Considering mental health awareness week in the UK, I thought I’d shed some light on frontline worker wellbeing.
Working in homelessness services can be really challenging. Clients have complex support needs and vulnerabilities; they could have experienced abuse, domestic violence, substance misuse, disability, discrimination etc. As workers, we hear and can end up carrying some of this sadness and trauma, resulting in vicarious or second-hand trauma. Clients also might externalise their trauma behaviourally; for example, becoming frustrated or angry. In sum, the job can be hard; and it’s important to recognise its impact on workers.
During my time as a frontline worker in Brighton, I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing and supportive teams. At Justlife, the Heath Engagement Team I am part of recognises that the job can be difficult and is so supportive to each other. This not only maintains good staff mental health, but also challenges the over-presence of stigma around these issues. It is okay not to be okay! And although we are resilient as workers, sometimes a little cry in the office with colleagues is needed.
The difficulties of the job have had their benefits too. Personally, I’ve learnt about my own triggers and developed some self-care strategies and built resilience, mainly because I've taken a more conscious approach to my mental health. This is something we can all be doing and promoting in all walks of life, not just in the support sector.