August 19, 2014

When I first joined Time to Change, I had absolutely no idea just how much it would change my life; I thought I was just volunteering my time, but it turned out to be so much more than that.

From the age of 13, clinical depression plagued my life and in a time where being different didn’t give you instant fame as it does today, I learnt very quickly to keep it to myself. I watched as people I knew were branded ‘nutters’ and ‘freaks’ all because they were unwell, something they couldn’t control…something I knew about all too well. But I couldn’t say anything, to anyone…and I didn’t; for 10 years I kept it to myself.

It wasn’t until I attended a Time to Change event in 2011 that I realised I wasn’t alone in my struggles

But it wasn’t until I attended a Time to Change event in 2011 that I realised I wasn’t alone in my struggles – I was asked to write a blog about my experience at the event, and I also signed up to volunteer during the Summer Roadshows. Then I was being asked to contribute to newspaper articles, video shoots, be on the leaflet, give talks with celebrities, speak at private functions…it may sound overwhelming and it was, but it was also empowering because I’d never felt more alive. I had really missed helping people, no matter how small that help may be and becoming a Champion helped me to do that.

The great thing about being a Champion is that there’s no pressure to do lots of things

The great thing about being a Champion is that there’s no pressure to do lots of things which means you can do as much or as little as you want; my role initially was a very active one in the beginning as that’s how I wanted it to be. My goal was to help as many people as I could, and I’ve done all kinds of things from training new volunteers to being in a Channel 4 documentary with Ruby Wax. Regardless of what you want to do with Time to Change, whether it’s writing a blog, being in an advert, or attending a workshops which will provide you with all the training and tools you’ll need to do speak out about mental health.

Now I could tell you the figures which prove that attitudes are improving, and if you want to see them you can find them on the Time to Change website; but I would rather tell you about actual stories, about real people…experiences I’ve had.

At one event, a group of youths told me about how they’d always been mean to a guy in their class. One of them actually admitted to them that he had a mental health problem and they promised to do better. They went on to create a Mental Health Awareness club at their college. At another event a young man thanked me for talking to him and later wrote to me to say that he’d had the courage to tell the other residents he lived with. I later went to his accomodation to deliver a session on mental health and it was a huge success. It’s not just the public it helps either, many of my friends who I’ve met volunteering are running charities, organising their own events and much more. As for me…well, when I joined Time to Change I was depressed, unemployed and very much alone. Now, in addition to all the amazing experiences I’ve had with Time to Change and the awesome friends I’ve met along the way, I’m happy, working, married and I’ve just passed my first year at university.

You should think about volunteering...it could possibly be one of the best things you ever do 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if really want to help, then maybe you should think about volunteering – not just because you’re standing up against discrimination or because you’re really passionate about mental health, but because it could possibly be one of the best things you ever do for yourself. Maybe if you give people a chance to discover how awesome you are, you’ll probably discover it too.

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