As mental health issues comes more and more into the spotlight, three support workers within the industry in Taranaki say they love their jobs.

Diane Riddick is a mental health support worker for Pathways Health in South Taranaki. She is based at the respite home in Hawera for people in the mental health system who need a break.

“I have a passion for mental health,” she said.

Trudie Featonby and Diane Riddick said the online mental health apprenticeships are helping them in their jobs. Photo: Jane Mathews/Fairfax NZ

“When I started this job I thought mental health was just depression, but now I know it’s a wide range of illnesses.

“It’s still stigmatised against, but to these people it’s real and it’s happening to their families and it can happen to anyone.”

She said she had started a degree in social work but life circumstances meant she didn’t get to finish.

A friend said there was a need for support workers in mental health, and she “sort of fell in it”.

“I had never considered mental health but now I love it.”

While Riddick enjoyed her work she said it could be extremely draining.

“The point is being able to switch off when you get home, I think. At work you’re on full alert at all times.”

She said the coaching they receive through their workplace is also “absolutely brilliant”.

But she said though some clients were difficult, they had a lot of good news stories too.

“One in particular was a lady who I saw – being a small town you do see your clients in the supermarket – and she came up and hugged me, and I honestly didn’t think it was the same person.

“She thanked us all by sending us a gift basket.

“That is satisfying, that we can make a difference.”

She thinks the apprenticeship she is completing online through Careerforce is helping her in her role.

It gives more in-depth understanding and self realisation, and understanding of the community around them, she said.

“We’re able to better support our clients.”

Trudie Featonby is also completing the course, and said it had helped her reflect on her approach even though she had been involved in mental health for thirteen years.

“It’s made me realise I’m good in certain areas, and where to learn and look at how I can do things differently.”

She said their workplace were also very good at supporting them to support others.

Featonby is a mobile support worker, and travels around South Taranaki meeting people in their homes or other neutral places in the community.

“I just love the hands-on approach,” she says.

“I find it’s a job where I’m always learning, and that challenges me to think of different ways of how I can help the people I’m supporting.”

Among the highlights for her were a self-driven art group, which was good for people with anxiety.

“It helps them socialise, as well as giving them another focus.”

​She also brings her dog for clients to take on walks.

“No two days here are the same.”

She said the hard part is seeing situations that people have gone through, or are currently living in.

“You can’t help but feel compassion for them.

“But in saying that, my role is to look for the light in a dark situation.”

There are a lot of positive things that are happening in mental health which are probably not commonly known, she said.

“There are a lot of organisations that are doing their best to support people in the community and I think that sort of goes a bit unnoticed to a degree.

“I think there’s a lot of stigma with mental health and I think people need to remember that they are just people at the end of the day.”

Online health and wellbeing apprenticeships are the answer to improving the quality of support and service needed by New Zealanders now and into the future, said manager for apprenticeship and vocational training at Careerforce, Penny Rogers.

Careerforce’s online health and wellbeing apprenticeships provide on-the-job training opportunities, covering a wide range of roles in health, disability, mental health, aged support, rehabilitation, social and community services, Rogers said.

Sam Heath is the physical health outcomes co-ordinator for Tui Ora, a Maori support service working with Pathways, and said the apprenticeship had “definitely” helped him in his work.

“It’s constantly going back to best practice,” he said.

He said the highlight for him is working towards the breakthroughs for the clients and their families.

The more difficult aspect is how serious mental health issues can be, he said.

“It’s a disease with fatality at the end with some people.”

He said mental health issues affect everyone differently.

“If you’re asking for help in mental health, just ask lots of people until someone listens.”

– Stuff

By CHRISTINA PERSICO

Last updated 12:59, June 15 2017
JANE MATTHEWS/FAIRFAX NZ

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