A Story of Hope
My first contact with the organisation was through Jayne who was volunteering for PLUS at the time and seemed very enthusiastic about it. She left me their contact details, and when I phoned PLUS it was arranged to meet me at the office in Canal Street.
First impressions count and I was pleasantly surprised by the office i.e. the fact that it was modern, well decorated and seemed full of information. I was also impressed with the interview, when the manager matched my interest with those of the organisation. She also took into account that I had two children (aged 10 and 11) and wanted to fit my role at PLUS into school hours. After volunteering for PLUS for several months, I went through a “bad patch” after my medication was changed. When I returned, I was welcomed back and encouraged to participate again. This had a positive impact on my recovery.
My main interests at the time were user led research into services, visiting user forums and becoming a member of the steering group, which helps. I was also interested in attending training courses as a PLUS volunteer. There are many more activities that PLUS carry out, such as anti-stigma work, and peer-support training mental health professionals. I was able to volunteer for as much or as little as I wanted.
Since joining PLUS I have become involved in running a service user led book group. We now have eight members who meet fortnightly. Setting up the group has meant drafting a constitution, opening a bank account and applying for lottery funding. I have also tried to cater for the interests of individual group members. This has been another learning experience for me.
This brings me onto one of the most important features of being a PLUS member, which is making new friends. I had been totally isolated, like many people with mental health issues, and going to PLUS has helped me meet a whole range of people, because they have all suffered from mental illness, they have a better understanding of the issues that affect you.
PLUS has benefited me enormously in a number of ways:
1. Using skills I already have.
2. Acquiring new skills/information.
3. Increased my confidence/self esteem.
4. Given me an opportunity to be creative, I am always coming up with new ideas.
5. Introduced me to people who have since become friends.
6. Given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
7. I feel I am doing something useful.
8. Given me hope for the future. I am doing an Open University course in English Language and I am also doing a European Computer Driving License.