Mental illness can affect anyone at any stage of their life.
Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability in Australia, with one in five Australians experiencing a mental health condition each year.
At EPIC Assist (EPIC), we support job seekers with a range of different mental health conditions on their employment journey. 38% of EPIC’s job seeker cohort have a diagnosed mental health condition, whether that be anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar, schizophrenia, or another condition.
But we also know that looking for work is hard. It’s not uncommon for anyone to experience levels of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem during this vulnerable time.
That’s why we opened our free mental health consultancy in 2013—so all our job seekers, whether they have a diagnosed mental health condition or not, can access the support they need to succeed in life and work.
As part of Mental Health Month, we chatted with some of our mental health consultants to learn why they are passionate about their job, the role employment plays in your mental health, and their advice on how to better support your mental health.
Each consultant has taken very different paths on their journey to EPIC and have a range of experiences in the mental health field from counselling to clinical social work. However, it’s their combined passion to make a positive difference in the lives of people with disability that unites them in their journey.
Together, they work to help job seekers develop resources to manage their mental health better, take control of their lives, and build the self-confidence they need to achieve their goals.
Six questions about why our mental health consultants do what they do
We asked Alison, Shannon, and Jared six questions about their journey as mental health consultants and why they do what they do.
1. What inspired you to work in the mental health space?
Alison: I am passionate about seeing people learn how to manage their own situations better and grow in their sense of personal agency.
It’s being able to create a safe judgement-free space to talk about life’s challenges.
Shannon: I find that many people in life have had their own personal experiences with anxiety or depression. However, this is not openly talked about. I want to help people navigate their emotions and thoughts and aim to normalise talking about mental health and seeking help for working on one’s own mental health.
Jared: I’ve come from my own experience of living with a mental health condition, and through that experience, I had some opinions about how the sector could be improved for other people.
2. Why is helping people with disability on their employment journey important to you?
Alison: Stable employment can make a big difference to a person’s confidence. But navigating the barriers to employment for people with disabilities can make finding stable employment really challenging. It is very rewarding seeing people succeed in spite of these obstacles.
Shannon: Working within the Disability Employment Service program provides me with an opportunity to break down social stigma and help empower people that may be disadvantaged by stigma. Educating and supporting employers to help make people’s career goals come to reality.
Jared: The Disability Employment Service program is an interesting space. It encapsulates diverse experiences for diverse people and what it takes to be prepared for work can look very different depending on who you ask.
Employment can provide someone with a lot more than an income, for some people it’s structure, others it’s a sense of purpose, and so on.
3. What is your favourite part of working as a mental health consultant?
Alison: My favourite part is seeing the difference between when a person comes into the office to when they leave. For example, they come in feeling really overwhelmed by their problems and then leave with clearer ideas about the changes they can make to improve their situation.
Shannon: My favourite part of working as a mental health consultant is being able to support people holistically. From helping to link with community activities, volunteering work, and support work, to working alongside people to meet their goals of improving their mental health in whatever capacity that may be needed.
Jared: It’s like a box of chocolates. You don’t know what you’re going to get. But I also enjoy sharing the professional development space with the mental health consultant team and the success stories from participants.
4. Has there been a standout moment for you whilst working at EPIC?
Alison: One of my participants created an artwork for NAIDOC week this year. It was great to see the impact this activity had on their confidence and how it opened them up to some new ideas for employment.
Shannon: There have been a few. The most standout moments are seeing the immense differences in people’s confidence and happiness.
People sometimes cannot see that their dreams can become reality and when their dreams are achieved it’s rewarding to see the shine from that dream come through in the person’s happiness.
Jared: This happens regularly because I genuinely enjoy sharing people’s success stories. A personally meaningful moment was receiving a phone call from a participant I had worked with who had significant agoraphobia and they explained that they had just acquired their driver license.
5. What is one thing you wished everyone understood about mental health?
Alison: Mental health conditions are often invisible.
Shame and guilt associated with mental health conditions can really interfere with a person’s ability to get help.
Shannon: That it is forever changing and there is always help and hope. Talking to someone helps, there’s a lot of counselling services or community centres to help. Volunteering and engaging with community activities can be a huge benefit to a person’s mental health
Jared: It’s a lot more complicated than people realise, and the path through it isn’t straight.
6. Do you have a favourite piece of advice for people wanting to better support their mental health?
Alison: Find ways to express yourself, whether that’s through writing, art, music, dance.
The journey forward needs to start with self-compassion and self-kindness.
Shannon: A job worth doing is worth doing poorly. For example, one minute of cleaning is better than zero minutes of cleaning. Every little bit helps.
Jared: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
Looking for mental health support on your employment journey?
EPIC Assist has been helping people with a mental health condition, health condition, disability, or injury find and keep a job they love for over 30 years. We’re the experts in disability employment services and our passionate team go above and beyond to support all our job seekers for the individuals they are.
If you need extra support finding work, our qualified mental health staff work in conjunction with our Employment Consultants to help you at every stage of your employment journey. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you reach your employment goals.