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Volunteering gave me my life back

Monday, 30 January 2017 Danika

Danika blogs on the benefits of volunteering, and how it helped her recovery.

Suffering three major depressive episodes was not something I thought I’d have experienced at the age of 26. Last year was the worst yet. Stress from work led to psychosis and psychosis led to severe depression and suicide attempts. I spent three months in hospital. When you’ve felt so low that taking your own life seems like your only choice, it’s so important to have a purpose. After receiving lifesaving treatment, I started to try and rebuild my life. This is when a Mind charity shop saved me. 

"Come in for a cup of tea, a biscuit and have a laugh" they said.

Little did I know that walking past the charity shop one rainy day in Hove and deciding to enquire about volunteering would see the dark clouds above me fade away and bring new light into my life. Not only have I made a difference to people’s lives, I have also made lots of new friends and built my own confidence as well. The atmosphere in Mind has made it one of the best places I’ve worked. All the people - the managers, the volunteers and the customers - are awesome! Everybody comes with their own story and reasons for volunteering but one thing is certain, you can’t beat the passion and positive vibes. I absolutely love volunteering there; it’s given me my smile back.

Due to my own personal experiences of mental illness, volunteering for Mind was first choice. I think lots of people must have thought the same as many of the volunteers have lived experience of mental health too. This is a great thing as it means I've not experienced any stigma or discrimination. It’s so good to work in a place where there is a mutual understanding - where everyone is supportive and respectful of each other’s conditions.

I have given 50 hours of my time so far working in store and I’ve gained so many new skills from doing so. The diversity of jobs means there is something for everyone. You could be sorting and hanging donations, or steaming and tagging clothes, or arranging the shop floor and serving customers, the jobs are endless. If there’s something you can make or create, the shop can give you a platform to share it with a wider audience as well. I’ve baked cakes and painted pet portraits to sell in the shop, and I’ve also done car boot sales, all in aid of Mind. The paint on my hands, the clothes on the floor and the flour all over the kitchen has never felt so good.

"Volunteering opens so many more doors…"

Recovering from a major illness is not easy, but volunteering for Mind has played a massive part in giving me my life back. It gave me a purpose. I now feel confident and well enough to go back into paid employment and broaden my skills through other volunteering opportunities. I will soon be starting a new role, for Mind in Brighton and Hove, as Advice and Information Volunteer to help others fighting the battle.

Signing up to throw myself out of an aeroplane from 15,000 feet is something else I have Mind to thank for. If I had not decided to volunteer in the Mind shop, I wouldn’t have seen the poster advertising the skydive and I would not have raised over £1,500 so far. Working at Mind has given me a chance to set goals, have something to look forward to and most importantly given me back a sense of achievement. Volunteering for Mind is such a worthwhile and irreplaceable experience; I would thoroughly recommend it to anybody thinking of doing it.

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