Mental health work attracts those called to walk alongside others

Mental Health Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of mental health in our everyday lives. It affects how we think, feel, and act. And it is just as important for those working in the sector as for those they support.

When asked why she became a mental health support worker, Mia Polglase answers instantly.

“I was put on this earth to help people,” she said with a laugh.

“That’s pretty much it.”

Mia has worked at Centacare’s mental health service for almost three years, supporting clients with a variety of mental health conditions.

“I had dealt with my own anxiety years ago, so mental health has become a real passion of mine,” she explained.

The recently renovated Mental Health Hub in Fortitude Valley offers a range of community and pastoral services to community members experiencing mental illnesses.

Support workers assist clients with personal shopping, household tasks and transport to and from appointments.

Mia said one of the most rewarding elements of her role was connecting with clients.

“I love knowing I have supported my clients through self-care activities or sometimes just going for a coffee and chat.”

“I get immense satisfaction from seeing someone make a difference in their life.”

She recalled experiencing a special moment with one of her clients.

“One of my clients who has a particular condition would only ever visit the bank or the shops,” she explained.

“Recently I’ve introduced them to hydrotherapy and actually took them to the beach.

“It was wonderful to see them broaden their horizons.”

Burnout in health professionals has dominated news headlines and national discourse since the beginning of the pandemic.

Centacare Service Delivery Manager, Yohann Paterson said debriefing and counselling was a vital part of supporting employees who work in the area.

“Very often mental health support workers work with people who are experiencing a crisis,” he explained.

“Managing those crises can be difficult and switching off when you return home can be even harder.

“It’s essential to debrief with workers and offer them support too.”

Fellow Service Delivery Manager Shaye said it was important for workers to establish clear professional and personal boundaries.
“As a support worker you want to be there to help your client and be compassionate,” she said.

“But you need to realise what you can and cannot control.

“Someone’s experience is their own.”

Mia emphasised the importance of self-care in safeguarding her own mental health.

“It’s important to not take work home with you,” she explained.

“I practice a lot of mindfulness and gratitude through painting in my garden and feeding magpies who visit me.

“I take a lot of joy from just sitting in my happy place.”

Centacare offers comprehensive training for anyone wishing to begin their career as a mental health support worker.

“So many of our team members are teachers, university students, paramedics, teachers, nurses,” said Yohann.

“But we also have people from accounting, landscape, or architecture backgrounds.”

“Support work attracts people from all walks of life.”

Mia agreed and said anyone with a passion for mental health should consider support work.

“The main requirement is empathy.”

If you are interested in a role as a support worker, walking alongside people with a mental illness, Centacare has roles available. Centacare offers support worker opportunities for people with and without experience and qualifications as well as the opportunity to work while you study.