September 30, 2013

I was nervous about volunteering at the Time to Change Village, I've experienced both anxiety and depression recently and wasn't sure if I was ready to talk to the public.

I saw the request for volunteers for the Time to Change pop-up villages on Facebook in July. As soon as I saw that there would be one in my hometown of Blackpool I thought about volunteering.  But, I wasn't sure that I would be able to do it; I wasn't up to talking to people, so rather than take up the challenge and prove myself wrong I promptly forgot about it.

I was worried and panicked that I wouldn't be able to do it

Every time I saw a Time to Change post on Facebook it reminded me about the village and I realised that I actually wanted to volunteer, that I wanted to do something positive. So I filled in the form and signed up for a non-speaking role, where I wouldn't have to speak to the public about my experience of mental health problems. Then when my volunteer pack came through I knew there had been a small problem. My role was listed as "To speak to the public about mental health".  Oh dear! I was immediately worried and panicked that I wouldn't be able to do it.  I booked on to the volunteer training course anyway, planning to speak to the people from Time to Change and point out the error. I was sure it could all be sorted out.

The volunteer training was brilliant

Only, it didn't turn out that way. The volunteer training was brilliant and helped me to prepare and to meet other volunteers as well as some of the Time to Change staff.  Through discussions and videos, we were shown what the Village was about and what to expect from talking to the public. It made me realise that I could do this; I could talk to the public. I'm sure if I hadn't felt up to it I could have explained the mistake and it would have been sorted but I realised that I wanted to give it a go. I was still a little nervous though and even mentioned that during the volunteer training session. We were reassured that we weren't under any pressure to talk to the public if we didn't feel able to it and that there would be a "volunteers only" area at the village where we could go if we needed a "time out".

The volunteers that had been at my training session were some of the first faces I saw at the Village

I was on the afternoon shift but I popped down to the Village in the morning so I could watch the entertainment and visit the marquees. St John's Square was buzzing with people and plenty were stopping to listen to the music and watch the performers. When I signed in for my shift, the volunteers that had been at my training session were some of the first faces I saw at the Village, which helped put me at ease. They had words of encouragement and tips for starting conversations.

 As expected, it was difficult to get chatting with the public but I persevered and had some great conversations. I spoke with a nurse from Sweden over here on her holiday who said that it's a great campaign and that they should have it in Sweden. I had a challenging conversation with a man who said that taking drugs causes mental health problems, I was stumped, I hadn't expected that! I politely disagreed with him and said that many people with mental health problems had never used drugs whilst busily trying to figure out how to get out of the conversation. However, he surprised me by going on to tell me about his own experience of stress and I ended up having a really good chat with him.

I started out dreading talking to the public...but ended up having a really good day

I started out dreading talking to the public and wondering whether I would be able to cope but I ended up having a really good day. I met some very supportive people, talked to lots of interesting members of the public and hopefully opened some peoples' eyes to the campaign. It felt really good to take part.

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