For Linda, volunteering as a peer mentor is a chance to give back to those who have helped her over the years.
Eight years ago, Linda was diagnosed as bi-polar after 30 years of mental health problems, which included bouts of clinical depression.
Her illness manifested itself in both lows and highs, when she felt invincible and lacked inhibition. Her psychotic episodes could last anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks and she would sometimes end up hospitalised as a result. She is now on mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic medication and has not had an episode for 18 months.
Linda had a bad childhood and suffered abuse and a number of traumas as an adult, including divorce, her ex-partner committing suicide and the near death of her 14-year-old daughter in a car crash.
“My life felt like it was just one bad thing after another,” she said. “I would just get over something, and something else would come along. Not just everyday things, but major traumas.
“Over the years I have had a lot of help from the various services. My support worker at Horton Housing really encouraged me. She got me to go to Horton Training Centre, where I found out about the peer mentoring scheme.”
Linda’s illness meant that she has only been able to work sporadically and the pressures of work also caused problems. “It’s like playing snakes and ladders, you get so far and then you go back down again to square one,” she said.
Volunteering is a way for Linda to get back into work, and she would like to be a support worker one day. Having gone through a lot of the same experiences, she can relate to her clients.
She said: “Volunteering with the peer mentors gives me purpose, a reason to go out and do things. I have benefited from befriending in my time and I know how invaluable it is. It also helps build your independence and confidence back up.”
Linda is currently matched with one client, and is hoping to take on another if she feels well enough. She also volunteers for Bradford and Airedale Mental Health Advocacy Group.
We are currently looking for volunteers for our Peer Mentor scheme. If you have experience of mental health problems, or perhaps supporting a family member or friend, please come along to our drop-in session on Monday, 12 October at the Fieldhead Business Centre, 10am-3pm.