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A Graduate’s Journey through Working in Support Services

Chapter 1: Embarking on a new path as a support worker

Callum* has recently completed a Masters degree in Advanced Psychology and chosen to embark on a career as a support worker within support services. We’re going to be following Callum’s journey and experiences, focussing on his qualifications, job role and responsibility, supervision and client group.

Read the beginning of Callum’s story below:

At sixteen, my ambition was to be a Doctor. I was eager to work with people, and  to have opportunity to positively influence their lives directly through my work. Thinking about helping someone with a broken arm, or alleviating the pain of a serious illness, filled me with a warm feeling. This initial ambition led to me choosing to help people, in whichever way I was able to.

One of the modules included in the sixth form syllabus was “Abnormal Psychology.” The classes gave me more insight into mental ill health. Specifically,  we discussed topics such as ‘What is mental ill health?’ ‘Why does it occur?’ ‘How can people be supported and helped through?’ It was a brief but informative overview, which played a part in me falling in love with Psychology.

Additionally, I learned that there are other ways of helping people through difficult times. Doctors do a fantastic job, helping mend broken limbs, detecting and providing treatment for many illnesses.  However, someone with mental ill health may suffer just as much as someone with a broken arm, but may lack the insight to know it, or, as I have since discovered, the confidence to seek help. To have the chance to improve wellbeing was always my plan; to improve the wellbeing of someone suffering from a mental illness shaped my future career path.

I decided to go to university and complete a degree in Psychology. I quickly found that I was not the only person in my cohort of 300 who sought to improve the lives of those with a mental illness.  I would estimate around half of the people in the lecture hall wanted to become clinical psychologists. (Incidentally, most of these are now actually managers or bartenders.)

Once I had completed my degree, graduating with First Class Honours, I set out to gain experience of working with people involved in services.  I have now found a job opening for a mental health support worker role in the city. This will involve supporting people in various ways through their journey of recovery. I will likely accompany service users to support groups, on shopping trips, or in any other areas of their lives which may cause anxiety.

I’m excited to embark on this role – University provided a lot of theoretical knowledge but I have not yet had the opportunity to interact with people who have diagnoses of mental ill health. The individuals I will be working with all have different diagnoses, including psychosis, paranoid schizophrenia, personality disorders (mostly borderline personality disorder), depression and acquired brain injury. I will be working with both genders, aged between 18 and 65, and am really looking forward to learning more about these individuals’ life experiences.

Steps Training would like to sincerely thank Callum for sharing his journey so far with us. Stay tuned for the next instalment, in which we’ll learn about the induction process of Callum’s new role, the training and support available to him, as well as his own perceptions of the post… How will the reality of Callum’s new job compare with his expectations?

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity and service users

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