Milica Miocinovic describes herself as a “professional friend’’. A youth support worker with Thrive, the 24-year-old uses lived experience of mental health to help others her age facing their own daily challenges.
Milica Miocinovic was studying psychology and working full-time when she experienced her first anxiety attack three years ago.
“I wasn’t feeling life,’’ she says.
“I didn’t like leaving the house, other than to go to work, and I wasn’t seeing my friends; it felt like I was waiting for something to pass, but it was just me regressing more and more.’’
For Milica, a Youth Support Worker with Thrive, learning to rationalise things that go wrong, with the help of a psychologist, was instrumental in recovery.
Today, she works alongside Thrive’s Senior Youth Mental Health Clinicians to support young people aged 16 – 25 years with severe and/or complex mental illness in the western suburbs.
“In a way, I’m the client’s professional friend – the clinicians provide the therapy and I’m there for more informal peer support to essentially role model better mental health and progress, and show them that they can get through,’’ Milica says.
“We’ll talk about anything and everything, from how’s your day been to even doing mock job interviews, just as you would with a friend.
“Sometimes I feel like I see a little glimmer of hope in their eyes that says: you’ve felt like this too and now you’re doing this? Maybe I can too.’’
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is among the most common presentation seen through Thrive, which supported 139 clients in 2019-2020 including 102 females and 31 males.
BPD centres on the inability to manage emotions effectively and may lead to difficulties regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive behaviour, and unstable relationships.
Other young people seek support for severe anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, complex trauma, self-harm, eating disorders, and psychosis.
All are experiencing significant psychosocial complexity that demands a multidisciplinary approach to their mental health care needs.
Therein lies the significance of Thrive, Milica says: “It’s very important to differentiate between the types of mental health needs that people have.
“It’s like comparing someone with a cold to someone with arthritis – both will go to the GP, but their ongoing treatment is going to be very different.
“Thrive provides young people with the complex care they are unlikely to get in the primary platform, but the aim is to step them down to that when they’re doing well.’’
Milica meets with clients fortnightly, or more often as needed.
Mindfulness exercises support their functional recovery, in addition to the chatter that Milica says puts them at ease, and reinforces they are not alone.
She laments that demand for Thrive support continues to grow.
Nationally, research shows a rising tide of psychological distress among young Australians, with young women twice as likely as young males to reach out for help.
“I believe social media contributes a lot to mental health regression because it’s an issue of comparison,’’ Milica says.
“It starts to build the mindset that I need to change myself in order to be good enough, but what is good enough?’’
In Mental Health Week (MHW), Milica is encouraging people to reach out to family and friends where there is concern for their wellbeing.
“I think the most important thing is to not ask any questions that would indicate some sort of blame or insinuate anything aside from just genuine care and support,’’ she says.
Her MHW message is simple: ask to understand, not to solve a problem.
“We tend to assume that people want a solution to their problems, and by doing that we just hear them, we don’t really listen.
“Sometimes people just want to be understood rather than helped.
“I think it’s very important to stop and listen, and to make an effort to ask questions that will help to really understand them and why they’re feeling like they do.’’
For more information about Thrive, please phone headspace Port Adelaide on (08) 8215 6340.