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This Volunteers’ Week, we are celebrating all our volunteers, past and present, and saying a big thank you to them for giving us their time and skills.

As part of our celebrations, we are sharing some of our volunteers’ stories, in the hope that it will inspire others to get involved.

Here, we hear about Emily Elsworth’s journey from service user, to volunteer, to member of staff with our Peer Support Service, with an opportunity for you to get involved.

“I originally came to the peer support service as a group member in November 2019 but was first made aware of the service through my Job Retention Worker at WorkPlace Leeds at the start of 2019. It took a lot of persuading for me to come along to my first session as I had tried groups in the past and had felt really uncomfortable in them. I joined the service because I was noticing a decline in my mental health and was struggling to find support that I could access and supported me.

I wish I hadn’t been so resistant to attending groups as once I had attended my first group, there was no stopping me! I had finally found a safe space where I could share my experiences of mental health with people who truly understood. It was really helpful for me to see that the facilitators shared their own experiences of mental health in an honest way that broke the stigma. Facilitators were inclusive and always made me feel welcome in both online and face-to-face groups. I learnt so much from these groups in terms of how to manage my own mental health and made me determined to give back to a service that has done so much to help me.

I became involved as a volunteer after taking part in the Trailblazers training at the start of 2021, learning the skills needed to be a peer support facilitator. I had been asked by Alex, who had run a lot of the groups I attended, if I would be interested in becoming a volunteer. After seeing that there are other ways to approach mental health support, I knew I wanted to be involved in the service and give back to those that had been so supportive for me.

I gained so many skills and grew in confidence during my time as a volunteer. Being able to facilitate alongside experienced facilitators, some of whom had a similar experience to me in going from a group member to a facilitator, was such a valuable experience. I became more confident in facilitating and felt more able to give feedback and feel that my experiences were valid. One of the best things to come out of my time volunteering is that I have now being successful in getting a paid position as a Peer Support Group and Development Worker on the core peer support programme. This means so much to me to see how far I have come to now in a position I am in today and this is all thanks to the peer support team at Leeds Mind.

To those considering volunteering at Leeds Mind within peer support, I would just like to say that this has been one of the best volunteering experiences that I have ever had and so truly valuable to be able to see that what you doing truly does make a difference to group members.”

Many thanks to Emily for sharing her experiences with us for #VolunteersWeek.

We currently have a number of volunteering opportunities in our peer support service. To learn more and apply, please visit: https://www.leedsmind.org.uk/volunteering/

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