Community Care Unit welcomes new Family/Carer Peer Worker

For the families and carers of people struggling with their mental health, being a supportive and caring figure in their loved one’s recovery can often leave a heavy toll on their own wellbeing.

Peninsula Health is one of the first health services in Victoria to introduce a Family/Carer Peer Worker within a residential setting, whose own experiences are being used to better assist and care for those closest to people living onsite at the Community Care Unit (CCU). The CCU supports the recovery of people seriously affected by mental illness in a home-like, residential environment.

“Many families and carers have had to manage a fairly significant burden because of their loved one’s mental health condition,” says Peter Walsh, Nurse Unit Manager of Peninsula Health’s Community Care Unit. “Having a Family/Carer Peer Worker is a really great new initiative to see how we can enhance our capacity to support carers.”

Stepping into the new role is Carolyn McConnell, whose passion for working with families, carers and supporters, while advocating for their needs, initially attracted her to the position.

“The role has a direct impact on the lives of carers,” says Carolyn. “It also supports the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health system that recognises carers as partners in recovery and deserving of respect.”

With evidence to suggest that people who provide long term care to people with mental illness often have poorer outcomes in their own health, the new role aims to be a practical and emotional support, while providing easier access to resources that could have significant benefits for them.

“My experience as a carer peer worker and a carer enables me to work with families to support them from a lived experience perspective,” says Carolyn.

“By sharing my lived experience, I aim to improve service outcomes for carers and advocate for them in a meaningful way,” she adds.

As the role further develops, Peter hopes that every new client that comes through the Community Care Unit with their carers will accept support from Carolyn during the initial stage of assessment.

“Things are changing [in the Mental Health space] and I think Carolyn represents that change,” says Peter. “I can only anticipate we will see all kinds of possibilities come out of this new role.” The Community Care Unit, located in a residential area of Frankston, can care for up to 20 patients at a time, with lengths of stay lasting from a few months to a few years.

To access Mental Health Services at Peninsula Health, contact our Mental Health Telephone Triage on 1300 792 977 which will direct you to the appropriate mental health program or community support. In an emergency, dial triple zero (000), or Lifeline on 13 11 14.