Ruth’s cocoon of support

Social worker Ruth Sims, who won last year’s St John of God Health Mental Health Employee of the Year award. Picture: Dominique Menegaldo www.communitypix.com.au d395166
Social worker Ruth Sims, who won last year’s St John of God Health Mental Health Employee of the Year award. Picture: Dominique Menegaldo www.communitypix.com.au d395166

Working by that philosophy has brought the mother of five many successes, including her latest achievement in receiving the 2012 St John of God Health Mental Health Employee of the Year award.

Ms Sims moved from Liberia to Australia in 2001 as a refugee and since then has worked in the community supporting Culturally and Linguistically Diverse women and their families at Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre in Mirrabooka.

The former school principal co-ordinates Ishar’s perinatal support and home visiting programs that have been successful in helping more than 500 CaLD women with post-traumatic stress and post-natal depression.

Coming from a different country herself, Ms Sims felt she could relate to women from all over the world and began working closely with them as a mental, emotional and physical support person.

She said the common issue CaLD women faced was social isolation and no longer having their network and extended family supporting them through critical times, such as having a baby or raising a child.

‘They have to get used to not having their extended family supporting them. Here they only have their husband,’ she said.

‘Husbands also have to learn new things and experience pressure.’

Ms Sims said she used her personal stories and similar experiences in moving to a new country to engage with women by finding a common ground on which she builds trust.

‘I want them to feel as though I’m part of them with no distinctions,’ she said.

‘I respect who they are and have empathy for the women.

‘I’m not one to challenge their culture. I’m here to promote Ishar’s philosophy to promote good health, whether that’s physical, mental or emotional.’

Ms Sims said often the women are ‘so doubtful, so fearful and so frightful’ in themselves and their new surroundings that she works with them in building their confidence and their self-worth by empowering them.

One way she does this is by making sure the women understand that mental and physical health are connected and by contributing to society they can feel better about themselves.

‘I encourage them to realise they have the capacity to work and contribute to society,’ she said.

‘They soon realise they are OK and strong enough to do so.

‘It gives me goose bumps now to know that some of the women are going to Tafe or uni.’

For more information on Ishar’s services or for funding opportunities call 9345 5335.