The story of a Mix volunteer who set up her own mental health campaign

Volunteering is an amazing experience on its own but Ellen Benford decided to take it one step further and set up her own campaign. Reach Out COVID is all about opening up a dialogue around young people's mental health. Ellen tells The Mix her story.

Illustration shows three young people picking flowers and handing them to one another

Hi, I’m Eleanor Benford and I’m 18. I’m a student about to start studies in Psychology and Neuroscience and I’m a keen advocate for mental health.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to start a campaign which would raise awareness of mental health difficulties young people (aged 13-25) faced during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. So I chose to spread and encourage kindness around the community. This included encouraging people to reach out about their mental health difficulties as well as starting open, vulnerable conversations around mental health. I also knew that kindness to oneself is incredibly valuable, so I wanted to do something that would teach self-care. Through helping others, I was also helping myself.

As well as working as a Mix volunteer through Reach Volunteering I wanted to go out on my own. I knew I wanted to launch a mental health based campaign; my own mental health had been affected by the pandemic and I saw that I wasn’t the only one. I wanted to support others through their difficulties too, so I launched the Reach Out Covid Campaign. 

What is the Reach Out Covid Campaign?

The Reach Out Covid Campaign is a movement which aims to raise awareness of the mental health difficulties young people are facing amidst the current situation. We help to sign-post young people to mental health services which are continuing to provide their services remotely.

Thankfully, all costs of running the campaign are covered by a Rapid Response Peace First Grant. This is a grant provided to young people who are keen to take action in their communities in response to Covid-19. Peace First is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping young people around the world become powerful peacemakers. They do this by providing grants of up to $250. I submitted an application and completed a virtual meeting with a member of Peace First, before successfully receiving the grant.

A small team of other young people kindly volunteered to feature in the campaign through appearing in a video which promotes our action, and assisting with the overall direction and running of the campaign. We hope that by having the message delivered by young people, others will see that we are there to support each other. COVID has felt extremely isolating for all of us, so we want to send the message that nobody has to struggle alone.

Connecting with young people

The campaign will be utilising Mental Health Awareness Week to continue spreading our message. Over the course of the week, emails will be sent directly to schools and colleges highlighting the difficulties that students may be facing when they return. We’ll also be including links to the campaign so that students know where to reach out if they need to. 

On top of this, we’ve been collecting a bank of young people’s experiences with their mental health since the pandemic began. We’ll be publishing these stories during the week in the exact words they were reported to us; authenticity is so important to us. Our platform will be used to give young people a voice which may otherwise be dismissed.

As important as it is that young people know which organisations they can turn to, this isn’t the end of the story. We would also like to ensure that young people are educated as to how to regulate their emotions and how they can work on self-care. This is why we will be sharing various self-care methods over time on our platform.

For more info, read The Mix’s guide to self care here.

Kindness is crucial

The pandemic is constantly changing, and so are young people. That’s why we’re keeping our campaign versatile. The protection of young people’s mental health is our top priority. As restrictions are lifted, we know that the needs of young people will be different. Many people will experience anxiety about returning back to a new ‘normal’ so we’re preparing to be a support for whatever they’re going through.

Kindness is vital at this time. Sticking by one another has never been as crucial as it is now. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing. We hope that people will share our campaign with their loved ones to give them the courage to reach out. Mental health is just as important as physical health and we are all in this together.

Check out the rest of The Mix’s volunteering resources here, and the rest of our mental health resources here. You can also find volunteering opportunities through Reach Volunteering.

Next Steps

  • Search Do-it for information about volunteering and opportunities in your local area.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 23-Jan-2022