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Building strong minds one step at a time

Sunah Lee is pursuing a career in mental health

After growing up with an alcoholic parent and seeing the devastation that addiction causes, Sunah Lee came to TAFE Queensland to study how to help others.

“Growing up around addiction and experiencing its effects inspired an interest in mental health, and I decided to build a career helping and transforming sufferers for the better,” said Sunah.

After immigrating to Australia from South Korea, Sunah worked as an assistant nurse in aged care, became a mother, and worked in an insurance contact centre before following her passion for mental health.

After researching courses online, she found TAFE Queensland’s Diploma of Mental Health (CHC53315), enrolled, and is working towards specialising in trauma-informed care, alcohol and other drug care.

“I’m already working at Canefields Clubhouse as a mental health support worker specialising in recovery. I get to take what I learn into my work, help people with complex needs, and see how positive the outcomes are for them - and it’s awesome,” she explained.

“The diploma equips me with the perfect mix of the specialised skills and knowledge to help people in the community with their mental health, drug, and alcohol issues,” Sunah said.

Her studies see her focus on recovery, which means training clients to control their lives by giving them the tools to be mentally, physically, spiritually and socially well.

“We encourage clients to recover with a ‘social-scription’ and get involved with their community to strengthen their mental health.”

A mother of two, Sunah eventually wants to specialise as a case manager for children’s mental health to intervene early to help young clients have long and healthy lives.

TAFE Queensland’s teachers and classmates are preparing her for her new vocation, who all share the same desire to help people in the community affected by mental health.

“My teachers have patience, passion and knowledge for mental health and my classmates and I learn so much, and we’re all focused on improving the quality of life for clients,” explained Sunah.

State-wide, TAFE Queensland has seen the number of people enrolling in mental health qualifications more than double in 2018, with around 750 people undertaking training.

TAFE Queensland’s South Bank campus pathways for anyone wanting to work in the industry, with the Certificate IV in Mental Health (CHC43315) and the Diploma in Mental Health (CHC53315) available.

The Health Care and Social Assistance industry is the largest employing industry in Australia, with over 385,000 Queenslanders working in this sector, making it the largest industry in the state.

There are also 13,200 Welfare Support Workers in Queensland, with national employment expected to grow to 17% in the next five years.

Jobs Queensland data also shows there will be 42,000 new Community and Personal Services jobs by 2024, with 13,000 of these for workers to provide support and assistance for aged and disabled persons in their own homes or other community settings.

Nationally, employment is forecast to grow by 14% in the next five years as the ageing population increases demand for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which needs a pipeline of skilled care workers to support the 18% of Australians with a disability.

TAFE Queensland’s Educational Team Leader, Faculty of Nursing and Community Services Kym Richards, said that the mental health industry shows growth and offers a rewarding career.

“TAFE Queensland arms students with the practical skills and knowledge they need to ensure communities remain resilient in the face of ongoing disruption, and we’re needed now more than ever,” said Kym.

“The pandemic has reshaped life for a lot of people, causing fear, anxiety, isolation and depression. With many people suffering from these afflictions and needing help from trained professionals to navigate new pressures,” she continued.

Sunah encourages everyone to take time for their mental health, practice mindfulness and prioritise their wellbeing – and doing so is simple.

“People must take care of themselves and recognise the important role of personal wellbeing and recovery in our communities,” finished Kym.

“Anyone looking to improve their mental health should start small with exercise. Getting outside and going for a walk is immensely beneficial to your health and general wellbeing,” concluded Sunah.