Here is a picture of Patricia’s favourite flower, the Hibiscus. It reflects the beautiful personality that she shows to those who seek her help and assistance.
Meredith* came to Flourish Australia’s PreEmploy Program in 2016 because she wanted to explore the idea of returning to work. Here she discovered the power of peer work!
I first met Patricia, my peer worker, at my PreEmploy interview in March 2016. What first struck me about her is that she not only seemed capable and efficient in her job but was also very easy to talk to. She was not pushy in any way and hence made me feel relaxed in all our exchanges. During our next meeting for the PreEmploy screening process, I was able to share with her the personal challenges which I needed to overcome so that I could be able to work in an office environment. It was a relief to find someone I could trust and confide in about my previous work challenges as it was something I seldom talked about with many people.
I was eventually accepted into the PreEmploy program which made me very happy. During our first classroom training session, Patricia gave us a presentation about people skills which she delivered in a very interesting and professional manner. I admired her confidence and public speaking skills. For those of you who are not familiar yet, a Peer Worker is a person who has a lived experience of mental health issues and is trained to walk alongside other people with a mental health challenge who are seeking assistance and support in their own recovery journey.
I had never met a Peer Worker before I came to Flourish Australia and did not even know such people existed. Yet the experience I’ve had with Patricia my Peer Worker has been such a positive and enjoyable one! For the first time I had someone who was caring who understood my work fears and challenges especially in the office environment. As a result, I have been able to find tools and ways I can better manage my potential problems at work. The wonderful thing is that if I gain a position in open employment in the future, I am still able to chat to Patricia if the need arises. It is beneficial to have a non-judgemental listening ear who can help me over any “humps” that may emerge.
If you are interested in becoming a Peer Worker read on to discover how Patricia got into her role. This is what she shared with me in our interview.
Meredith: How long have you been a Peer Worker?
Patricia: Just under two and a half years
M: What made you become a Peer Worker?
P: The passion for encouraging people to explore their many skills and talents.
M: What does the training process involve and how have you found it?
P: Fundamental training Involves Certificate IV in Peer Work. Peer Workers are also offered training in Intentional Peer Support and Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid provides you with the tools required for responding to someone effectively during a crisis.
M: How far on the recovery journey does one need to be, to become a peer worker?
P: Far enough to be able to recognise how valuable your lived experience is, and how it suitably qualifies you for a role as a Peer Worker. As with any other workplace, your co-workers may also have a lived experience of a mental health issue. So with this in mind we are all partaking in a journey
M: What are the major duties in your role?
P: Administration, to adhere to funding requirements, intake interviews, research, delivering recovery groups, mentoring, providing emotional and general support to people who access our services. Empowering people through ‘person led recovery’.
M: How did you come in contact with Flourish Australia?
P: Through a referral from an allied health professional who specialised in dramatic arts. I then began to participate in a Day to Day Living (D2DL) program. Eventually I progressed to facilitating D2DL groups through a supported employment program and loved every minute of it.
M: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
P: Hearing from someone, that they have achieved what they first believed they couldn’t achieve.
M: What is the most challenging part of your job?
P: Managing the administrative side of things.
Well there you have it. I say three cheers for Patricia our Peer Worker at Flourish Australia who plays such a vital role in the wellbeing of so many individuals at Flourish Australia. You may get to work with a peer worker like Patricia to assist you in your own recovery journey!
If you are interested in returning to open employment, please call Clare on (02) 9393 9000, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Meredith is the author’s pen-name