Volunteering to support people with their mental health

We take a holistic approach to mental and physical health, addressing these issues alongside each other. Volunteers play a crucial role in helping us to achieve this. Here, Amie shares her experiences of volunteering to support people who’ve experienced homelessness with their mental health.

My journey with St Mungo’s began in September 2019, I had graduated from University and knew that I wanted to get into the charity sector. I applied for the role of a Mental Health Volunteer at St Mungo’s via their website which I was successful for. I then went through the training with the St Mungo’s Volunteer Services staff. My first role with St Mungo’s was doing the ‘Women’s Morning’ with a mental health service in Bristol which I really enjoyed.

During lockdown the ‘Women’s Morning’ stopped due to Covid-19 and I was put on furlough from my day job. I then got an email from the Volunteer Services about the emergency hotels and from there I started my second volunteering role as an Emergency Hotel Volunteer which was a unique service to be a part of. I managed to network with a whole range of staff members as the team at the hotel was made up of different services from around the Bristol hub.

I then went through the locum application whilst volunteering and I picked up a locum shift at a Women’s Services. I had only been there for a month, but I ended up staying there for a year because I loved it so much! I loved trying something new and challenging. I was there for about a year, and then a vacancy came up for the place I’m at now which is a mixed hostel. The role involves more incident and crisis management which I’m also really enjoying.

At my current role, we’re getting more volunteers into the services which means I’m going to be a supervisor, so I’ve come full circle in such a short space of time!

Inspiration for why I got involved in volunteering

I was inspired to start volunteering when I was in my final year of university, I had a bad mental health crisis. This crisis made me realise that I wanted to help and support those who have gone through similar mental health issues. My role as a Mental Health Volunteer at St Mungo’s made me re-evaluate everything of what’s important in life.

St Mungo’s appealed a lot because there’s great structure for volunteers and they have great training for volunteers. They even paid for me to be a mental health first aider whilst I was a volunteer. I also chose St Mungo’s because of their locum scheme which I think is a great way to inspire volunteers to continue their career into the homeless sector. The volunteer team really make you feel valued as a volunteer.

The rewards and challenges of volunteering the impact it can have:

It was quite challenging when I first started in the ‘Women’s Morning’ because I had never worked with people who’ve experienced homelessness before so it was a massive learning curb. At the beginning communication with the people we were supporting was tough and there were some difficult situations. But once you’ve experienced those situations more and more, you feel much more confident. And it was very rewarding, I got to go and do something that I truly enjoyed every day.

Volunteers play such a crucial role in helping St Mungo’s staff members with support areas such an art therapy, gardening and cooking as the charity can’t have many specialised staff full time for these activities. The volunteers are integral to the people St Mungo’s support and their progression in moving away from the streets as full time staff might not have time to do certain activities and having volunteers come up with ideas for the sessions and planning these sessions is something that’s valuable.

A moment that still stands out whilst volunteering at St Mungo’s was when I was at the women’s services. I drove someone who had been staying at the service over to their new flat and helped them set up their belongings and home. Seeing them turn their whole life around I’d supported them every step of the way was an emotional but rewarding experience!

Find out more about current volunteering vacancies here.