Every week is mental health awareness week, according to mature student Chev Libaude who is taking what she’s learned from running a restaurant, into her studies for a career change.
“I’ve been surrounded by mental health issues most of my life, whether it is within my family or what I have witnessed within the hospitality industry,” says Chev, who is in her first year of a Bachelor of Social Services at Otago Polytechnic.
Having run a café-restaurant for 12 years, Chev realised she’d already been exposed to a wide range of personal experiences.
“I’ve always wanted to help people. And I’ve always been a good listener. I thought instead of listening to people, perhaps I could help others by getting into social work or counselling.
“Also, living and working in that industry led to a certain lifestyle. You know – it takes one to know one, so to speak. I think I have life experiences that inform both my studies and my approach to helping others.”
Based in Wanaka, Chev commutes to Dunedin, where she attends on-campus lectures and activities Monday to Wednesday for Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Social Services, before returning home. It is a course with a strong emphasis on fieldwork placements and industry-relevant training.
“I have a daughter in Wanaka so am trying to parent her while also focusing on my studies. It’s tough, but I’m 38 and I had reached a point where I was thinking about where I wanted to be career-wise in, say, 10 years,” Chev says.
“That was when I really got into gear. However, I didn’t know if I was ready, academically. I had questions like, ‘can I write an essay?’.
“That’s when I realised I needed to do the bridging course to improve my academic skills,” says Chev, referring to the New Zealand Certificate in Study and Career Preparation (Level 3 and Level 4), which she largely completed online.
“The support I’ve received from Otago Polytechnic has really helped. And now I’m well into my first year of the Bachelor of Social Services.
“My path towards this industry just makes total sense. I feel I’m combining all that I’m learning with previous experiences add aspects of my life. I just can’t get enough of this programme.”
Chev says she is surrounded by inspiring people.
“I have made some life-changing connections within my class. There are some amazing people – all with their own rich back-stories. And my lecturers/tutors are also amazing. They have their own lived experiences, too.
“It’s so enlightening to be on this journey with others.”
-Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 27 September to 3 October. The theme for this year is “Take Time to Kōrero – Mā Te Kōrero, Ka Ora: A little chat goes a long way”.