How fortunate we are to live in a time when mental health care is finally being recognised as essential as care for any other critical illness. As awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing increases, so too does demand for professionals in the sector.

The Victorian Government has stepped up too – with its record-breaking $232.4 million commitment to mental health support in the 2018/19 budget. They also established a Royal Commission into Mental Health to support Victorians and raise awareness of mental health as an issue.

If you’re passionate about helping people, the choice of careers in mental health can be a little overwhelming.

To make the choice easier, here are six of the highest-growth fields in the sector. Read on to hear from inspiring and dedicated people who spend their days helping others heal.

Psychology: healing minds

Psychology, the science of helping people to understand an often deeper and longer-standing range of mental health issues has very strong projected job growth (Labour Market Insights). Psychologists require registration with the accrediting body (Australian Psychological Accreditation Council), to practice.

Registered clinical psychologist Alana Howells was drawn to psychology from an early age by her desire to help people. She returned to study her masters in clinical psychology six years after becoming a psychologist to focus on psychodynamic therapy, and runs her clinical practice Aurora Psychology.

“I chose a career in psychology in Year 10 as I was interested in helping people and doing something truly meaningful. Personal experiences also inspired me to learn more about how the mind works, and to better understand people and their behaviour.”

- Alana Howells, Master of Applied Psychology (Clinical Psychology).

Youth work: guiding young people

If you want to make a real difference to the lives of at-risk, disadvantaged or special-needs young people in your community, youth work is a great career, with strong job growth (Labour Market Insights).

Luciano Cornelius discovered his love for helping young people in camp guidance counselling roles during his travels and working in remote communities. He studied youth work and is now a teachers’ aide supporting kids with behavioural issues and disabilities. He benefited greatly from the hands-on nature of the courses.

“During my course I did three placements and an interstate study tour – all these practical experiences gave me the confidence and skills to work with young people.”

- Luciano Cornelius, Bachelor of Youth Work, Diploma of Youth Work CHC50413.

Youth workers help young people live their best lives

Social work: supporting individuals and the community

Social workers help to confront social problems and improve people’s quality of life. If you’d like to help resolve problems and improve human rights to people of all ages in your community, consider social work as your next career move. Social work is a career with strong future growth projected (Labour Market Insights).

Nicole Jackson is a social worker currently working for a not-for-profit with families under the child protection system and finds it a rewarding and fulfilling role to play.

“My role is to support people to make changes to prevent the children being placed in out of home care. I love my role because some families are so wanting support and to make changes. Seeing them grow as individuals and as a family is very rewarding.”

- Nicole Jackson, Bachelor of Social Work.

Counselling: supporting people of all ages

Counselling is a great career if you want to help people to understand and overcome a range of issues including depression, grief and anxiety. Counsellors help people to make healthy decisions, manage conflicts and develop interpersonal and communication skills or change unproductive thoughts and behaviours. As a profession, counselling has very strong projected growth (Labour Market Insights).

David Kwame Arthur decided to become a counsellor after years working in career recruitment, when he realised he wanted to have a greater impact on the community. He is now a drug and alcohol forensic counsellor and assessor at Stepping up Consortium, and started Back on Track Initiative, engaging with at-risk and vulnerable young people through platforms such as music and sports.

“I enjoyed working with people, but I really wanted to dedicate my career to helping others. So I approached VU and decided on postgraduate studies in Counselling. I was fortunate to get a work placement at my old high school in a counselling role focusing on student wellbeing.”

- David Kwame Arthur, Graduate Diploma in Counselling.

Nursing: the mind body connection

Nurses have great responsibility caring for our general health and wellbeing, but may choose to specialise in mental health nursing in psychiatric hospitals or clinics. Nursing has very strong future growth projected in the next five years (Labour Market Insights).

Rachel Nin undertook her nursing diploma with a course pathway into her nursing degree, focusing on mental health. She is an associate nursing manager in an acute psychiatric facility for adults.

“It was the team environment of mental health nursing that I loved. That and the fact that you are the therapeutic tool. Here we are finding out what the patient’s goals are and working together to achieve those.”

- Rachel Nin, Bachelor of Nursing, Diploma of Nursing HLT54115.

Mental health nurse, Rachel Nin

Paramedics: first-responding heroes

Paramedicine is a challenging and rewarding career, with very strong projected job growth (Labour Market Insights). Paramedics regularly receive first-responder calls requiring them to treat people suffering immediate and long-term mental health conditions. As you become qualified, practical placements are crucial to become a confident and proficient paramedic.

Sarah Maclure left her home town of Albury to follow her dream of becoming a paramedic. The hands-on training in her course helped prepare to save lives in the attacks on Bourke St in 2017 when she was still a student.

“I knew I was in a unique position to help and my scenario-based learning allowed me to assist in treating the injured. The incident has impacted me but strengthened my resolve that I chose the right path. There is no feeling like helping patients in their time of need.”

- Sarah Maclure, Bachelor of Paramedicine

Find out more

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Mental health support

If you’re experiencing difficulties please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or visit beyondblue.

If you are a VU student you can get in touch with our counselling services.