  Sweden and the US.

On an average day I find new and innovative mental health or addiction government policy or innovative research from those countries and send to our e-bulletin person. I also link with local New Zealand mental health/addiction leaders, and sometimes write short summaries of our learning from the past Leadership Exchange for the Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui website.

I also do other contract work, such as working with John Kirwan and the National Depression Initiative for 12 years, and for the Mental Health Foundation. It is sometimes hard juggling contracts but also stimulating.

What did you study at school? And after high school?

At high school I was not interested in studying at all. I only got School Certificate in English and Biology – and failed the rest as I was “partying”.

After a somewhat traumatic childhood and “complicated” teenage years, I started at Waikato University at the age of 25, studied Psychology and Politics. I then got a Masters in Psychology and then studied for Registration as a Psychologist.

Janet giving a talk at a conference

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Yes it is. I love Psychology but soon realised that I have many of my own issues to sort out and I have done so - although it’s a lifelong process. So I am better suited to helping people, communities and agencies virtually, as opposed to working clinically with people.

Having said that, over my time in my IIMHL role as New Zealand Liaison I have met thousands of people in the flesh which is wonderful. The people we serve are family members, people who have used services, government officials and Ministers, indigenous communities, clinicians of all professional groups, non-government organisations, etcetera.

One area I am passionate about is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) science. New Zealand could use this to better our outcomes for children and whānau.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

Study Psychology! Psychology is so interesting because people are so interesting and it is ever changing.

I think it is really helpful to talk with people who are already doing the job. I do talk to many young people and friends’ children about what I do and about Psychology and how it is a great grounding degree for anything.

Also - I believe that it is really important to tell people that it’s never too late to learn! A “complex” teenagehood is not a bad thing if you turn it round!

Janet with Te Pou kaumatua Tepene Karaka and Judge Andrew Becroft

What are some of your career highlights so far?

I'm proud to have been given two awards:

In 2012 I was given the Public Interest Award from the New Zealand Psychological Society for "valuable contributions to psychology in the service of the public.”

In 2015 I received an award from the Australasian Mental Health Services for "exceptional contribution to New Zealand mental health services”.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

New Zealand needs to have a more skilled workforce and become more responsive in science and technology. We live in the best country in the world and we will get even better through education, particularly education of more women!

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

We all know that it was harder for women to succeed in science, technology, engineering, maths and mātauranga Māori but now I believe the world is our oyster!

Janet with friends and family

Janet Peters is a Registered Psychologist who undertakes contracts for international and national agencies. Knowledge of mental health and addiction issues, writing and networking across countries and within New Zealand are her chief skills.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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