What do you do to keep your emotional wellbeing in check?
I use some simple yet effective practices. I use mindfulness techniques and have a few apps on my phone. I also like to car karaoke on my way to and from work. It helps me process the day’s events in a positive way.
When you work in mental health every day, how do you care for yourself and not take on the concerns of your patients?
I debrief with colleagues as and when I or they need to. It doesn't have to be a formal meeting, but it’s important that it happens when its needed, in the environment that fits the group in question.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about mental health in the wider community?
A lot of work is being done to reduce the stigma around mental illness, however the impact of stigma is still a very real problem. Stigma may prevent people with mental illness from seeking the help and support they need from family, friends and healthcare professionals.
We need to continue to reduce the effects of stigma by talking about mental illness and through promoting the positive influence of social contact and support on everybody's mental state, not just for people with mental illness. Human contact can help fight the epidemic of loneliness, identified as having major implications for mental health in Australia.
Why were you interested in suicide prevention and working in mental health?
I’ve always been interested in people and particularly those who struggle with life. Sadly I’ve lost friends, colleagues and family members to suicide, so suicide prevention holds particular relevance for me.
Having a simple conversation with someone who is struggling with life may help them take a breath, rethink their options and reinforce their resilience. Suicide prevention is everyone's business.
What is the biggest learning you have had about mental health over the course of your career?
No one is exempt from the stress or strain of life. It may look different for each of us, but we can all experience anxiety, stress and distress. Our mental state may be affected by our life experience, experiences we often cannot influence or control.
We should be kind and compassionate to those we encounter, because we may not know or fully appreciate the struggles they may be facing.