As demand for mental health support grows, TAFE NSW is helping plug the skills gap by empowering students with lived experience of mental health to become peer support workers.
Peer support workers are currently in huge demand across Australia and are increasingly being incorporated into the mental health workforce, making up 14% of the workforce, compared to 11.3% in 2019.
31-year-old Robert McElroy is one of many local students who are making their mark in the in-demand field of mental health support. After studying a Diploma of Mental Health at TAFE NSW Macquarie Fields, he now works as a Peer Support Worker at Neami National.
“I studied a Bachelor of Medical Research after high school and then worked in community engagement, but have always wanted to draw on my own experiences with mental health to help others. I decided to enrol in the TAFE NSW Diploma of Mental Health and haven’t looked back since,” Mr McElroy said.
“The Diploma has given me the tools and knowledge I need to make a real difference in the lives of those who need support. Juggling work and study wasn’t always easy, but my teachers were so supportive and all of the skills I learnt have been perfectly transferable and applicable to my current role.
“Working as a Peer Support Worker, I’ve found the biggest part of the role is having that lived experience. Having been in their shoes and being able to speak from experience helps me build trust and rapport with my clients. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to inspire hope and help others on their journey to recovery each day.”
TAFE NSW Teacher of Community Services, Lisa Mancer said students like Robert are a prime example of the transformative power of quality education and training.
“TAFE NSW is committed to nurturing the next generation of peer support workers, and it’s great to see students like Robert bringing about positive and lasting change to people in their local community,” Ms Mancer said.
“With the demand for peer support workers in Australia greater than ever, our Diploma of Mental Health is providing students with access to hands-on learning and state-of-the-art facilities, so they have the confidence they need to hit the ground running once they graduate.”
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