For Mental Health Awareness Week, young volunteer Laura Moulding speaks about how volunteering helped her find her voice and changed her life.
This year, I celebrated five years of applying and training for my first ever volunteering role as a champion for Time to Change Wales (TtCW). I will always say, even to this day, that those volunteer trainings sessions almost never happened.
I was severely anxious and felt so low that I almost said, ‘I can’t do this.’ However, for me, what got me through was knowing that maybe my voice could help someone else struggling with their mental health.
I remember sitting in the room with about 15 people in it; we started off with introductions. I can’t even remember what I said, I was that scared. Suddenly, before I knew it, the first session was over and I was sat in the second training session with my story on many A4 sheets of paper, sharing my story with a group of strangers. I had never shaken so much in my life!
The community engagement officers spoke to me afterwards and said how well I’d done and that I wasn’t alone with what I was going through and what I had been facing. It was the first time I had really acknowledged that I wasn’t alone. The room wasn’t full of strangers, but people who understood what it was like to have mental ill-health and have faced stigma and discrimination.
FIVE YEARS OF VOLUNTEERING
Five years later, I continue to volunteer for TtCW, Mind Cymru and Mind and I have shared my experiences in front of audiences on a regular basis. Even during the pandemic, I have shared my experiences online.
I found the bravery to become a Media Representative for Mind Cymru and shortlisted for the Mind Media Awards. I have been on radio, TV, newspapers across the UK. I also now volunteer as an admin assistant for TtCW. This is something that I never imagined would have happened just over five years ago, when I almost said no.
One thing I will always remember from my time as a volunteer for TtCW is the time that someone approached me at an event. We hadn’t been speaking for too long before they opened up about their experiences with their mental health, and stigma they had faced. She told me it was the first conversation she had with anyone about her mental health in over 40 years.
I listened, we spoke, I made connections with their story and my own and reminded them that they were not alone. I’m not a therapist, but that day this person couldn’t stop thanking me for listening. This is why I volunteer. If I can help just one person, then it’s always worth it.
What I hadn’t realised was the personal growth I would have from volunteering too. Yes I still have my mental ill-health. I still get anxious and depressed, but volunteering showed me what I’m capable of. Before I started volunteering, I was adamant I would not be able to do anything with my life. But volunteering has helped me find out who I am. It’s made me braver to try new things. It’s made me stronger when facing hard situations.
In 2019, I became WCVA’s Young Volunteer of the Year at the Welsh Charity Awards. I remember walking on stage, had photos and gave a small speech. I came off stage and the first thing I did was burst into tears. Why? Because not that many years ago, I felt like nothing. But this award changed my perspective of what I do and I how I now look at myself. I wouldn’t be here, the person I am today doing all these different things if it weren’t for volunteering.
To find out more about how you can support volunteers with their mental health, have a look at our information sheet on Understanding Mental Health and Volunteering.