After her journey with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, Claire decided she wanted to help others facing a similar struggle. Now a ‘peer worker’, Claire supports those experiencing mental ill health. She offers her insights into being on ‘both sides’ of the mental health system.
Claire’s diagnoses of PTSD and depression made her rethink her career, and start focusing on what was really important to her.
“I kept powering on until stress at work became too much, I found myself in hospital not wanting to go on anymore – I knew then that I had to face my emotions,” said Claire.
With support and treatment from a range of outlets including group therapy, psychologist, a personal mentor through the PHaMS program, and a good GP, Claire started her road to recovery. It was during this time, that she felt that she wanted to help people going through similar situations.
“That’s when I discovered the role of a peer worker – someone that uses their own lived experience of mental health to support and empower others… and so my journey as a peer worker began last year,” said Claire.
Her role as a peer worker includes supporting individuals in attending appointments, encouraging their participation at social and community groups, and just being a source of companionship - someone to talk to about their journey.
“I often find that people open up to me much more than they do with their workers or doctors - they know I will understand.
“I think the more you struggle, the more compassionate you become. Most people want to be heard, appreciated and validated in their life,” said Claire.
Claire believes there is much that needs to be done in the mental health care system, both for patients and for mental health workers. She says there needs to be a better system when individuals get admitted to Emergency Departments (ED) of hospitals when experiencing mental ill health - often in distress.
“People need to realise how frightening it can be to go to hospital in a system that only deals with medical issues and is not empathetic for mental health struggles,” Claire said.
“People struggle with being admitted to ED, and then there is no followup or link to services from ED or from other in-patient settings – this is a vital link that needs urgent attention."
Claire revealed that having been on both sides of the mental health care system, she understands the frustration of people being treated, and hopes for urgent reform.
“Workers in the system are often frustrated themselves, which shows that people want change but the decision makers at the top level need to hear their voices and act accordingly,” she said.
“Services in the country and remote areas are also a constant and ongoing need as they have even less access to such supports,” said Claire.
Claire’s story is demonstrative of the wonderful pockets of work happening within our mental health care system, the contribution those with lived experience can make to our communities, and the need for drastic change to ensure a higher standard of care for every Australian.
We thank Claire for sharing her story.
All stories are shared with direct permission, as part of Share Your Story month.
If you, or someone you know, requires assistance or needs to talk to someone, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.