21 June 2022

Mind Australia’s Partnership and Linkage Service (PALS) is helping Edith overcome social isolation and learn valuable communication skills.

Edith, from North Melbourne, spent most of her childhood in hospital so she was never able to learn social skills, how to interact with others or how to make friends.

The 50-year-old doesn’t have any friends, and describes her specialist accommodation for people with intellectual disabilities as a “graveyard”.

“It’s very quiet at home and I don’t really have social interaction with anyone. I’m very isolated,” Edith said.

With the help of PALS, Edith, who suffers from severe anxiety and epilepsy, is learning how to navigate social situations.

PALS works by connecting clients in the northern, western and inner-city suburbs of Melbourne with volunteers who help build their confidence as part of their mental health recovery journey.

Clients and PALS volunteers meet up fortnightly for social activities such as going out for a coffee, shopping, or exercise.

For Edith, her PAL is Lauren – a 39-year-old psychology student.

“I love my time with Edith, it feels like it’s making time to catch up with a friend – I got lucky and got a PAL who is actually a pal,” Lauren said. 

“We love to have an adventure together; sometimes we go to the art gallery, sometimes we just meet, hang out and walk around the city or through the gardens. We’re doing things Edith otherwise wouldn’t do.

“Edith is inherently kind but she can misread social situations, or have different views from others. She’s learning to understand different perspectives and not become angry or upset, and that life goes on.”

Edith is grateful for Lauren’s companionship and she feels as though she is finally understood.

“I get more support from PALS volunteers then I get from support workers. I can relate to them better and I feel like they are better qualified to support my needs,” Edith said.

“Lauren is lots of fun; she’s very bubbly and outgoing. It’s nice being with somebody rather than being by myself all the time.” 

Mind CEO Gill Callister said volunteers like Lauren can provide unique support to people experiencing mental health and wellbeing concerns.

“The work that our PALS volunteers undertake – providing regular support and encouragement during social activities – plays a crucial role in strengthening mental health and wellbeing for people who may be experiencing social isolation.”

For more information on PALS and volunteer positions call Mind Connect on 1300 286 463 or send us a message.