Mental Health Nurse
Describe your role and how you support the health of women in the Macedon Ranges Shire
I am a Mental Health Nurse at Cobaw Community Health and have worked as a member of the counselling and well-being team for the past 10 or so years. I mostly support women who are under stress and struggling to manage their mental health as a result. Many of the women I see have competing or multiple stressors such as grief and loss, family violence or relationship problems, and financial and/or care-giving demands. Stress impacts upon people in different ways – some become disconnected from their feelings, some become emotionally overwhelmed, others develop anxiety symptoms such as panic attacks. Whilst we can support women in trying to reduce some of these external stressors and finding some breathing space, we also work on how they respond to these stressors and prioritize their own health needs in amongst these. My role has a strong emphasis upon psycho-education, stabilization and linkage into longer-term support services both professional and social. It can be hard work but also very gratifying to see how women can draw on their strengths, which they undoubtedly have, to navigate through to calmer waters.
Why is it important for women to take care of their mental health?
Women are more likely to be juggling multiple roles and experiencing a layering of stressors. The day to day stressors of managing the ‘emotional load’ of family life (planning events, anticipating needs of others and caring for others in immediate and extended family) can become exhausting and if there are one or two issues arising which tip the apple-cart this can become overwhelming. Women are also more likely to be self-blaming or self-deprecating with a deeply ingrained (socialized) expectation that it is their job to keep the people around them happy. A lot of the work I do with women is around learning to identify and prioritize what their own needs are and to balance these against the needs of others. I think it is likely a myth that women are better at multi-tasking innately – they just tend to have very high expectations of themselves and so practise it a lot!