“Just go for it. If you’re able to volunteer, it’s massively enriching to do so”

When Charlie started mental health volunteering, his goal was to help people and make a difference. What he didn’t realise was how much volunteering would make a difference to his life too. 

For Volunteers’ Week, Charlie shares why he started volunteering with Second Step and how we supported him to transition into a full-time  paid mental health support role with our Help When You Need It team in Bristol. 

“I became a volunteer during the lockdown. I’d just finished university. Obviously, we couldn’t leave our houses. I couldn’t get a job. So, I was working with a service set up for people with mental health issues and they put it to me that I could use some of my skills and my life experiences to give back.” 

Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, Charlie’s first volunteer roles involved providing vital remote support to people who may otherwise become socially isolated: 

“I had a couple of phone mentor support roles, and I did a little bit of work taking ‘family and friends feedback’ calls, which was quite nice, I got a lot of experience from that”. 

“Volunteering gave me a lot of confidence” 

Although Charlie loved his volunteering roles, to begin with, he wasn’t sure he had the right qualifications to turn it into a career. But as his confidence grew, and with the support of his team at Second Step behind him, he realised that it was an achievable dream: 

“I’m not going to lie, it was very scary at first, but you kind of get used to it with time. As we eased out of the lockdown, there was a tonne of opportunities out there, like running or attending groups with clients. I saw this gardening group come up, I went and attended that, and it went really well, giving me a lot of confidence. It made it a lot easier for me to transition into the role as an employed worker”. 

“A big part of volunteering for me was, mental health has been a field I always wanted to get into, but I didn’t have any sort of qualifications in that area. I hadn’t realised that volunteering could be an avenue to get into that work. So, when I started volunteering, that became a big aim of mine, and everyone was incredibly helpful with it. The amount of mandatory and optional training you get offered is above and beyond”. 

“You’re not there to know all the answers” 

Charlie knows how daunting it can be to start volunteering for a mental health charity. But he quickly realised that the most valuable skill a volunteer can offer someone who’s struggling with their mental health is a simple one: compassion. Simply being there for a person, spending time with them, and listening to them can make a world of difference: 

“It’s easy to think, ‘I wish I could do more, wish I could help, wish I could do this and that’. But when you volunteer, you realise you can just talk to people, and oftentimes you’ll find that a lot of people already have answers to what’s going on for them. They have their own solutions, you’re not there to know all the answers, a lot of times people just want to chat because they’re socially isolated.” 

Charlie’s advice to anyone thinking about volunteering with Second Step 

“I know for some people it can be quite scary, it certainly was for me. But we’ve just got to make that jump. You can do it, and you will become more at ease with it at time. You’re supported through the whole process, and you can even ask for extra one-to-ones. I certainly had extra one-to-ones with various people at Second Step”. 

“I’d say just go for it. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to volunteer, it’s massively enriching to do so”. 

Charlie selfie

Volunteer with us 

Would you like to help people facing mental health challenges to rebuild their confidence and wellbeing? Visit our volunteering page to find out how you can get involved in our work and check out our current roles. 

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