THE journey of Pavitra Aran’s parents from Sri Lanka to Australia has influenced her desire to work in the mental health sector and to help refugees and migrants.
The South Perth resident, who is completing her Masters of Clinical Psychology at Murdoch University, was recognised as the overall winner and Health and Wellbeing Award winner at the Western Australian Young Achievers Awards held at the Pan Pacific on May 12.
“My parents came to Australia in 1988 because of the civil war and their background was one of conflict and hardship,” she said.
“This ties into mental illness because of what people of their background faced and there was also stigma about seeking help, but in Australia that stigma isn’t as bad.
“My motivation to study psychology is because I wanted to work in a profession where I could help people. I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind.”
Ms Aran was recognised at the WA Multicultural Recognition Awards last year for creating the Facebook page Young Refugees of Western Australia, which shows positive stories and photos of refugees and migrants.
“The reason I created the page was because of the negative and sad coverage that refugees get,” she said.
“I wanted to show them in a positive way, to destigmatise them and to fight xenophobia because these people have so much gratitude for the opportunities they have been given here.”
Ms Aran has worked with Headspace as a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) youth worker.
“We believe the role was the first of its kind in WA, if not in Australia,” she said.
“I worked with migrants and refugees who typically have low levels of seeking help about mental health issues
“My goal is to become a registered psychologist; at the moment I’m working at Murdoch Psychology Clinic.
“In the future I want to work with people who have faced trauma and help children as well, because mental illness peaks in adolescents.
“I also want to work with the CALD community to increase awareness about mental health and to encourage them to seek help.”
Ms Aran said she was shocked to win the two honours at the Western Australian Young Achievers Awards.
“I work with vulnerable people in the community, so you learn about everything they’ve been through but you don’t actually think about yourself,” she said.
Ms Aran has also volunteered at Zero2Hero, providing talks and workshops about youth suicide prevention in schools around Perth.