4 Things I Learned as a Mental Health Worker

by Rodney on April 16, 2015

I used to work in mental health. For 2 years, I was a mental health support worker and I was working with clients living in the community with acute mental illnesses. These would range from depression to bi-polar to schizophrenia.

My job would be to visit my clients and support them which could include social support such as going out for a coffee or other outings, skills training such helping them relearn life skills that they lost while in hospital such as cooking and we even supported them with medical appointments, legal issues, liaising with the government and everything in between.

Some clients I would see every day I saw them at their best and I saw them at their worst, needless to say I got know them extremely well. I learned a lot about mental illness as well. I had some beliefs challenged and I saw my outlook change.

Here’s 4 of the most important things I learned about mental illness and the people it impacts.

People with mental health issues are often scared

People who have a mental illness are often afraid, especially if they are unwell.  Think about it, they’re hearing voices that have no physical source, often these voices are telling them to harm themselves or someone else, they’ll tell you that someone is trying to kill you, or they’re feeling so low, anxious, or scared for no apparent reason. They may even be in such a state that the only way they can get out of it is to kill themselves. That’s pretty scary. Often this fear will manifest itself as anger, violence or isolation.

They are more likely to be a victim of a violent act than the perpetrator of it

We see it all the time in the movies and in the media, a “crazed gunman” goes on a violent killing spree. The media have a lot to answer for because this view is responsible for a lot of the fear and stigma surrounding mental health issues. The truth is, people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of assault. Mental Health consumers are highly vulnerable and are often the victims of violence, fraud, bullying and intimidation.

Long hospital admissions can be a setback

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that hospital admissions are bad or that they don’t help. When a mental health consumer is unwell, hospital is vital. What I’m challenging is the attitude that people with mental health issues need to be locked up and kept away from the public.  Staying in hospital for longer than necessary can help to reduce basic life skills. In order to recover and manage mental health symptoms, consumers need to be in the community.

People with mental health issues are capable

Despite the fact that a lot of professionals that people with mental health issues are unfit for work, a lot are highly capable and are very successful. With 1 in 7 people being effected by depression, chances are you work with someone who has a diagnosis. Also there are heaps of celebrities who have been diagnosed bipolar disorder including Stephen Fry, Andrew Johns, Britney Spears, Kurt Cobain, Russell Brand, Larry Flynt, Patricia Cornwell, Carrie Fisher, Macy Grey and Robin Williams.


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