Connecting the dots with our new social prescribing program
When Erika, a 23-year-old transgender woman from Sydney first moved to the coastal New South Wales town of Laurieton, she wasn’t in a good place.
Relocating in 2022 after facing various mental health struggles, she felt scared, displaced, and disconnected from society. Besides her grandparents, Erika didn’t know anyone else in the area and her interaction with the outside world was virtually non-existent.
Spending her days online and alone, she was becoming increasingly detached and anxious. Despite her strong desire to work, the insularity fuelled her lack of confidence which also prevented her from seeking employment.
During a meeting with the national youth mental health foundation Headspace, it was proposed that Erika consider joining Feros Care’s free 15-week social connection program, Healthy Me, Healthy Community (HMHC). This was suggested to help her build confidence, explore social activities, and find employment with an inclusively minded organisation.
A pleasant surprise
In the lead up to her first HMHC session, Erika didn’t hold high hopes for the program.
“I was scared and pretty wary. I’ve gone through a lot in life like depression, anxiety and all that nasty stuff, so my mindset going into this wasn’t great.”
Her negative thinking was compounded by bad experiences with employment assistance providers in the past. She found the complexity of navigating their processes very overwhelming, causing her to question whether this program would work for her.
When Erika first met her HMHC Wellbeing Coach, however, that initial apprehension began to fade.
Knowing that Erika rarely left the house or saw anyone in person, her Wellbeing Coach agreed to meet at a place where Erika felt safe and as relaxed as possible. This was the beginning of an important shift in Erika’s mindset towards the program.
“It was really nice that my Wellbeing Coach suggested she come out to visit me, to make me feel comfortable, which it definitely did.”
From that moment onwards, everything started to change for Erika…
Erika’s Wellbeing Coach sat down with her to develop a set of clear and realistic goals, and then created a plan of how she would help her achieve those goals.
To support her job seeking efforts, she connected Erika to an agency to create a professional resume for her to begin distributing.
At this time, Erika also indicated that she would like to undertake a coffee making course to enhance her employability and help build confidence. So, her Wellbeing Coach reached out to a community college and made the arrangements on Erika’s behalf.
Social prescribing: the proof is in the pudding
As another primary goal of Erika’s was to spend more time outside of the house, her Wellbeing Coach organised activities to foster community integration and social upskilling.
Erika was excited to get involved with Rainbow on the River (ROTR) – The New South Wales Mid North Coast Mardi Gras. With this in mind, her Wellbeing Coach investigated ROTR fundraising and volunteering opportunities associated with their events.
She also organised and attended a catch up with Erika and Ali Challinor, ROTR Committee Member and proud transgender woman, to help extend Erika’s local network.
“My HMHC Wellbeing Coach gave me the confidence to go and get involved with ROTR. I now regularly chat to Ali and recently went to a big ROTR dance party!”
This was a huge leap forward for Erika who only a matter of weeks ago, wouldn’t even step outside her grandparents’ house.
An agent for change offering unwavering support
Erika wholeheartedly believes that having her Wellbeing Coach act as the ‘middle person’ or ‘agent’ to facilitate action and connections has been absolutely invaluable.
“One of the best things about the program is that it’s a reaching hand out to a lot of these places that I would not have reached out to by myself.”
She also emphasised that the program has never left her feeling unsupported, unvalued, or just like another number.
“My Wellbeing Coach continues to check in, all the time, and that’s what we all need in life right – to know that someone is always there.”
“A must try”
Erika is due to finish the program next week and has nothing but praise and gratitude for the HMHC.
“I honestly feel way better than I have in years. Everything Feros and the HMHC have done has been so positive. Of course I still have stuff to work on, but I feel so much more confident and so much calmer. I’m getting out of the house and achieving my goals.”
She is also feeling optimistic after handing out her resume to several places and has a barista/food safety course to look forward to, which her Wellbeing Coach researched and booked.
“I definitely recommend the program for people who are in a similar situation or have had rough times and want to get back out there and engage with community.”
Finally, when asked which three words she would use to describe HMHC, Erika’s answer was simple yet powerful; “A Must Try.”
You can’t get any better than that.
This program is funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program and is delivered by Feros Care.