Hello, my name is Mike. I’m a volunteer at Rosewood Involvement Centre in Ollerton. I started attending two years ago, when I was caring for a close family member with depression.
As everyone who has been a carer will know, it can be a time to show people how much you love and care for them, but it can also have incredibly negative effects on your own well-being. The loss of the person you once knew, the fading away of your social life and free time, the increased stress, anxiety and isolation… all this can have alarming consequences for your own physical and emotional health.
That’s why it is essential that carers can have quality time for themselves, where they can be just like anyone else. Rosewood was just such a place for me. When I began attending, I was unsure what to expect. I was made to feel at home and it was not long before I was fully immersed in the world of Involvement.
Being able to see that there were other people just like me assuaged my sense of loneliness and isolation. Learning that there were others who suffered badly from mental health conditions and recovered to live a normal life gave me hope for the future. I began to attend every session I could.
Making friends and getting away from my caring role was not the only benefit of Involvement. I was able to access a number of training opportunities which greatly enriched my personal and professional development. This included Involvement Interview Training which consisted of a course learning how to conduct an interview. Once trained, I participated in interviews for potential Trust employees as part of a patient/carer panel. You can learn a lot to use for your own future experiences as an interviewee!
I was able to attend Training sessions to ensure best practice in the workplace such as safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, equality & diversity, manual handling and back care, deaf awareness, and food hygiene and safety.
I have been given the opportunity to tell my story of caring to a number of audiences, including Trust staff members. This is very important to me since you are in a position to advise staff on what works well and what could be done better. Any opportunity to help shape attitudes and practice is vital. After this, I was able to participate in the Care Programme Approach (CPA) training, which involved delivering a presentation.
Training played a part in finding a role I love where I can use my experience to help others. I began this role in August 2014. Around the same time, the person whom I cared for made a full recovery from their illness. Recovery is an on-going process, but there has been no relapse and our lives have returned to normal; full of health and happiness.
However, I know that this is not always the outcome; for many people with mental ill-health. It is something they have to face on a daily basis and often for the rest of their lives. Their well-being is no less important than mine. That is the reason why I still volunteer; advocating the role of Involvement in ensuring best practice within the Trust.
I stood for the role of Public Governor in the 2015 elections. To my surprise and gratitude, I was elected for three years! I’m looking forward to advocating my views, holding the leadership to account, and hopefully inspiring other people in my former position to see that, yes, things can get better. We must never stop working to better the lives of those with mental health issues, and those who care for them.