A 62-year-old suicide prevention Peer worker who has drawn on her own experience living with PTSD to help people in Broken Hill with acute mental health issues, has been chosen to represent Mission Australia’s Safe Haven at the 2021 Lived Experience of Suicide Summit on The Gold Coast in September, having been granted a bursary to attend – all thanks to a journey she embarked on with Asuria last year.
Diagnosed with PTSD following a workplace incident in March 2017, Jill’s mental health, combined with a complicated knee surgery, ruled her out of employment in 2019 and into 2020, during which time COVID-19 left her unable to return home from Ceduna in South Australia for four months due to the border closures.
Working with Asuria’s Disability Employment Services (DES) Job Coach, Kristy, Jill identified her own experience with PTSD as a potential source of empathy and support for others dealing with mental health challenges of their own. Taking the brave step to enrol in a Certificate IV in Mental Health, Jill says:
“There were gaps in my learning, basic skills in computer literacy and study were a concern. My job coach was there all the way, not judging me, just positively assisting, supporting and guiding me by phone.”
Set to finish her degree in October, she used her newfound confidence to begin applying for roles, with the support of Asuria DES Job Coach, Teagan. Mission Australia brought her on board with its Safe Haven program as a Peer Support Worker in Suicide Prevention in January 2021.
In a short space of time, Jill became an invaluable member of the team, though a lack of confidence stemming from her own ongoing mental health challenges, meant she wouldn’t have even applied were it not for ongoing support from Asuria DES Job Coach, Kristy.
“Living with PTSD is a continued journey for me,’ says Jill. “Most days I travel great; some days I travel rough, but I am so fortunate to be uplifted and supported by positive and supportive peers.
“It just goes to show that at 62 years of age, and living with a diagnosis of PTSD, that anything and everything is possible.”
Incredibly proud of Jill’s passion and progress, Asuria DES Job Coach, Kristy, says her commitment and growth have been inspirational: “Jill has had some challenging times in her life, and not once has she given up. It takes a lot of strength to face any sort of trauma, and she’s turned it around and become a beacon of hope for others - it’s truly incredible. I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of her journey.”
Commenting on attending the summit in September, and her role with Mission Australia, Jill says: “I’ve just blossomed since joining the team, and having a disability, they’ve supported me in every way possible. I love the fact I can walk alongside someone and share the hope that they’re not alone.”
Motivated to keep developing her skills and career potential, for Jill this is just the beginning, as she continues her studies and is halfway through her Certificate IV in Peer Support, with aspirations to train and support the up-and-coming peer workers of the future.