A day in the life of a Support Worker

Becky is a support worker at React Support Services and she is based at our specialist home for female personality disorder. She has been at React for just under a year now and so we thought we’d ask her a few questions in order to get a snapshot of her role within a mental health service.

What is your favorite part of your job?
That has to be helping service users reach their potential and discover that there is life outside their illness. There is a shift now in focusing on mental health as opposed to mental illness which I find is so much more positive and less life-limiting. It’s not easy by any means, but there’s a lot of satisfaction when you see the positive change in a person even if you think the help you provide is minimal.

Why did you choose to become a support worker?
I decided to become a support worker as I really wanted hands on experience with individuals who had been diagnosed with mental illnesses, ABI or learning disabilities. I especially wanted to learn how to help them in their everyday lives as one day I hope to train as a clinical psychologist and this experience is invaluable and that I love people and flexible working, so it was a perfect fit for me.

How would you describe your job?
That’s a difficult one to explain! In a nutshell, I would say my job is mainly to help people live their everyday lives out in the community as much as possible. Be it shopping, medication, escorting them to appointments, advocacy, day trips, all of the little everyday things we take advantage of, support work is just that, support.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The job itself is challenging overall but that isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Motivating clients can often be difficult, but that then means you just have to find a way to communicate with people and understand what drives them.  Shift work, long days and bad days can all take their toll but with good support from those around you and building your own knowledge and resilience, those days are few.

What do you feel is the most important part of your job?
To me, that’s making sure the individuals I support get what they need to live full and happy lives. Yes it can often be tough, but I’d like to think that in a little way I make someone’s life easier and less of a trial. I think that’s what support work is all about.

What personal attributes do you feel you need to have be a support worker?
I would say determination, empathy, knowledge and being able to work in a team are some of the most important aspects necessary to be an effective support worker. Ultimately, you need to be able to empathise and learn about people to be able to support them and understand their needs and wishes. That and a strong team behind you that you can depend on to support you too, as well as the individuals we look after.

What do React do differently to other mental health services?
I believe that React care about the welfare of their clients and staff, much more so than I’ve found in other organisations I’ve previously worked for. We have regular staff rep meetings where we can air any concerns, and whilst there are a few issues every now and again you know at least you have a voice. Their standards are high and they strive to maintain a standard of excellence where possible. They also are heavily involved in combating the stigma of mental illness which is fantastic.