Ben’s story – “Volunteering at Stockport Mind was the single most important step in my recovery”

Volunteering at Stockport Mind was the single most important step in my recovery and for my career. Prior to starting at Stockport Mind, I was suffering from depression and anxiety. I became isolated, suicidal, dropped out of college, stopped seeing or speaking to friends/family, and eventually found it impossible to leave the house at all. This went on for two years.

My therapist encouraged me to take up some volunteering and signposted me to Stockport Mind. Eventually I got in touch and from my first point of contact until the day I left, the staff were nothing other than supportive. They genuinely valued me as a person, at a time when I didn’t even value myself. I received all the training and support I needed to begin and flourish as a Volunteer.

I started off slowly, helping at the ‘Tea @ 2’ group for just a few hours every Friday. As my confidence grew and when I felt ready, the staff encouraged me to volunteer in other areas. I did occasional 1-1 support work with service users, and began supporting a group of young adults as part of a Tuesday night youth group.

I was later offered specialised training in mental health advocacy. This allowed me to join the team of ‘Independent mental health advocates’ to work with the informal patients on the acute mental health wards at Stepping Hill. I had been offered a lot of invaluable experience so far, and there were still plenty other opportunities open to me.

Thanks to Stockport Mind, I felt like I had a purpose again, and at this point I began to notice improvements in other areas of my life. I began spending time with friends and family and spent time out in the community once again. Eventually I even returned to college part time.

After two years volunteering, I left to go to University.

After I finished my studies and whilst I was between jobs, I returned to Stockport Mind and was given the opportunity to support the delivery of group mindfulness sessions, and later I was involved with service development and attended meetings to help create bespoke sessions for ‘blue light’ services (police, fire, ambulance, rescue).

Sadly, after a few short months, I had to leave Stockport Mind again, but this was for a good reason – I was lucky enough to have landed a job with the NHS as a Support Time and Recovery worker for the Early Intervention Service.

I have recently moved into IAPT services where I have began my training to become a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner. The skills and confidence I gained and developed at Stockport Mind are undoubtedly what helped me to recover from my mental health difficulties and equipped me with the skills I needed to begin my career in mental health services.

Whilst volunteering I had the opportunity to work closely with some of the most insightful and resilient people I have ever met. Every service user had their own unique story to share and I feel honoured that they would share it with me. They came from so many different walks of life, yet found comfort in their community at Stockport Mind. I am so grateful to have been a part of that.

The staff are the most genuine, kind and supportive people I have ever come across; I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for me and for the work they continue to do in the community.

Ben Jeffreys