“Volunteering gave me the courage to speak up about my own mental health issues.”
Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and learn new skills. But in some cases, it offers even more than that. We spoke to the inspiring Codie, 20, about her experience volunteering for The Mix and why she believes you can make a difference too.
Mental health is an issue close to my heart
By fourteen I was experiencing mental health difficulties, and by my late teens I had Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I found school difficult and I often felt isolated and alone. When things got tough, I reached out on platforms like Childline and the Samaritans where the volunteers had a way of making me realise my worth. I knew that when I got the chance, I’d try to give back to others in the same way. That’s why volunteering for The Mix seemed like the perfect opportunity.
It can be intimidating, but it’s rewarding
The Mix is a service for young people up to 25 years old. I volunteer for their online chat service, where I give emotional support and signpost people onto other organisations relevant to their specific needs. Often, I’ll be the first person an individual has spoken to about their struggles, so it is both an intimidating yet rewarding role to play.
Generally, I’ll speak with around three young people in a shift. Their issues range from mental health to relationships to financial struggles. I’ll explore with the person what they’re struggling with the most, and then we’ll work together to find places that might be able to offer ongoing support. It’s truly heart-warming to help individuals who are often feeling low and alone to feel more supported.
There’s always someone I can turn to
I was really nervous about having such a big responsibility, but everyone has been really kind and welcoming. There hasn’t been a single moment I haven’t felt supported throughout my volunteering journey!
Giving emotional support to others can be quite a daunting experience, so it’s great to know there’s always someone I can turn to if I’m struggling. For example, for each shift, I have a ‘shift-leader’ who is always there ready to help me through conversations.
I really believe we are able to make a difference
It might sound like volunteering is a lot of giving and not much receiving, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Since I started volunteering I’ve gained a lot of confidence in speaking out about my own mental health issues, on platforms such as this but also in person.
Speaking to so many young people reminded me how difficult I found it to balance schoolwork with my own mental health during secondary school and how little support my school offered. As a result, a friend and I decided to get in touch with my secondary school, and we were unexpectedly invited in to speak about it.
It turned out, the lack of support came more from a place of ignorance than carelessness, and they were extremely eager to improve their system. Although the changes are ongoing, I really believe we’re able to make a difference, and that by educating people about mental health and other issues young people face, more people will receive the appropriate support. Before volunteering for The Mix, I never would have taken that first step in making a change, but the countless young people I’ve spoken with have taught me that starting a conversation about mental health is always a positive step in the right direction.
I’d really encourage you to try volunteering
If you’ve ever considered volunteering, I’d really encourage you to pursue it. The Mix is a fantastic place to get involved, but there are hundreds of other organisations too, depending on where your interests lie. As someone who is working towards a career in mental health, I’ve encountered experiences through The Mix that only volunteering could have ever given me. Not everyone can afford to donate money to charities and as a student I’ve found giving my time far more valuable than money. Volunteering has taught me one main thing – all we can ever do in this life is make our corner of the earth a little brighter.
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Updated on 07-Jun-2019
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