Julie is a member of staff and volunteer

Hi, I’m Julie. I am one of the Support and Development Workers at Health in Mind. 

I’m also a Volunteer Peer Support Worker. I facilitate the online Edinburgh Anxiety and Depression Support groups and provide one-to-one support to individuals who want to improve or manage their mental health and wellbeing. Both roles allow me to share my experience to help others make positive changes.

Where my journey began

At the start of the pandemic, I struggled with lockdown and being isolated. It increased my anxiety and slowed my recovery from binge eating disorder. 

I started to research Peer Support and look for online support and came across the anxiety and depression groups that Health in Mind run.

I had attended group support sessions before and knew the benefits so when I heard Health in Mind ran both Peer Support groups and Peer Support training, I reached out and decided to go along to one of their online sessions.

As I waited to be let into the online room, I felt anxious, the fear of the unknown made me nervous.

What I entered was a calm and supportive room with both facilitators and other members of the group wonderfully welcoming and friendly. It was such a support to share how I was feeling and help others as they shared their stories – there felt like such a togetherness.

Training to be a volunteer

I quickly became a regular at the group and from that I attended additional courses offered by Health in Mind that provided more tools that really helped in my recovery.

The more I shared my story and supported others through the group, the more I realised that I really was able to help others, and how much this helped me.

When I heard that training that was available to become a Volunteer Peer Worker, I jumped at the chance, and I moved from group attendee to a group facilitator.

Working for Health in Mind

I was on holiday visiting family in England when I received an email with details of a job vacancy at Health in Mind. As I read the description, I realised that the role needed many of my skills, but also asked for lived experience.

I didn’t need to think twice and wrote my application on the 8-hour train journey home, submitting it that night, on my return to Edinburgh.

From the offset working for Health in Mind has been a joy.

I remember my first day in the office, my Volunteer Supervisor, came down to the office to say hello. It was wonderful that there were people within the organisation that I already knew.

The organisation really cares about our wellbeing, and I feel supported in all the roles that I have.

The impact of volunteering

What have I gained from my volunteering with Health in Mind? The list is long.

  • Learning and development in an area I am interested in
  • Time set aside to focus on something
  • Confidence
  • New friends
  • New colleagues
  • The feeling that I am useful and that I can help
  • Motivation
  • The ability to share my own experience

So, what about you, reader?

I was asked what I would say to someone who wanted to volunteer and use their own experience. That is easy. I would say do it. You really don’t know where that choice will take you.