One in four Australian youths aged 16-24 are suffering from a mental health illness.

This is the familiar situation Grace found herself in after a recent assault left her experiencing anxiety, depression and PTSD. Unable to attend school or gain employment due to her mental health illness, Grace found herself in a tough position and in eager need of support.

On top of managing her own mental health, Grace was also faced with the responsibility of supporting her mother in caring for her unwell, elderly grandmother, along with helping her family who were experiencing housing stress. Despite her hardship, Grace was determined to better support her family.

After being referred to the team at Uniting through the Youth and Family Health department at Coffs Harbour, Grace was introduced to her case worker Tamara. The two hit it off and started working on a plan of action, and with the help of Grace’s mental health team they identified key goals they could smash together.


Laying down the foundations

From the beginning, Grace was engaged in the program and knew she was passionate about helping others. While Grace did not have prior experience in the workplace, her heavy involvement in assisting with the younger kids in her local Physical Culture Club community showcased a natural ability to be organised, patient and caring.

Working with Tamara, Grace identified her strengths, built confidence and pinpointed what her interests (career wise) were. Together they built Grace a resume, cover letter and set up an online job seeker profile — allowing Grace to discover potential pathways and career opportunities.


“I have always wanted to work in childcare or hairdressing because I liked helping people. Tamara helped me see that there are other roles out there that I could use my skills in, while still helping people.” – Grace


Building new skills

Since the beginning Grace had made it clear that her goals did not just involve employment.  Grace mentioned to Tamara she had also hoped to get her licence and gain access to additional training. Through the program at Uniting, Tamara was able to refer Grace to a driving course at her community college so that she could gain the independence she needed to further support her family and move closer towards reaching her goals.


New Opportunities

Tamara saw a junior position at a local pharmacy being advertised for part-time/after-school hours and knew this would suit Grace’s schedule perfectly. Tamara immediately asked Grace if she would like to apply, as she thought it would appeal to Grace’s caring nature. Grace was interested, so together they submitted Grace’s application.

After a successful application, Grace was invited to interview. Tamara worked closely with Grace on a plan of action, developing interview skills and how to present herself for an interview — and even helped Grace find the perfect pair of work shoes!


“Grace just needed to be herself and approach the situation with confidence, and I wanted to be there to help her do that.” – Tamara.


More than just a job

Through the Smart Skilled and Hired program at Uniting Coffs Harbour and with the support of Tamara, Grace has now broken through these barriers and successfully reached her 13-week benchmark. After a successful interview, Grace has seen her time at work grow from limited hours to early full-time employment.

Grace has continued to be reliable and has maintained her employment, and her passion for helping people has seen her excel in her role. Her manager has been understanding with her family and mental health condition, and together with supportive and engaging colleagues, Grace has become an essential asset to her team.


Continued Support

Grace’s family is still experiencing housing stress. However, Tamara is continuing to support Grace to gain her licence, access housing support and subsidised transport to and from work to ensure she continues to feel supported.


“Grace really is an amazing example of resilience through difficult circumstances, and her growth since starting the Youth Employment Program at Uniting, speaks volumes to her amazing spirit. It has been a privilege joining her on that journey.” – Tamara


Being employed can help people with mental health illness minimise emotional stress, especially if it helps remove you from the situation that causes your anxiety. By surrounding yourself with encouraging and positive colleagues, it helps to create a new source of happiness and fulfilment.


Are you looking for work?

The Uniting Smart Skilled and Hired Youth Employment program is helping youth in the community gain access to vital training and support to assist the transition into the workplace. If you’re looking for a supportive employment service provider who understands your individual circumstances just like Tamara, get in touch with our team!



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