Mental Health Week is an opportunity to put the spotlight on mental health and fight the stigma that is so often associated with it. At CatholicCare we have a strong focus on mental health, particularly as we know that it has a big role to play within relationships - the two can equally affect each other, and so a healthy mind can in turn lead to healthy relationships, and vice versa.
To mark World Mental Health Day, we asked one of our Senior Managers, Lisa Foley, to share her views on how she and her staff go about supporting people with mental health issues.
Tell us about your role at CatholicCare?
I am the Senior Manager of CatholicCare working across programs in the East and South of Melbourne. These programs are located in Fitzroy, Eltham and Dandenong and encompass Refugee and Settlement Support, Asylum Seeker Support Program, Eastern Settlement Services, Clemente, Cool2b@School [school refusal], Integrated Family Services, Family and Relationship Services, Alcohol and Other Drug Services and a housing program for refugees [the Eltham Project]. I also oversee CatholicCare’s Social Enterprise which has over 100 schools across Melbourne, Geelong and Gippsland who are supported by CatholicCare’s psychologists and social workers, providing counselling to primary and secondary school children and supervision to professionals in their relevant fields.
How long have you been with CatholicCare?
I have been working with CatholicCare for three and a half years. The diverse portfolios of work and seeing and being a part of the amazing work by managers and staff, to improve the wellbeing and outcomes of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, is such a privilege to see, hear and manage. The staff are extremely committed, dedicated and experienced in their work as every day has its challenges, however at the end of each day I drive home and reflect on how my staff and clients lives have been enhanced by the work we do every day. You can’t underestimate a listening ear, a smile, clear direction, support and respect of the people we come in contact with each day.
What led you to your current role at CatholicCare?
I started my passion for this work when I attended Mount Lilydale Mercy College. I volunteered in my senior years at the school at the Mercy Sisters Women’s Refuge, where I now understand were women who fled from family violence situations to an undisclosed safety house. I knew that I needed to work in the field to make a difference to vulnerable people and I completed a Bachelor of Youth Affairs.
I started working for Harrisons Uniting Church and then the Salvation Army EastCare as a youth worker, working with high risk adolescents who had been removed from their homes due to extreme abuse and neglect. I worked on the streets of Melbourne supporting homeless youth which was really tough, as it was a very different life to what I had grown up to know.
I then went into government and worked for Child Protection so I could understand how the system worked to protect and remove children from abuse. I worked at CARA overseeing a range of programs and services (and at one point even acted as CEO), and I’ve also worked as the Manager of Complex Care with the top two percent of complex cases across Melbourne in DHS (Department of Human Services), working to directly influence policy and legislation for the most vulnerable in our community.
Furthermore, I’ve worked as the State Disability Community Options Manager for Wesley Mission, and then as the National Business Director of Child Wise (as acting CEO) overseeing Child Abuse prevention, national training, the national ChildWise 24-hour Child Abuse Helpline, Communications, Marketing and Stakeholder Engagement.
I suppose you can say I have worked my way up from the grassroots as a teenager who wanted to make a difference to someone developing new programs, funding opportunities and influencing legislation and policy to really make a difference across all levels of disadvantage. This is more than work for me, it is a passion to develop, mentor and coach my managers and staff to enable them to make a difference in the lives of those who need extra support, and to create services which are accessible for those that need it, enabling better and fairer outcomes for everyone in our community.
Is mental health as important as physical health?
Any illness, physical or emotional can restrict our quality of life. Mental health is just one aspect of ensuring we keep good overall health and wellbeing - this includes our mental, physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Mental health impacts how we think, feel and act, and is vital at every stage of our life from childhood through to adulthood.
So, what is counselling? What happens in a typical session?
Counselling is a process of talking through problems or situations which may need further support with a qualified person – a counsellor, psychologist or social worker - who can help you develop strategies, increase your self-awareness and promote positive mental health and overall wellbeing.
It’s ok to be nervous at your first appointment, it is usually made up of questions to get to know you and to understand your concerns best. Most counselling appointments are around 50-60 minutes.
Are there different types of counselling?
Counselling can be short term or long term depending on the needs of the individual and their presenting concerns. Counsellors use empirically supported interventions (observation and experience rather than just theory or logic) and specified interpersonal skills to facilitate change and empower people to look at situations differently, to help them navigate a pathway that decreases their concerns over a short or long period of time. Common issues people usually seek counselling for are grief and loss; anxiety; depression; stress; life transitions such as marriage, separation, or a new baby; self-esteem; abuse; trauma; parenting challenges with children, adolescence, youth, or young adulthood; and alcohol and drug support.
How do I know if I need counselling?
If you think you are struggling with a problem, you become overwhelmed easily by your concerns, and it impacts your day-to-day life, you can always reach out to a counsellor. No issue is too big or small to get support. The key is to seek help for your concerns.
What should I do if I think someone I know needs professional help?
Listen to them. It shows them you understand and that you care. Every action we take to support another individual with their concerns can make a difference in their lives. Help them reach out for support to their GP or a qualified professional. Contact CatholicCare – look though our website! There is also telephone support via Lifeline that is available 24 hours a day, or even online chat services like eheadspace.
Counselling can be a scary prospect for some. Others may feel ashamed to seek help from a professional. What would you say to those people?
Counselling can seem scary at first. However, it is a safe place. Stigma around counselling arises from a lack of knowledge and understanding. Counselling is usually episodic, for periods of time where there may be increased concerns or worries from a person. You can see counselling just like seeing a GP or another health professional whereby it is to gain support or advice to work through a concern.
Is counselling confidential?
Counselling is confidential, in that everything you say remains private between you and the counsellor. There is an exception in the case of duty of care, when the counsellor has to make a report if they think you are at risk to yourself or to the safety or wellbeing of others. Counsellors will usually discuss these concerns with you before they report an issue.
Is counselling expensive?
Counselling can be expensive, but most counselling is covered under a Medicare rebate for up to 10 sessions if referred through a GP. However, community service agencies like CatholicCare offer counselling at a nominal cost, based on income on a sliding scale. Clients can also negotiate their fee, if they are unable to pay the nominated fee.
What type of counselling does CatholicCare offer at your site in Dandenong?
Our counsellors specialise in child, adult, and family relationship counselling. At Dandenong we offer school refusal support, pre-marriage counselling, and child, individual and family relationship counselling. We also have a specialised addiction counsellor on site.
What are some things I can do to improve my mental wellbeing?
- Create a sense of belonging - build positive relationships, connect with others
- Do something you enjoy – including physical exercise and hobbies
- Eat and sleep well
- Ask for help and talk through your concerns with a trusted person - seeking support is a strength, not a weakness.
Today we would like you to join with us in challenging the stigma associated with mental illness, and encourage others to see mental health in a more positive light. In doing so, together we can make way for more people in our community, and in our lives, to seek and access the support they need.
If you would like to make a difference, head over to Mental Health Australia’s website 10/10 to ‘make a promise’ or host an event this week. ‘Making a promise’ can be as simple as educating someone on mental health, sharing your mental health story, or telling someone that you’re there to listen to them. Every small act can make a difference.