Meet Pam and Lacey

Meet Pam Maroney, Occupational Therapist in our Adult Mental Health Program at the Doveton Community Care Unit (CCU), and their pet dog Lacey.

What is your role at Monash Health and what does it entail?

I’m occupational therapist (OT) and work at a residential rehabilitation facility helping people with mental illnesses get back on their feet and return to living independently in the community.

What has your journey been like at Monash Health?

I started working at Monash Health 15 years ago, and have always worked in various mental health programs and settings.

Along the way Monash Health has supported me to attend various training and workshops, which has allowed me to learn valuable skills, improve my knowledge, and enhance my ability to work as an OT in mental health.

Tell us about Lacey and how she became a part of the Adult Mental Health Program Team.

After trialling a “bring your dog to work day,” where a staff member would bring their dog to work for the day and allow the clients to care for their dog, staff observed that clients were more engaged when the dog was available for the whole day and when they had some responsibility for caring for it.  After many discussions, we were given approval to obtain a rescue puppy as a pet dog to live on-site at the Doveton Community Care Unit. In September 2014 eight week old Lacey arrived!

Based on our research, the impact that Lacey has had on our staff and clients at the Doveton CCU include:

  • Providing opportunities for both staff and client to exercise more
  • Providing clients with comfort, companionship and opportunities to improve social skills
  • Promotes feelings of happiness amongst staff and clients
  • Helps clients engage in meaningful roles and occupations, and Lacey creates a relaxing environment for staff to work in.

We’re also able to take Lacey to visit some of the other mental health programs in Dandenong, and she has the opportunity to play with other staff and clients and practice doing her tricks, which always seems to brighten everybody’s day.

This week is Mental Health Week at Monash Health. What are the biggest mental health challenges facing our community? What steps can we take to improve our mental health and wellbeing both at home and in the workplace?

I believe the biggest challenge our clients face is social isolation. There are no longer drop-in centres, structured programs or services where people with mental illnesses can meet as a group. It can be argued that those experiencing mental illnesses need to re-integrate with mainstream services, however, many of these services have higher costs that our clients cannot afford, or feel that they don’t fit in.

Fitting in is very important in order to feel connected with others; so having a place where people with similar shared experiences can congregate, as well as receive education and support would be ideal.

In terms of improving our own mental health and wellbeing, it’s important that we too stay connected with supportive friends and family, maintain good physical health through healthy eating and exercise, and engage in our own meaningful occupations that provide purpose, satisfaction and joy.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Just the smallest things, like a client laughing or smiling, or seeing them enjoying themselves. Many of our clients have had difficult journeys before they arrive at our facility, so seeing them experience joy in their lives is very rewarding for me.

If you weren’t working in your current role what would you be doing?

I always thought that I wanted to be a pilot, but then realised that I get travel sickness so not sure that would be the best career for me! I love my job and the people I get to work with (both staff and clients) and so I can honestly say that I would continue being an OT. It truly is a very satisfying and rewarding job!

What is something that your team doesn’t know about you?

Having worked at Doveton CCU for many years, there is probably not much that my colleagues don’t already know about me…!