for better mental health

How volunteering at my Mind Shop helped me

Monday, 16 April 2018 Spencer

Volunteering at his local Mind shop helped Spencer in more ways than he expected.

Spencer is a photographer currently living in Hackney. He will be attending the Glasgow School of Art in September and is interested in art and music.

Towards the end of 2017 a new academic year started. I had decided to take a year off as I felt I needed the year to work on my mental health so as to not overwhelm myself when I started university a year later. As a result of this I was sort of left alone in London. Most, if not all, of my friends had left for university. I didn't make any plans or have any idea what I wanted to do with my year. This left me feeling really isolated and lonely.

"I knew Mind would be sensitive to my mental health issues while also offering me the vital experience I needed to apply for jobs."

I first thought to volunteer in a Mind charity shop when I was looking for work. I lacked experience and nowhere was willing to hire me. I knew Mind would be sensitive to my mental health issues while also offering me the vital experience I needed to apply for jobs. The staff were extremely welcoming and accommodating, and made me feel really comfortable on my first day volunteering and throughout. But while the work experience was very useful, it wasn’t the only thing I got from volunteering.

"It allowed me to start believing that I didn't have to be so scared of social situations."

I have depression & social anxiety which means I can have a lot of trouble with meeting and getting to know new people as well as motivating myself to do things. Volunteering has helped me to build confidence in these areas. The frequent social interaction of dealing with customers and meeting the volunteers and staff at the shop allowed some of my anxiety around social situations to subside. It allowed me to start believing that I didn't have to be so scared of social situations. This didn’t just apply to life in the shop of course – it made a big impact on my life outside of volunteering too.

Volunteering also gave me a routine and schedule that I felt was lacking from my life. Having been in education for all of my life I was quite used to a fairly strict schedule and I didn’t realise how important that was to keeping me motivated and doing things I needed to do. When I took a break from education I didn’t know how to organise myself. The regularity of volunteering at Mind allowed my day to day life to feel more normal and helped me feel less lost. In turn, this improved my motivation which ended helping me to apply and get into my top choice university for next year.

If you suffer from any of these things, volunteering can help in so many ways. Mind proved a great choice for me, and I’m sure it would for anyone else with mental health issues like myself. Mental health is the main focus, so you never feel out of place or strange talking about your own experience with other volunteers and staff.

"Volunteering has helped me in my life in a lot more ways than I expected."

Right now I am looking for work, the confidence and experience gained from volunteering at Mind has helped me go from barely being able to approach employers and ask for work to confidently applying for jobs. I am also preparing to go to university in the autumn - my experience at Mind with meeting and talking to new people helped me through the interview process for the universities I applied to. Volunteering has helped me in my life in a lot more ways than I expected when I first signed up and that’s why I would encourage anyone thinking about it to get involved.

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