To Zave Nagle, having someone by your side who knows what you’re going through is a gift. Zave says that this gift was given to them by the people that paved the way for them, and it’s one they hope to continue passing on to those who need it.
Zave is a cohealth Peer Mental Health Wellbeing Coach, who uses their lived experience as both a member of the trans community and a person who has experienced mental illness to support others. Zave uses they/them and he/him pronouns.
“I use my lived experience as a trans person to offer acceptance, patience and light to the people I work with,” says Zave. “It’s so valuable to have someone that has been through the same journey supporting you.”
Currently, Zave works in cohealth’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub team, where he supports clients face-to-face and via telehealth. Each client has different wants and needs, so every day is different. Zave’s workday involves everything from helping clients build social connections to assisting them to navigate systems to supporting them to explore their options for the future.
Both Zave’s job and their own lived experience means they have great insight into the mental health needs of trans and gender diverse clients (TGD).
“Trans and gender diverse mental health is often impacted by things outside of an individual’s control,” says Zave. “Response from family, constant hoops and waitlists in the healthcare system just to live as the person you are, invalidating laws that are made, negative portrayal in the media and endless other instances of stigmatisation and discrimination.”
Zave reflects on the importance of meeting TGD people where they are when supporting them. Accepting and acknowledging how the barriers clients face impact them is key to building trust and helping them feel safe enough to be vulnerable. The connection Zave makes with TGD clients through their shared experience helps ease any shame, fear or discomfort.
Moving forward, Zave says that he would like all health services to adopt trans-affirming practices and place a greater emphasis on preventative mental health support.
“I would like to see the focus shift from ‘What can TGD people do about their mental health’ to ‘How can we prevent the negative impacts on TGD mental health’,” Zave says. They hope that this will help more TGD people feel safe enough to access the care they need.
A core value at cohealth is celebrating clients for their strengths even while we support them through challenges.
“As trans and gender diverse people, many of us have stories of marginalisation, grief and sadness,” says Zave. “But being trans is also joyous and so much peace can exist here.”
Even though his lived experience is particularly relevant to TGD people, Zave uses his journey to support a wide cohort of clients.
“There are so many barriers to mental health, and while this is particularly true for trans, gender diverse and all LGTBIQA+ people, it is true for everyone, especially in 2022. I hope to share my humanness with people to show that we are all equal, and what has happened to us does not define us.”
Sharing their journey means a lot to Zave, and their passion for their work is clear when they speak about it. Guiding people down a road they have walked before is something they feel lucky to do.
“Being able to say ‘I get it, I see you, you’re not alone’ means everything to me.”