Jane volunteers for the Skiffle for Change project as a Skiffle for Change Volunteer Ambassador. Skiffle for Change is a Time to Change grant-funded project that uses interactive Skiffle musical events to start conversations and promote social contact with people who have mental health problems. Volunteer ambassadors with personal experience of mental health problems sit alongside audience members at Skiffle for Change musical events and engage people in conversation about mental health during an extended interval and after the performance.
I got involved with the Skiffle for Change project because I know how soul-destroying the isolation associated with mental health can be; the isolation of feeling so separate from the world outside your head. That isolation and shame is part of my depression and if you are not able to let anyone know you are suffering then your ability to get help, or believe that you deserve help, is badly compromised.
I thought my depression was my fault and that was how life was going to be from now on
My depression started when I gave birth to my son. I’d never come across depression or any mental illness, I just thought it was my fault and that was how my life was going to be from now on. My son was two before I got any help. I had tried before that but my health visitor had just said I was ‘still a bit low’. I’ve been suffering for 20 years now and manage with psychotherapy and medication though it affects me every day.
I feel passionately that people with no experience of mental health problems are educated to understand more about it
So when I saw the advertisement asking for Skiffle for Change volunteer ambassadors, I thought it was so important to try and help because the thought of anyone else suffering in silence makes me feel sick with fury at the unfairness of it. I feel passionately that people with no experience of mental health problems, are educated to understand more about how dreadful it can be to live with it and just because the pain and struggle cannot be seen, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Shame comes with depression, as does worthlessness, but it is not fair to heap more shame on top by others judging us or, through lack of education, not wanting to talk to us.
I wanted to find a volunteer role where I could really contribute
During the last year or so, I’ve been working hard to get myself out into the world more and engage with people, which I still find tremendously difficult. I really wanted to find a volunteer role I could manage that would make me feel useful and where I could really contribute. I’m so glad I’ve got involved in the Skiffle for Change project as an ambassador. There are lots of roles that I would not be able to do and being an ambassador is extremely challenging for me but there is lots of support there and if any conversation is getting too much for me, I only have to put up my hand or involve one of the Sevenoaks Area Mind staff who look after us ambassadors and they will come and either take over or just help out. I feel safe, supported, understood and best of all I do not feel alone and those are all the things I want for anyone suffering from a mental illness.
I really do feel that each and every conversation I have is important
I have been able to have conversations with many different people about mental illness, which have all been fascinating and intense in different ways. I really do feel that each and every one has been important and that I get just as much from the conversations as those attending.
I hope to carry on volunteering to help raise awareness of mental health issues. I’ll take it one step at a time but am very encouraged by the Skiffle For Change events and the difference I believe we are making.