Counsellor Praises Migrant Community Support Networks

portrait photo of counsellor Nim Herath Miyanadeniya

Palliative care counsellor Nim Herath Miyanadeniya knows that compassionate communities and support from a wide network of friends can protect the mental health of clients and their families after they are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or terminal illness.

In the South East, migrant communities with strong religious connections offer some of the best support according to Nim.

“Support networks make a huge difference to a carer’s mental health and, in my two years here, I’ve noticed that there are definitely more networks involved in supporting families from these migrant communities, particularly the Greek and Indian communities,” Nim said.

“It’s not just the immediate family that show support in these cases, but the community as a whole are supportive particularly for the carer. It’s well known that a support network makes a huge difference in carers’ mental health,” she said.

After graduating from medicine in her homeland of Sri Lanka, Nim was a career medical officer in a large hospital in Sri Lanka before she married and embarked on a new life in South Africa.
Five years ago, the mother of three, emigrated to Australia and began the next chapter of her life in Melbourne.

It was here, whilst preparing for her Medical Board of Australia assessment, that Nim decided to keep her options open and got qualified as a registered counsellor.

“I had worked with cancer patients and patients with other palliative care conditions in Sri Lanka so I thought some additional counselling skills would help in my field,” she said.

After Nim completed most of the medical exams for overseas trained doctors, Victoria went into the first of many COVID -19 lockdowns and it was her newly acquired counselling skills that enabled her to quickly secure work in the private sector where she thrived.

When an opportunity came up at Palliative Care South East (PCSE) to provide counselling for clients and their families, Nim knew she had the perfect skills set and the bonus of plenty of previous experience as a doctor supporting patients with a life-limiting illness.

“Finding PCSE in 2021 and being able to provide counselling to people with a life-limiting illness and their families was a great opportunity for me,” she said adding that she enjoys the flexibility the counselling profession offers for a parent of young children.

“Counselling is very different to the medical field where you can get a test and see the results on how your treatment is working. In this sector, we rely on direct feedback from the clients and when they tell us how much we have changed their lives, it’s very rewarding,” Nim said.

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