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Thursday, 25 April 2019 09:55 pm

Mental health worker uses his own journey to help others


IMAGE: Creative Commons

SEEING PEOPLE flourish in the face of adversity is what inspires Simon to help those with mental health obstacles.

Simon’s path to working with those in mental distress began with his own experiences.

“We are all on our own path of learning. I also think we need to have compassion for each other,” he says.

“I was in the middle of a career change when I went through a life trauma and following a prolonged period of insomnia had what the doctors called a schizophrenic episode. I thought these things first manifested in younger people, so I was confused when it happened to me,” he says.

“On the first episode, I had a night in hospital and then slowly recovered adn went back to my normal routine.

“Over the following six months I had two subsequent psychotic episodes and spent a couple of weeks in hospital. It really shook up my understanding of my mental health.”

Simon says his time in hospital introduced him to Buddies Peer Support Services.

Volunteers involved in Buddies visit inpatients of Te Whare o Matairangi in Wellington Hospital and continue to support them once they have been discharged.

Many volunteers involved with Buddies have been in the mental health care system at some point in their lives.

Simon says his involvement with them gave him a sense of belonging and helped him along his “recovery journey”.

“The Buddies work with patients on a one-on-one basis. They talk to them and support them and they give the person someone to talk to who may understand what they’re going through,” he says.

After his work with Buddies, Simon began working with a non-government organisation, funded by the District Health Board, which works with people who have struggled with mental health.

“I work as a navigator, a life coach if you will, and I help people identify areas in their life where they can improve in the hope they can give themselves a better quality of life,” he says.

Simon attributes his ability to work with people on this level to his previous job which involved a lot of public interaction.

“[The job] taught me how to encourage dialogue with people and I think that is a very transferable skill,” hWorkie says.

Mental illness is often misunderstood and Simon thinks it is why people don’t always want to have a discussion about it or admit they are being affected by it.

“Everybody has a relationship with mental health, whether it’s good or bad, we all fall somewhere on the mental health continuum,” he says.

Simon says the media tends to sensationalise mental illness, creating a stigma around those living with mental distress.

“The language the media uses makes mental illness terribly stigmatized. I think the public are kind of desensitized to it all,” he says.

The hardest part of Simon’s job is the frustration he feels when some people’s progress might be slow or even go back.

“My job is to help shine a light for people when perhaps they can’t hold it for themselves, and I believe everyone can recover to some degree.”

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is a journalism student at Whitireia.
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