AS most of Scotland returned to work this week after the Christmas and New Year break, many people are striving to keep to their New Year resolutions with some looking to ‘give something back’ to help others.
Award-winning Scottish charity, Health in Mind, is asking people to add something very special to their list of resolutions – become a volunteer.
The charity provides a range services on behalf of NHS Lothian and various local authorities, including services supporting people to make connections in their local communities and beyond, either on a one to one basis, in small groups or by telephone.
Wendy Bates is the services manager and she explained that volunteering for two hours a week can, quite literally, change lives.
“Many people were touched by the Christmas TV ad highlighting the loneliness and isolation of the man on the moon, but for many men and women in Scotland their lives are similarly affected,” said Wendy.
Health in Mind’s community support services are receiving significantly more requests from people wanting to use them but in order to meet the demand, Wendy and her teams need to recruit more volunteers.
Wendy continued: “In our experience, loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone, regardless of their age or gender or whether they live in a village, town, city or more remote area.
“We all feel lonely at times in our lives, but for some people, that feeling of loneliness and isolation does not change.
“Our volunteers frequently provide the first step for people to get back into the world and make connections.
“Across all the Health in Mind services, we currently have 296 volunteers, with their ages ranging from 17 to 83.
“Health in Mind provides quality training for all our volunteers and we were awarded the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) accreditation for the second time for our commitment to our volunteers.
“We regularly ask our volunteers about their experience with Health in Mind and in our recent survey, we asked them if it met with their expectations and this is what some of them said:
* “Volunteering has not only solidified my passion for working in the third sector, opening up career avenues for me, but it has also highlighted my own personal interest in mental health and given me a desire to work in this sector”;
* “Volunteering at Health in Mind gives me the opportunity to do something valuable in my life and get new experience. Health in Mind members [of staff] are very professional, helpful and friendly. I have received great support and I appreciate the possibility of taking part in various training.”
Added Wendy: “The people using our services regularly tell us how wonderful our volunteers are and they could be talking about you.”
The following comments are from the most recent Health in Mind survey of people using our services:
“Health in Mind is so much more important to me than I think they realise. There are so many things that I would love to do here but I am not currently able to do so. It gives me confidence I might be able to one day. To know the support is always there is for me, a lifesaver.”
“Because they are unpaid, it makes it feel like they genuinely want to help you and make you feel wanted. They give me someone to talk to about everyday things or if I have any problems.”
Wendy highlighted how Health in Mind endeavours to match volunteers’ and service users’ interests and how there is a particular need for male volunteers to come forward.
One of our volunteers, Richard commented: “I was drawn to the volunteering role as I really like helping people and I enjoyed the training. I was matched with a really good guy and over the weeks, it was great to see him gaining confidence and becoming chattier.”
To find out more about becoming a volunteer befriender, contact Health in Mind on 0131 225 8508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for editors:
Audrey and Vicki
Audrey had spent two months in hospital recovering from an accident and instead of returning to her home at Wester Hailes in Edinburgh, she went to stay with her son while she recuperated.
Prior to being in hospital, Audrey regularly enjoyed visiting the bingo and her local shopping centre. She had lost a lot of weight when she was in hospital and both Audrey and her family were worried she would not be well enough to return to her own home.
Audrey was matched with Vicki, who knew Wester Hailes well as she had grown up there. Before being introduced to Vicki, Audrey’s family would drive her to the shops, hairdressers or anywhere she needed to go.
Vicki and Audrey began their time together by taking short walks around the cul-de-sac where her son lived, building up her strength and progressing to a safe and manageable route to the local shop.
Eight weeks into their match Audrey returned home and her progress continued with Vicki’s support. Audrey returned to taking the bus to bingo once a week and also joined a lunch club which she travels to on her own twice a week.
Bob and Alan
Bob has struggled with his mental health for some time and he had become very socially isolated. Before being matched with Alan, his week mainly consisted of watching television and playing computer games. His main interactions with people were to attend Mental Health Team appointments and to chat with his mother and brother via telephone as they live in England.
Since being matched with Alan, Bob has seen a positive change in his confidence and he has said how much the support he has received has reduced his feelings of isolation.
Alan and Bob worked together to help Bob feel more comfortable with himself.
Initially, they started by going for coffees and getting to know each other and by the end of the four-month match, Bob had made many connections in his community.
The real turning point for Bob came when he had the confidence to book a flight to visit his mother and brother in London for Christmas. He had a great time and Bob mentioned that his family have given their “thumbs up to befriending”.
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