Stories for keeping strong - Keep yourself healed

This short film has been created for Aboriginal workers to promote the importance of looking after yourself so that you may sustain and enjoy your job and support your community to the best of your ability.

What I do like about my job is the fact that we're helping mob out. The fact that they come in and actually realize they got a problem and they're coming to me to help them out, that's satisfying at the end of the day when I'm going home.

I love my job because I love delivering a well-needed service to the community, and the other thing I love about working with my mob is it's a community thing. You're working with young mob.

That's what I like about my job is interacting with people. That's probably the thing that... And community. That would be the two things that I aspire to get up in the morning and go to work.

When we're working so much with our mob who are going through their own healing process, that can trigger our own vulnerabilities, whether it be depression, anxiety, trauma, cultural identity issues. So it's a little bit of a, it's a real balancing act. You gotta help your mob heal and you have to keep yourself healed or continue the healing journey and keep yourself well.

I think that the first sign usually or quite often anyway, is just that sense of feeling overwhelmed with the task that you normally feel pretty in control of, and I'd say your stress threshold gets lower. That's a really good sign. That's the first sign that you're not travelling too well or that you haven't got your normal reserves. Another sign is just feeling really tired, which is related. You start to feel exhausted and you don't have that go in your engine. Another sign is that you start to feel, you can start to feel disconnected with people. In a way sometimes that's the mind and the body and the emotions' way of bringing your energy back in because there's a lack of and you're feeling flat, so it's almost like you start to withdraw from people without having any control over it. Just getting a little bit more distant and less engaged with people I think is another sign of depression or burnout.

I try and maintain my calm. I guess that comes from years of experience, years and years of experience. Just step back, calm down. If you have to say, "No, I can't see you, you have to come back tomorrow," do so, and they'll understand that. If I can't help myself, nothing wrong with picking up the phone and ringing somebody else.

But also help in the way of looking after ourself is as in we get a counsellor and debrief. So we're very lucky.

And I make a good practice of leaving my phone at work because if you take it home, you'll take problems, you'll answer it.

What we do at the end of each week, we'll sit in a circle and talk about our week, and if something's happened bad, we talk about that and then you get feedback from everyone. So we're leaving it at the end of the week, we're leaving work at work, and we have a good weekend and come back to it.

And it's really, really important to shut off at... Come 5 o’clock that we go home. We can't do nothing. If we do those things and have other things in practice, in place for us to, and as I said, have a hobby, do some other things, and I think a lot of our people go to work and then go home and don't have those hobbies or don't have those things. But they are real important to take your mind off what you're doing, and it prepares you for the next day to refresh and start again.

Don't have lunch in your office. Don't have lunch near your workstation. Actually go out for a walk. Get away from the building. That time is your time and that way... And I always maintain the fact that if you look out for yourself that enables you to look after your clients or patients or whatever I guess, and that's what I'm saying. If we act erratic, our clients will be erratic.

We have counsellors within our own organization. We tend to not use them because we're workers, but then at the end of the day, they're there for everyone, and I think we just got to step outside of our professionalism to be able to go in and say, "I need help."

For me, it's all about not getting caught in the trap of rescuing people all the time. That creates an enormous sense of responsibility, obligation and burden sometimes that's not yours. And I think people early on in the work, you go through a process where you realize that you can help people and really support them but you can't take the responsibility for that change, and once you realize that, it actually frees you up and you actually work better and support people better.

In my eyes, key is culture. Do what you need to do outside of work. Don't sit there and let a plan land on you might see someone, talk with someone. That'd be a shame, 'cause if you're shamed in this position, you can't help anybody. You need to be able to talk and share your feelings with people, you know?

You are not alone, and it's okay to ask for help. If watching this film has made you feel that you or a co-worker could benefit from some support, there are many options you can consider. First, maybe make an appointment to see a GP at your health service and ask for a referral to see a psychologist or a counsellor. Having a yarn with someone can really help, and together you can talk about things you could do to make you feel better. Another option is you can call Beyond Blue Support Service, 24 hours a day, and speak confidentially to a trained counsellor.