We believe that those with lived experience of mental health challenges can play a vital role in supporting others. That’s why we include people with lived experience in the development of our work and encourage individuals to get involved as volunteers.
Rachel is our longest-serving volunteer, having started volunteering with us over 15 years ago, and continues to share her skills, passion and kindness with our community.
Her own experiences of using the support services we offer, as well as a family history of mental health challenges, led her to joining the Advocacy Service, which previously made up part of our work, before taking up her current role with our Stepping Forward project. Rachel believes that support “works both ways”, saying “the service supported me and now I can support the service. Despite having my own issues, there are positive things I can do to support others”.
Holding a GNVQ in Health and Social Care as well as a degree in Applied Social Studies, Rachel states she is proud to “use what I learnt at college and university to help others”. Volunteering has also offered plenty of development opportunities as Rachel has undertaken a national advocacy qualification and has progressed in her Stepping Forward role to leading a peer support group. Although these challenges were initially daunting for Rachel, she says she has found colleagues at CPSL Mind “very supportive and encouraging” and has relished in the opportunities to grow and develop.
Volunteering has formed an integral part of Rachel’s life enabling her to use her skills, connect with other people and grow in confidence. She says “volunteering gives you a purpose. Having a purpose in life is important and valuable and motivates us to do things. I go home and think ‘I’ve done something useful today’.” Rachel says her favourite part of the role is when “people say thank you and you see you’ve made a real difference to their lives.” She says at that point “I smile and think ‘my job is done’.”
As a result of her passion for volunteering, Rachel regularly recommends volunteering to others. She states that some people seem surprised at her long-term volunteering despite her mental health struggles. People wonder “how can you help a service if you are dealing with your own issues?” and this can act as a barrier for others who would gain a lot from volunteering themselves. Volunteer peer support from others who are experiencing similar challenges to those accessing the service is invaluable.
Rachel says what’s important for people using the service is “just being able to talk to someone who understands”. She highlights that she learns from service users in the group just as much as they learn from her. She loves developing the Voices Matter Hearing Voices group and encouraging independence and autonomy from the individuals who attend. Her greatest pleasure is seeing others “go through their journey of being in a group to supporting others once they gain confidence”.
Another aspect Rachel enjoys is the social side of her volunteering saying “CPSL Mind does encourage volunteers to join in with social activities and I particularly enjoyed the Christmas party!”
CPSL Mind offers a variety of volunteering opportunities for anybody who is passionate about mental health – and we actively encourage people who use or have used our services to get involved.
If you, like Rachel, are interested in volunteering opportunities or would like to discuss what you could bring to our organisation then we’d love to talk to you! Please visit our our volunteering page for more information.