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How I helped myself by helping others

Monday, 03 June 2019 Rosie

Through volunteering with Time to Change, the now-defunct campaign that was run in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness, Rosie found that encouraging people to talk about mental health helped transform her life.

Rosie was a Time to Change champion.

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. 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 the 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 was being able to make concrete change. It made 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 liked that volunteering was also flexible. The staff at Mind and the Time to Change team were 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 found I got to see some of the same faces amongst the champions and build a support network together, which helped when I hit the inevitable slow-downs or backsteps in what I was 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 provided something fresh as I started to get involved in the work done by the local authority and help set the agendas there. I also worked with a fantastic group of people on preparing training for GPs and other medical professionals around disordered eating, stigma and mental health, which again was 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 worked with to help measure the impact of their work that I went back to university part-time 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. Now I'm proud to have this volunteer experience on my LinkedIn profile and excited to see where could take me next.

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