Volunteers are integral to every part of our service from answering calls on Mindline to helping with peer support groups we simply couldn’t do it without them! Here are some of our volunteers stories of why they volunteer for Mind in Somerset and what it is like! I started volunteering for Mind in Somerset (then Mind in Taunton and West Somerset) in January 2016 as a bit of a new year’s resolution. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but I had no idea where volunteering would actually take me.
Volunteers are integral to the services that Mind in Somerset provide, and as such, I have received excellent quality training, mentoring and support. At times, the role can be difficult, but there is a real emphasis on the emotional and mental well-being of volunteers within the organisation.
In return for my time, I have been given the most amazing opportunities as a result of being involved with Mind in Somerset. I have represented the charity at various community events, I have skydived, I ran the London Marathon in 2017 as part of the Heads Together campaign, which led to completing a 100km ultra marathon a couple of months later! The skills and training I’ve received during my time has led to new job opportunities, and I have made friendships that will be lifelong.
My name is Leah and I’m 18 years old and I Volunteer in for Chard Youth Matter Services. I volunteer to help young people and provide them with someone they can talk to in confidence about their struggles, know they won’t be judged or discriminated for their problems and also someone who is there to offer a friendly ear and some advice to them. I have been Volunteering at Mind for two years, I started when I was 16 as part of my college work placement volunteering for the Older group (18-25) and instantly enjoyed the routine of the group as well as forming effective but professional relationship with both Staff and Service users. I enjoy getting to know about service users’ hobbies and seeing how much they enjoyed and benefited from the peer group and the support we gave them. When I was 17, I started Volunteering for the Youngers group (11-18.) From this Volunteering I have learnt how to report Safeguarding issues and gaining the confidences to voice my concerns and opinion in meetings on how we can improve the service we provide. Volunteering means a huge deal to me and has a positive impact on my life and mental health. For someone who has, and still struggle with Anxiety, I discovered how beneficial peer support groups can be to an individual who is struggling with their mental health at a young age and volunteering has helped me control and deal with my Anxiety. Another reason it means so much to me is because knowing that even if just being there for somebody to talk to and have a laugh with makes you to feel proud of yourself for helping someone out. Volunteering with these amazing young men and women has helped me make a choice about my future career, now because of Minds Youth Matter I am hopefully going to University to study Mental Health Nursing and then go on to specialise in working with Children, Young people and Families.
I first got involved with Mind in 2009 when I saw a letter in the County Gazette asking for volunteers for the new Advocacy in Mind project, a forerunner to Bridging the Gap. After training I acted as an advocate, supporting people in their dealings with employers, tribunals, the DWP, agencies the DWP appointed to assess people’s health, doctors, even civil courts, until Spring 2014 when I had to drop out due to ill-health. However, I continued to keep in touch with Mind and have ensured that mental health issues are spotlighted regularly on 10Radio, my local community station. I returned to Mind in 2017 to do reception work for a few months, and subsequently did admin back-up for the Somerset Suicide Bereavement Support Service and then the fundraising team. In May 2019 I attended the training sessions to become a Time to Change Community Champion and in that role have attended the Talking Cafes run by the Village Agents and linked up with various local organisations, including the library, to run drop-in days to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and other events. My interest in being involved with Mind stems from my own depression, anxiety and occasional panic attacks. I was diagnosed and hospitalised in my early 20s but was unable to access any support and was extremely reluctant to reveal I had mental health issues, even to close friends, because of the stigma which was even more widespread than now. For several years I volunteered for charities for homeless people, many of whom had mental health issues either as a cause or a result of their homelessness. Then and since my involvement with Mind I would try to reassure people that mental ill-health should not be a cause of embarrassment, let alone something to be ashamed of, and I began to take my own advice: being more open about my issues encouraged some friends and acquaintances to “confess” theirs, which made it easier for us to give mutual support. My involvement with Mind and all the dedicated people I have worked alongside there gave me the confidence to initiate this.