// As a teenager, I dreamed of a career as a Psychologist, running my own practice. All I wanted to do was be a “helper”. Unfortunately, a not-so-healthy dose of Type A behaviour led me to believing in my first year of university that I should be able to cope with everything, whilst also being able to “fix” and support everyone around me. Hello burnout.
I did finish my degree after some hard life lessons around the importance of self-care, and most importantly an awareness that I didn’t have to be (and no one expected me to be!) perfect.
Life lesson #1: No one thanks the martyr (wise words from my mum!)
// After uni, I found myself in a corporate health role, swamped in shift work, KPI’s and a non-existent social life. This was never going to be my “forever” job; high pressure, terrible hours, and an appalling diet but I was developing my communication, stakeholder engagement and project management skills whist also becoming responsible for the training of new staff.
On my last day in my farewell speech, my managers talked about how they based the team KPI targets on my individual monthly statistics. Whilst I’m sure there were people there who resented me on hearing this, it further reinforced what I had been talking about each and every monthly review meeting. We were in a business of sales. Some people sell a product, we sold a service.
Life lesson #2: Relationships are everything. If you can build trust and rapport, you’ll be ahead every time.
// I finally got my break in mental health, working for a large, Victorian non-for-profit as a Volunteer Coordinator, later moving into Outreach Support as well. Huzzah! Dream complete. I was where I belong.
Fast forward three years, and I was sick, frazzled and staring straight down the barrel of a professional burn out. I still loved what I did, and (importantly) the sector I worked in, but I knew my time as a direct worker was coming to a close for now. Plus, I’d also discovered that I really loved project management, training and educating others about the sector and generally being a resourceful and researching ninja. But by the time left this role I had a severely compromised immune system, (undiagnosed!) whooping cough, and migraines on a semi-regular basis.
Life lesson #3: If you’re stressed and unhappy – your immune system will tell you about it!
// I moved into another large non-for-profit, focusing on public health, training health and community professionals around how they could better support their clients to improve health outcomes. I was in an amazing environment, full of passionate trainers, researchers and advocates for social and health equality outcomes.
What became quickly apparent to me was that so many of the clients I worked with in my previous role lacked information and support around their health choices… And if I wasn’t asking them about this stuff, who was? As I delivered training to a range of health, community and welfare professionals it was challenging to think that perhaps I hadn’t been performing my duty of care for my clients by not asking them about how they felt about areas such as smoking status, diet and overall wellness.
Life lesson #4: O.M.G. All this time I thought I was a great worker, I was failing my clients. I did not perform my duty of care.
// This idea mulled with me for a good few years, until I could no longer ignore the shouting in my soul that this was an area that needed to be addressed. I couldn’t reconcile the idea of so many workers with so much experience and qualifications, yet it appeared little was being done to address the long-term health outcomes that were unnecessarily being experienced by client groups in the community mental health sector. I understood that workers were asked to do more and more with less time and resources, however this was something small – something that could build on the existing skills and experience of workers and the relationships that they already had. And it could make so much difference!
Life lesson #5: “Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream” (thanks Oprah!)
// SO. Here I am. I’ve been working on this for such a long time now, I can’t believe it’s actually being launched out to the world. My passion above all this is to provide information about wellness and mental health; to highlight the small steps that can be implemented that can make a huge difference, taking into account factors all the other social constraints that may have inhibited this population group in the past.
I’m using my own experience plus the skills, knowledge and stories of others to put together resources and packages that hopefully will resonate with you, and those you support.
Thanks for dropping by. This is a place for you, the workers, the carers and the advocates.