Louise Walsh

Louise Walsh

Peer Leader
New Moves, Chatswood

“It’s very rewarding seeing people make positive changes in their lives…it makes a big difference to their mental health.”

It’s been a long recovery journey for Louise Walsh. She was just 19 and on the threshold of her adult life when mental illness first appeared. Now, at age age 41, she is a peer leader with New Moves, a fitness program run under the auspices of the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW.

The role draws on Louise’s love for health and fitness, evidenced by her habit of walking an hour and a half every day. She participates once a week in a group run by an exercise physiologist, encouraging clients and facilitating their participation in the program, which includes exercise followed by preparation of a healthy meal.
Louise finds her paid role very satisfying.

“I like seeing the change in people, people getting fitter, losing weight, eating better in general. I really enjoy encouraging them to do a bit more exercise and eat better.”

“It’s very rewarding seeing people make positive changes in their lives…it makes a big difference to their mental health.”

Previously Louise ran a weight management program at Royal North Shore Hospital, a position she obtained because her skills were identified while she had been participating in the program.

Louise’s confidence to do the job was boosted because others were supportive and showed confidence in her abilities. When funding for that position ceased, her case manager suggested she do a two-day course through New Moves to become a peer worker.

“And I said yes, I’d love to.”

The benefit of hiring peer workers lies in their own experience, Louise explains.

“I know some of the struggles that clients are going through. I can empathise and sympathise…If the person is well I think they can do a great job.”

She believes that when peer workers are in paid positions, they are often taken more seriously. She herself is on the lookout for more opportunities

“I would definitely recommend peer work,” Louise says. “I’d like to continue this work and do more of it.”