My interest in mental health was sparked early on: when I was a teenager I received support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for an eating disorder. I was very well supported, but I know that’s not the case for everyone.
I went on to become a CAMHS peer support worker and the official carer for my best friend who was experiencing mental health problems at university. I have seen first-hand how debilitating mental illness can be, but also that it’s possible to manage it and lead a fulfilling life if you’re properly supported.
Before coming across Think Ahead, I studied Theology at the University of Cambridge and considered working in international development. I was looking for a career that would enable me to help people – something a lot of graduates want! Think Ahead takes this vague idea of wanting to support people and channels it into something remarkable that allows you to make a real difference to people with mental health problems.
What I immediately loved about the Think Ahead programme is that the work you do is very personal – you often visit people in their homes and you’re directly involved in their lives. I was surprised at the level of responsibility you get from day one. It’s daunting at first, especially when you realise that the decisions you make have a real impact on someone’s life. It’s been a steep learning curve, but the programme provides a lot of support.
Its academic structure gives you the robust framework you need to reflect on your practice, and sets aside dedicated time to invest in your own learning.
The spirit of community among Think Ahead participants has also been amazing. From the very beginning you’re in a group of like-minded people who give each other advice and make up a pool of knowledge you can tap into throughout the programme. Being a mental health social worker can be emotionally and intellectually demanding, so it’s great to have that kind of support system.
I really enjoy mental health social work because it’s a profession that requires heart as well as brains. I feel that the programme has such a deep impact on who you are as a person. It challenges how you think about the world and how you act in relation to it.