Volunteering and looking after your Mental Health
Heather tells us about her experiences of volunteering with the Words In Mind project, and how she has had to adapt the role during the current restrictions:
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT VOLUNTEERING?
I was looking on the Volunteering Kirklees website for a small, easy to manage volunteering role. I have chronic mental illness and that leaves me with little energy to use on volunteer work. Luckily the Words in Mind project had an advert inviting people to choose their own commitment level, which gave me the courage to try.
WHAT TYPES OF ACTIVITIES DO YOU DO WHEN YOU VOLUNTEER?
Before the pandemic I would be involved in running groups with a co facilitator. This was a good excuse to read books, which is a relaxing hobby anyway! I am a carer and struggle to get out and socialise so Words in Mind groups were a nice way to meet people in similar circumstances; I’ve enjoyed getting to know volunteers or group members.
Nowadays I assist with our Facebook account and I record a podcast so that we can stay connected to our group members and showcase what our creative volunteers, partners and group members are up to.
HOW HAS YOUR VOLUNTEER ROLE CHANGED DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Words in Mind gave me a safe, supported atmosphere in which I could be with other people, which really improved my mental health as I was very isolated before I joined. I’m really conscious that many of our group members are now stuck at home or in a ward setting, caring for a loved one or living in a stressful situation. I realised that the important self care I needed was to use the internet to keep reaching out – and to feel as though I hadn’t lost touch with the folks I used to do groups for. I still have regular contact with the project manager Elaine, and other volunteers; which gives me hope that Words in Mind will find a new way to carry on.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR VOLUNTEER ROLE?
I get to enjoy books and reading, which was always part of my identity and that gives me a chance to feel like ‘myself.’ It’s given me something back that I’d lost. I love to see the creativity that Words in Mind groups stoke in people, they write poems, tell stories, make art, it’s brilliant.
HOW HAS VOLUNTEERING MADE A DIFFERENCE TO YOU?
I’ve been able to build my confidence in a supportive, safe atmosphere. I’m doing much more creative writing now too.
Elaine, Words In Mind Project Co-ordinator added,
“It is volunteers like Heather that make a real positive impact on people’s lives and make projects such as Words in Mind such a success. I have seen Heather grow in confidence and become an integral part of the project, motivating not only service users, but other volunteers and staff from many organisations, including myself – she has adapted to a new way of working and is truly inspirational”.