Volunteering for The Mix is challenging, exciting and rewarding
Hello there, I’m Dominique (22). Since February 2019, I have been volunteering for The Mix as a Volunteer Digital Connector. I am currently in my final year of studying International Relations with Economics at the University of Birmingham, and (fingers crossed!) will be graduating this year.
So, what exactly do I do as a Volunteer Digital Connector?
I volunteer remotely for 3 hours each week on the one-to-one live webchat, which is one element of the free helpline service The Mix provides. The webchat is here for young people (YP) under 25, to get in touch with absolutely any issue that is troubling them; from mental health, money, education or relationships. I help explore the young person’s situation and provide emotional support. The conversation is service-user led, so if they wish I signpost them to organisations that can offer further help or ongoing support. I don’t give out specific advice, but instead help empower the YP with the support and information they need. Importantly, the webchats are both non-judgemental and confidential; YP that get in touch don’t need to worry about anyone else finding out.
Why did I become a volunteer for The Mix?
I was hugely aware of the unprecedented challenges facing YP; anxiety, low mood, self-esteem, body image, family pressures, and tough career/education decisions to name a few. YP are resilient but if they are going through a tough time or experiencing difficult feelings it can be hard. To my mind there was a lack of accessible forums, open to those from all backgrounds, that provided the tools for YP to take on any challenges they are facing.
Heads Together Campaign
I first became aware of the amazing services The Mix provided through exposure to the Heads Together Campaign; spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The Mix is one of the inspiring partner charities that is helping change the conversation of mental health – something I am really passionate about. YP are encouraged to be who they want to be. The Mix endeavours to break the stigma so it no longer prevents people getting the help they need and deserve. Although life is challenging, finding support shouldn’t be.
Not only do I agree with The Mix’s ethos, but I saw first-hand how successfully they provided support when I worked as a Senior Mentor (2017) and Assistant Programme Leader (2018) for NCS the Challenge (programme for 15-17 year olds). The Mix and NCS worked in partnership together; the free non-judgemental confidential support truly helped some YP on the programme express their feelings in a way that they felt more comfortable with online – either through the online community, free counselling service or the helpline.
I decided that giving my time could be a valuable asset and I was keen to support an organisation that focused on assisting people within my age group. So, put this all together – volunteering for The Mix was the perfect opportunity for me to get involved!
Volunteering has been challenging, exciting and rewarding
A growing number of YP first reach out for support through digital, social and mobile means; increasingly often I am the first person an individual has honestly opened up to about their situation or feelings. Asking for help is a strength in itself, so it is incredibly exciting being there for those who are seeking assistance as a starting point for their support journey; acting as the missing link between the YP and the help they need.
Volunteering is a two-way street
Volunteering for the Mix is a two-way street; not only am I helping to support other YP, having spoken to nearing 350 contacts, but my voluntary experience has had a hugely positive impact on me! I can say with confidence that I have definitely grown and developed. I am sure friends and family will agree that my listening skills have improved; although still as chatty as ever, I now appreciate the true importance of providing an empathetic listening ear.
How has lockdown changed my own day to day life?
Adjusting to the new normal of lockdown living was not an easy process. My term at uni moved online, so I made the decision to move to my family home, rather than remain in my Birmingham student house. I have always been a fan of routine, which has now changed; lectures, exams and sports training cancelled, and concerns about what lays ahead for incoming employment.
I have to admit that submitting my final piece of uni work (the big dissertation!) for my three-year course, online, with the hit of a button, alone at my bedroom desk wasn’t quite how I expected it to go! A tad anti-climactic. I was feeling a little sorry for myself.
I choose how I feel and how I react to things, so I decided to stop dwelling on it. I had a lot to be thankful for; friends, family, good health and the incredible effort of our key workers.
I’ve made myself a new short-term routine, making sure to plan things to look forward to, like a socially distanced walk with a friend. I have kept up with my volunteering, just from a new location! I have begun to appreciate the slower pace of life and been loving exploring new places in my local area with my two cockapoos – who are definitely living their best life with all the extra walks and treats!
How has lockdown impacted my experience of volunteering?
As we keep being reminded, perhaps all too often, ‘we are in uncertain times’. Since lockdown began I have seen a large spike in demand for support on The Mix helpline. Staying at home is important, and effective, in helping to overcome the coronavirus crisis, but this doesn’t mean it is easy. A vast number of face-to-face support services in the UK have had to come to a halt, which is where The Mix, as a multi-channel support service, has stepped up.
Difficult conversations happen – with feelings and situations that are hard to hear
Every volunteering shift is totally different and each young person has their own story to tell. Through lockdown I have experienced an increasingly large number of conversations I have found particularly difficult to hear, of which some topics have been close to home. When I first became a volunteer I went through training to prepare me for a number of difficult conversations, which has stood me in good stead to adapt to supporting young people in these hard times. I never feel alone and I can always seek guidance from the incredible shift leaders.
The Mix is still here!
Being in lockdown is challenging for everyone, especially for mental wellbeing. The pandemic particularly threatens those who were already struggling. It is totally normally to have down days, I know I definitely have. So as we all try to ride out the pandemic, The Mix remains unfaltering in providing a holistic support service for YP.
Updated on 05-Jun-2020
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