Following attending a Coventry and Warwickshire Mind self-help and relaxation course (SHARE), I decided to join the team of volunteers who ran the course. Whilst attending the course, I realised that the volunteers were ‘experts by experience’. They understood what we, as clients, were going through and were able to put our feelings, symptoms and thoughts into perspective. They were able to guide us on our journey through the period of poor mental health. They reminded us that we had the ‘tools’ to help us manage our symptoms.
The decision to become a volunteer for CW Mind was an easy one for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to ‘give something back’. The course had been free to attend and delivered by volunteers. I could not afford to make a monetary donation but felt very able to donate my time. Secondly, I wanted the techniques that I had learnt to stay ‘fresh’. I know that there are times when I am not the most disciplined at practising things and attending regularly meant that I could practise the techniques whilst supporting others.
Through attending the course and then volunteering, my sense of self-worth began to return, along with my confidence. It was amazing to see other clients recover in a relatively short-period of time. It was fascinating to see the people, who entered the room at Week 1, leave at either week 6 or 12 seemingly a different person.
Eventually I was persuaded to ‘teach’ or ‘facilitate’ the course. This was something I’d never ever believed I would be capable of doing. That woman who sat in the midst of the group, hoping to get lost amongst the others, head down, and hands clenched, feeling anxious was suddenly being asked to pass on the knowledge and tools to others.
In turn, this led to me volunteering in the SHARE admin office, processing referrals for the course. This then led to a small paid role doing the same. It was a relief to have a job with little responsibility or few demands as my other job was quite intense and demanding.
I loved being able to help people. People, who like me, were desperate to feel better. For me, the opportunity of a life-time came in September 2008 when I applied for a full-time post working within CW Mind. I joined the management team in December 2008. In June 2009, I experienced a massive change to my role and became the manager of a team 17 full-timers.
Within a couple of years, my service had a team of 80 volunteers supporting us. It was a ‘no-brainer’ for me to tap into the talent and knowledge of these people. My team of full-timers has grown to 28 and will continue to grow over the next few years, but unfortunately due to service constraints I no longer have a team of volunteers.
It’s amazing to think that an opportunity to volunteer has evolved into a change of career and a role that I love!
Go on… Do it… Volunteer. You never know what opportunities will arise as a result!