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Student story

Karl Belcher

20 July 2023

"I saw Social Work as a framework to support my beliefs in human nature, and the importance of supporting those around you..."


Bachelor of Social Work

Service Manager, The Canterbury Men"s Centre

Through his work at The Canterbury Men's Centre, Karl is a part of the growing movement towards social work assessment and mental health support for the male population of New Zealand.

His role manages the services available for clients, such as access to community groups, counsellors and placements for Social Work students. The Centre sees over 100 men each week across Canterbury, which highlights how needed it is in light of the high negative mental health rates for men.

"The Canterbury Men's Centre is an amazing place to work as it challenges the cultural stereotype that men don't seek help," he says. "As the old saying goes, “build it and they will come”, and our experience is men are very good at talking about their emotions and are motivated for personal growth and development.

"We believe we are supporting social change for men. From all the men we see we are able to highlight social inequalities and gaps, for example male over representation in suicide and mental health statistics, male victims of domestic violence, and gendered issues within the family court. In our work we are able to advocate and support these men at local and national government."

These experiences have given Karl the goal to eventually support men's rights and mental health on a national level for country-wide changes.

Choosing UC to study the Bachelor of Social Work followed his values in kinship and collaboration.

"It embraced the notion of community which is very important to me. I felt it had a good sense of culture, not just within my degree or department, but the wider social clubs and events," he says. "The Rec Centre was also a highlight, as I have passion for exercise and nutrition, and the benefits on health and wellbeing."

Karl received a Fiona Leeves Memorial Prize in Social Work for his leadership and contribution in his studies. Karl attributes the lecturers from the department, the help of library staff, and even the campus baristas, for helping him graduate with effective social worker skills.

"I really enjoyed the academic diversity in social work, and the support of staff and peers. The study at UC gave me the knowledge and tools which gave me a stable grounding from my early practice, where I felt safe to build on what I knew and develop as a practitioner."

Knowing the effects of mental health from family and personal experience, social work held huge value to Karl which led him to university study.

"I felt that social work would be the platform to help others in similar situations," he says. "I saw social work as a framework for me to support my beliefs in human nature, and the importance of supporting those around you in their journey of life."

As such, he highly encourages others to consider his study if they also want a degree with personal development and contribution to their community.

"I would recommend Social Work to anyone as it supports a diverse range of skills and knowledge that can be adapted to any field. I also encourage an open mind, and to embrace your own strengths that can be adapted into practice. Although there are challenges and some critical self-reflection it is worth it as you learn more about yourself and further develop your identity.

"I would also like to encourage more young men who may be considering studying social work, as I feel they have a lot to offer the profession. Men negatively over represent national averages across health statistics (such as suicide), and from my experience I have noticed the effectiveness of men supporting one and other."

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