Through volunteering with Time to Change, the campaign we run in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness, Rosie found that encouraging people to talk about mental health helped transformed her life.
My Time to Change volunteer journey started about six years ago after I’d had to take a couple of months off work due to being unwell with my mental health. As part of my return I wanted to take ownership of the conversations I knew were bound to happen and talk honestly about mental health! Fortunately I had a boss who was really supportive of this and, using Time to Change’s online training, I prepared to come back as the department’s volunteer mental health champion.
It was incredibly satisfying seeing policies change and feeling my professional confidence grow
I started small, having individual conversations and writing blogs for the company intranet. This grew into supporting other senior-managers and being involved with the work done by the company-wide disability network, including helping shape mental health training. It was incredibly satisfying seeing policies change and feeling my professional confidence grow. But I knew that not everyone has the same positive experience trying to access support at work.
A Time to Change poll in 2017 showed that only 13% of people would be comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace. So I wanted to do more to help change wider workplace culture. The employee champion team gave me the opportunity to work with other employers and share my story at workshops to show how small changes make a big difference.
It makes my day to hear someone say, ‘I hadn’t thought about things like that'.
The best part about volunteering is being able to make concrete change. It makes my day to hear someone say, “I hadn’t thought about things like that” or “I didn’t think I could do that before”. I like that volunteering is also flexible. The staff at Mind and in the Time to Change team have also been great about understanding that sometimes I have a lot to give and other times I need to dial back my involvement and focus on my health.
I’ve benefited hugely from being a volunteer, as I’ve been able to find new opportunities
Within the network of Time to Change volunteers I also find you get to see some of the same faces amongst the champions and build a support network together which helps when you hit the inevitable slow-downs or backsteps in what you’re trying to achieve.
I’ve benefited hugely from being a volunteer, as I’ve been able to find new opportunities as my interest or situations change. The move to the local Time to Change hubs is providing something fresh as I’m starting to get involved in the work that’s being done by the local authority and help set the agendas there. I’m also working with a fantastic group of people on preparing training for GPs and other medical professionals around disordered eating, stigma and mental health which again is a whole new area of things for me to learn.
Furthermore I was so fascinated when meeting some of the academics which Time to Change works with to help measure the impact of their work that I’m now going back to university part-time in the autumn to study in this area. So although ‘life-changing’ is cliché I think it really is true. Before all this started, I wouldn’t have dreamt of mentioning my health on a job application and now I’m proud to have this volunteer experience on my LinkedIn profile and excited to see where it will take me next.
For more information about general volunteering opportunities at Mind click here.
For more information about becoming a time to change champion click here.