Disability and aged care support work is one of the most rewarding careers on offer, but it can also be one of the most psychologically challenging.

The Federal Government’s Carer Gateway program says taking care of someone can be stressful and being a carer or support worker is often a non-stop job.
“Sometimes you might feel anxious, angry, frustrated, resentful or sad,” it says.
“It’s very important that you look after your own mental and physical health. When you are physically and mentally healthy, you can provide better care. You can also keep caring for longer.” 

How big is the issue?

 According to mood disorder charity, The Black Dog Institute, at any point in time one in six working-age employees will be suffering from mental ill health.
A further 4.1 million Australians will have their ability to function at work impacted because they are suffering – often silently – from symptoms associated with mental ill health, such as worry, sleep problems and fatigue.
Economic analysis consistently shows that mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are costing Australian businesses about $11 billion each year through absenteeism, reduced work performance, increased staff turnover rates and compensation claims.

Where to get help

For those who are feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities, talking to someone about your feelings of stress is key.
In the first instance it may help to access your personal support network, as once they are aware of what you are experiencing, they will be in a better position to help you.
You could also try speaking to your GP about your concerns as they can help put together a mental health care plan for you which can pay for up to 10 appointments with mental health services that are funded through Medicare.
It may also be worthwhile checking if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program, where you can access free confidential counselling and support services.
The Carer Gateway website says a professional counsellor can talk you through your worries and help you relieve and manage stress, while joining a carer support group can put you in touch with others that may be facing similar difficulties.

The benefits of remaining at work

Managing stress at work is particularly important because it can be a factor in the onset or worsening of symptoms.  
However, both scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that work can be beneficial for an individual’s overall wellbeing.
Researchers have also found that for many work provides purpose, and that it may therefore play a pivotal role in a person’s recovery from their mental health struggles.
The Black Dog Institute says while it may seem logical to think that time off work is the best solution for anyone living with a mental health issue, this is not always the case.
Aside from providing a healthy distraction, the benefits include maintaining a routine, avoiding isolation at home, and maintaining some productivity and a sense of achievement.

Keeping it quiet

There are some instances where employees do need to tell their employer about what they may be going through, most notably:
  • When your mental health status affects how you carry out the key requirements of your job
  • When your mental health affects your health and safety and/or the health and safety of colleagues or those you care for
  • When your mental wellbeing is affected or could be affected by the nature of your work 
The Black Dog Institute says there is also no legal obligation to tell your employer about a mental health condition if it does not affect your ability to do your job.
However, there are laws requiring informing employers to address and manage psychological safety risks for employees. So informing them of any difficulties you may be facing allows your employer the opportunity to make adjustments and provide ongoing support.

If you’d like to transform your caring nature into a rewarding career in the care industry, have a look at our available roles here.