I decided to apply to the Think Ahead programme while I was at the University of Sheffield. I had joined university after a break from work while I was caring for my daughter and my son full time, but once they were both at primary school, I turned my attention back to my career.
I studied Social Policy and Criminology for my undergraduate degree, and when I came across the Think Ahead programme it was everything I had been looking for – the opportunity to further my education and to make a real difference to the lives of people with mental health problems.
Alongside my degree I worked with the Sheffield Area Refuge & Support and have also previously volunteered for Apna Haq in Rotherham. Both organisations offer support for women and children, many who have experienced domestic abuse, prostitution, substance abuse problems, forced marriage or child exploitation.
The more work I did volunteering, the more people I came across with mental health issues. That made me really motivated to work in this area, because I could see what an impact mental health issues can have.
I was attracted to social work because it’s a profession where you get to spend a lot of time with a person, building up a relationship. In other job roles you often don’t get that one-to-one contact over a long period of time.
Social workers don’t come in as professionals and tell service users what’s best for them – they go in and work with them, advocate on their behalf and listen to their wishes. They get to make a real difference by looking at a person’s family, their past, what they want for their future, what their support network is like, as well as practical issues like housing. It means being able to build up a bigger picture of the issues someone faces and focus on their priorities.
I think working with people over a longer period of time, and supporting them in their recovery, is really rewarding.
Personally speaking, I’m particularly interested in issues that predominantly affect women, particularly after my experiences with volunteering. In the future I can see myself doing more research into domestic abuse and its links to mental health.