Annie has been volunteering for Carers Support West Sussex for almost a decade.  She’s been co-facilitating support groups for most of that time but has also given talks to carers of people with mental health issues.

Like many of the volunteers at Carers Support, I know what it’s like to be a carer.  Fifteen years ago I was dealing with a daughter with mental health problems and I struggled.  Doctors didn’t believe that the issues my daughter had were as bad as they were.  I was working full time, looking after my daughter, felt lonely and isolated and I nearly became very ill myself.

My family and friends didn’t understand just how bad my daughter’s condition was.  Anyone who met my daughter briefly wouldn’t have been able to see how ill she had become.

At the time I couldn’t find any support until I came across a Carers Forum at my local mental health hospital and then, eventually, found Carers Support.

It changed my life.

“It was time to give something back.”

Carers Support came into my life and it was just wonderful.  I had one to one support, group therapies and counselling all available to me and it was great.

And then it was time to give something back.  I was asked if I would give a talk to a a local mental health team.  I agreed, but didn’t really expect to get as emotional as I did when talking to a group of people.  So much good came from that experience because it was all still very new and raw to me and I came away from it really feeling like I’d done some good.

Things snowballed from there.  I began helping out with a drop-in at the local mental health hospital and then started to co-facilitate the coffee groups that we’re still running today.

The thing with volunteering, is that it can be as little or as much as you want to put in.  I know a lot of people are worried about how it could impact on their time, especially if they’re a carer themselves, but it’s not like that.  It could be just a few hours a month, but it still makes all the difference.

The roles are so varied too.  I love doing the coffee groups, but if you weren’t a ‘face to face’ person, there are things you can do ‘behind the scenes’ or over the telephone.  Carers Support is such a fantastic charity and I know they would appreciate any help that people were willing to give.

“It’s as rewarding now as the day I first started and you meet so many different people.”

And I love volunteering so much.  It’s as rewarding now as the day I first started and you meet so many different people.  I think people can relate to me because I have been a carer myself.  I can understand some of the things they’re going through, the emotions they might be feeling, the frustration, even the anger sometimes.  There are good times and bad, highs and lows, but having been in a similar situation, people feel they can talk to me and I see so many positives come out of our groups and meetings.

I really would ask anyone reading this who’s thinking about becoming a volunteer to do it. Carers Support changed my life and I like to think b y helping out, I’ve been able to help others do the same.