Becoming a Mental Health Worker: From refugee to YPOP manager

By Jimmy Acosta

Like a lot of people who decide to work in Mental Health, I have my own lived experience and have witnessed many loved ones be severely affected by their mental health.

I came to Australia very young as a refugee. I was lucky enough to be able to get a lot support for my mental health from a very young age and then later from local youth workers in the Mount Druitt area.

For the past three years, I have been the manager for the Young People’s Outreach Program in South Eastern Sydney.

I work alongside our frontline staff and help them support young people aged between 16 to 25 who are living with a mental illness. My role is more of a co-ordinating role and help maintain relationships with local area health. I also meet and complete assessments with the young people who have been referred to YPOP for the very first time.

“I realised that I wanted to do something that would allow me to give back to the community for the support I had received in the past and help make a difference in the lives of others.”

-Jimmy Acosta

I originally started as a student in 2011 with HASI Penrith. I was then lucky enough to get a fulltime role with what was the original YPOP team in Penrith. In 2014 I stepped up to the manager’s role for the new YPOP team in Kogarah, covering south eastern Sydney.

Career choices

I worked in many other fields prior to deciding to become a mental health worker. I originally studied Economics, I worked in IT and then worked building cars and motor bikes for ten years. I have a diploma in IT and qualifications in welding which are totally unrelated. And that’s just to name a few!

It took me a while to find my passion but I realised that I wanted to do something that would allow me to give back to the community for the support I had received in the past and help make a difference in the lives of others.

We go out and visit young people in the community and help them with their day to day goals.

Challenge

I think working with young people can be challenging in different ways. Young people have their own culture and are always quite up to date with pop culture. I like this because I like to think they keep me young.

Probably the biggest bonus when working with young people is that we get to witness a large number of young people overcome the barriers and reach their goals such as moving into independent living, fulltime jobs, and university.

Sometimes they may even decide to become community workers as well!

As told to Grant J Everett

Want to know more about Flourish Australia’s Young People’s Outreach Program? Call our friendly Kogarah staff on 1300 779 270

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