Interview with Voula Hosemans, cohealth community mental health worker, Early Intervention Psychosocial Support Response
Voula Hosemans has lived in Brimbank for more than 15 years, but her interest in working in the community started when she was just 18.
“I have a strong sense of social justice – I always have,” says Voula.
“When I was 18, I wanted to save the world,” she laughs.
Her career has seen her working across a range of community sectors including children and women’s services and intellectual disability, but Voula has spent the last 25 years as a community mental health worker.
Voula is part of cohealth’s Early Intervention Psychosocial Support Response program which sees her embedded, and working in collaboration with Harvester Clinic – Mid-West Area Mental Health Service at Devonshire Road Sunshine.
The Harvester Clinic multidisciplinary team consists of psychiatrists, registrars, nurses, psychologists, and occupational therapists, who work in partnership to create a tailored plan for each client including addressing their psychosocial needs.
Many of Voula’s clients have dual diagnosis, which means they are experiencing mental health and substance use such as alcohol and drug addiction. Many have social and health problems, insecure housing, and homelessness.
Psychosocial support means helping people with severe mental health to participate in their community, manage daily tasks, undertake work or study, find housing, get involved in activities and make connections with family and friends.
Community mental health takes an ‘outreach’ approach. Voula meets with clients at their home, or other places in the community which feel safe and comfortable, such as parks and cafes, rather than relying on them coming to a clinical setting.
“A big part of my role is to advocate for clients, who often struggle to navigate the health system. This might include helping them to complete paperwork so they can access services or funding, making phone calls on their behalf, or getting them assessed by an occupational therapist or psychologist,” she said.
Through Voula, clients are also helped to improve physical health issues that might be impacting their mental health.
“People experiencing severe mental health are more likely to develop chronic physical health conditions, so my job is to help put all the pieces together and link them to health care” says Voula.
Voula says one of the most satisfying part of her job is helping clients set their own goals based on their interests and skills.
“I have a client who suffers from clinical depression and who has no family support. He’s quite socially isolated, but after a few sessions he talked to me about his interest in craft.”
“I’ve connected him with a local crafting group as a way to improve his mental and social health, and it’s allowed him to get out of the house and meet new people,” said Voula.
For many of Voula’s clients, emerging from Victoria’s rolling lockdowns has been a stressful and uncertain time.
“For some of my clients, the lockdown made them feel less anxious because there was no pressure to leave the house. Now that restrictions are lifting, my job has been to talk about strategies and tools they can use to manage transition back to ‘normal life’,” said Voula.
Voula says that being embedded in a multidisciplinary clinical team allows for a holistic approach to each person’s care.
“The partnership between the psychosocial and clinical support is what sets this program apart. We’re all working collaboratively to achieve the best outcome for each client,” she said.