Volunteer story: “I felt like I finally had something to focus on”
Date: 31 July 2017
Our Insight (early intervention in psychosis) team supports the early identification of psychosis in young people aged 14 – 35. As well as working to improve the long term outcomes for people experiencing psychosis, the team have also recently been helping people in other ways. Read this inspiring story from a young person who found new hope through the team:
“I have high functioning Autism, otherwise known as Asperger’s syndrome. I wasn’t diagnosed with this until 2 weeks before my 18th birthday. The reason a diagnosis was looked into at such a late stage was because at the age of 16, after finishing high school, I ended up with depression. I had gone to college but was unable to cope with the new routine and new social situations I was faced with. It was all too overwhelming so I dropped out of college. I felt like a failure and like I was on the outside looking in on everyone else being able to cope with their lives and actually enjoy it and have friends they’d actually want to meet up with and that was just the start.
“I had a nervous breakdown and became depressed so my mum demanded I was referred to CAMHS for the fourth time in my life. I’d been to CAMHS multiple times throughout my childhood for difficulties in school life and struggling to function like any other child on the playground when it came to approaching the school gates. As much as my mum would ask for help or options to help me cope, nothing was given and no diagnosis was ever even suggested so every day was a battle; even at home and learning the social play. It always ended in tears, anxiety and panic attacks.
“Once I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, I no longer felt like an outsider, I felt like all the struggles I had been through finally had an explanation and the way I was and the way I felt finally had a reason other than social and/ or separation anxiety or a school phobia. As we finally had an answer and my 18th birthday arrived, I was given something I’d never truly had before – companionship. I got a dog, something I had been asking for for a good 2 or 3 years; a Springer Spaniel Labrador came into my life and I’ve never felt more fulfilled socially.
“I got socialising and meeting other dog walkers, I even met my first boyfriend while out on a dog walk! I managed to go back to college and do my animal care course and complete it at merit grade. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as towards the end of my course, my grandad and auntie both passed away within 10 weeks of each other and I ended up with depression and had to receive help from the mental health team.
“Since then I recovered and have gone on to qualify as a veterinary care assistant and I landed a new job in the role after just two weeks of qualifying. I didn’t fit in with the staff members in my new job and they were getting me to carry out tasks I wasn’t comfortable with and left me to my own devices a lot of the time despite me telling them I didn’t feel overly confident in my job role yet. I ended up with depression again. This knocked my confidence and made me feel even more depressed. I lost my motivation and drive to find another job so decided to take some time out and get some help and which I knew I needed but was yet to find before I jumped straight back into employment.
“While taking time out for myself, I got involved with the Insight team. They suggested that I could volunteer with a local mental health organisation that some of their service users have been involved with and see what it could offer me.
“After meeting with the organisation to see what I could do to volunteer with them, I felt better, like I finally had something to focus on and maybe a new goal to aim for career-wise. I began volunteering for Healthy Minds and have helped to set up and deliver workshops on mental health and self-harm in colleges, secondary schools and primary schools. The workshops involve talking about the way mental health can affect people and different ways that can contribute to bad mental health and ways which help achieve good mental health and where help and advice can be found for those who may need it.
“During the workshop I have shared some of my own experiences with mental health and how it has previously affected me and how I overcame it when I was younger due to various circumstances. After sharing my story and getting positive feedback from the students we had been talking to, I began to feel confident and motivated again and like I had been able to do something worthwhile as I have been out of work. I have also done a training day with Healthy Minds and trained as a walk leader so I am able to take service users out on walks for the day along with another member of staff.
“While volunteering, I have felt better within myself and more positive about the future. I have gained further social skills and confidence by talking to large groups of people and new people and it has helped me share my story, help break the stigma surrounding mental health and has helped show people that mental health can have a positive outcome. I have also now found the help and support I felt I needed to help me get back into work.”