for better mental health

A friendly voice in the pandemic

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 Michelle

Michelle blogs about how local Mind volunteers are supporting people socially isolating.

Before we went into lockdown I was volunteering at Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich (BLG) Mind running the Monday evening pool groups, some of the open access sessions, and I was starting an aromatherapy group. I used to be an engineer before I was out of work, but I love working for a mental health charity like Mind.

Social isolation is one of the worst things for mental health and some of us need extra support

And then we went into crisis. The lockdown has had a big impact. A lot of people are really struggling, the whole trapped-in feeling, cabin-fever. Social isolation is one of the worst things for mental health and some of us need the extra bit of support.

When the coronavirus pandemic happened I suggested that we get mobile phones to volunteers, so we can keep in touch with people. We bought some phones and I took them around to different people. Since we’ve been in crisis I have been using the mobile to keep In touch with people. I’ll call to talk or I just drop them a message. Sometimes, just sharing a joke or a funny picture can help. Or I message someone to let them know I’m here if they want to chat.

My  personal priority after lockdown is to help the young, the old and the most vulnerable people in our community try to experience mental health in a different light. I want to give support where at times mainstream support alone is not enough to help someone through a crisis and help them deal with the debilitating aspects of mental health. Hopefully I'm providing  a support system for others through personal experience.

I’ve been the person who is in trouble and needs support, and now I can be the person giving support

Battling mental health problems on and off for years at varying intensities, including hospital admissions, has given me a different perspective on the mind and how it works. I did a lot of soul searching, then I realised I could make a difference to individuals when they're going through difficult times. People don’t know all my history, but it helps that people know I am talking from experience. I have been on both sides of the coin, so they know I’m coming from the same page. I’ve been the person who is in trouble and needs support, and the now I can be the person giving support.

When I talk to people I like to find out what makes them tick. Then I can make a little parcel for them, maybe some arts/crafts and something that smells nice. I’ve even been baking, so I might even put a treat in there. I’ll drop it at the door and then get back in my car and call them.

A lot of people find it’s a little breath of fresh air, something to look forward to for those that don’t really talk to people and don’t have internet or things like that. I’m someone that would help anyway, but once I know I have made someone else’s day nice of course it makes my day nicer. It gives me a sense of purpose and stops the loneliness.

Staff at BLG Mind ring us for a little chat, offer support and we talk about different ideas about what we may do next. Plus, all the volunteers get in touch with each other for support.

Good things are happening. When I sit out in my garden, neighbours and people that walk by want to talk

I’m trying to help people see things the other way – that there are some good things that are happening. For example, I've noticed that when I sit out in my garden, neighbours and people walking by want to talk and greet each other. The pandemic is bringing back the community spirit.

Read about Information and support

For more information on coping with the coronavirus crisis take a look at our info page.

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