Tom’s experience of volunteering with MindLine

Why did you become a Mindline volunteer?

“I decided to volunteer for Bristol MindLine for a number of reasons: I’d always wanted to volunteer for something and changes in my work circumstances meant that I now had the time. Bristol Mind seemed like a good organisation and the training at Mindline looked good. I had experienced the benefits of counselling in terms of my own mental health, so I was interested in dipping my toe into the water of a possible counselling career. I also wanted to offer something worthwhile to other people and Bristol MindLine seemed like it had the potential to cover all these areas.”

What was your experience of the training?

“The induction training at Mindline was brilliant!  In the past I found training with people I didn’t know incredibly daunting and this was my first experience of moving back into ‘work’ since being made redundant, so it felt really important.  Maybe I was more anxious at the information evening and then the interview but by the time I actually started the training, the whole place felt really supportive. I just felt it was much more me, even though it was all completely new. I felt more comfortable in the training at Mind than I had done with people that I’d worked with for years. There was not an ego in the room and the training was very well delivered. I’ve had lots of expensive training at work and this was much better and very relevant to working on the line.”

How did it feel when you started to answer calls?

“My initial experience of working on MindLine was very good. My co-workers were absolutely brilliant and it felt very unthreatening. It felt like a safe transition for moving from the training onto the line. I had expected most calls to be crisis calls but I began to realise that many people also contact MindLine for ongoing support to stay well, callers who maybe feel very isolated. Mindline provides vital support to callers with a wide range of issues from anxiety to psychosis. Everybody needs a bit of extra support at sometime in their life and that’s what we offer non judging emotional support.”

Has volunteering for Mindline led to any further training opportunities?

Tom had been volunteering  at Bristol MindLine for 2 months when he started his Certificate in Counselling Skills.

“Being a Mindline volunteer was really helpful, I had practiced some of the skills and joining a new group of 20 was a lot easier because I’d done something similar.  On the certificate we learnt about bereavement and a bit more counselling theory but in terms of using the counselling skills, I don’t think we covered anything that I hadn’t already covered on the ML course.”

Tom later moved onto completing a diploma in counselling

“Everything I did at MindLine made it so much easier to access and complete my counselling trainings. Finding a counselling placement is usually difficult for most diploma students and I only had my experience at MindLine to draw upon in my applications. Despite this I had to turn down offers of placements because I had too many!

“I chose to complete the OCN level 3 training at Mindline for experienced helpline workers because I thought I’d enjoy it. I knew the coordinators would do it well and I thought I’d learn something. I think we all found the group and peer sessions  really connecting. I started and continue to, pay more attention in a structured way to what  happens during a call. I feel this benefits the calls and keeps volunteers more connected to Mindline.”

Has volunteering at MindLine had any impact on your own mental health?

“I feel better now than I probably ever have and I think Mindline is a part of that. My own counselling had the biggest impact but volunteering for Mindline has also offered me something slightly separate. There’s something about the voluntary nature of my helpline work that feels helpful. I’m choosing to be here and everything works. The rota works and the admin works. I can go in and do the things that I’m suppose to be doing and everything works. The quality of the supervision is also first class in quality and quantity. We’re incredibly lucky. It’s helpful for me on the line and therefore is helpful for callers.”

(The name of this volunteer has been changed).