I didn’t choose the Skux life, the Skux life chose me.
- Ricky Baker – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
That is how I feel about working in the mental health space. I didn’t so much choose it, as it chose me. That is to say, being in the mental health space has always felt natural to me.
It probably started when I was a teen, back when there was no phrase or name for mental health. If you were struggling, you asked a mate or family for help. I often helped my friends with the usual teenage angst of parents and relationships, and it felt good to be that kind of friend. I was 19 when I completed the Lifeline Telephone Counsellor Training Course and I loved it. The course gave me basic knowledge and tools to support people in crisis. At Lifeline, I was able to practice being a listener and learn the basics of counselling, while helping in the community. I went on to study social science and counselling, always curious about the amazing diversity of people.
Working in mental health took me overseas to Papua New Guinea, where I was able to teach students of counselling and practice my skills in a country very different to Australia. And because mental health touches all people, I have been fortunate to meet people across many ages and stages, all wanting to improve their mental health. Although it’s been decades of practice, it still feels like it chose me, and naturally I am still learning!
How do I know I’m passionate about it?
If you were to take a look at my bookshelf and see my favourite podcasts, you might notice that I am really interested in listening to people’s stories. You would also notice that I have a genuine interest in the brain, behaviour patterns and connection – the ‘why’ behind what we do. In the past 5 years I have done further study in psychology and neuroscience, I am even more passionate about the opportunities for people to be mentally healthy, living lives where they feel content and connected.
If I could change anything about mental health, what would it be?
Stigma stinks and I would love to change that. I believe there is no shame in asking for help, reaching out and connecting with a person who can support you as you move through hard things. When we connect with someone, we can experience feelings of belonging and feeling heard and this improves our wellbeing. It also helps us build connections with others, feel less alone, knowing that we’re better together.
In the words of Brene Brown “Connection is the energy that exists between us when we feel seen, heard and valued; when we can give and receive without judgement and when we derive sustenance and strength from the relationship”.