Voluntary Befriending with Bucks Mind began for me as preparation for retirement. However, the experience can be shared and enjoyed across all ages by anyone able to give a small piece of that hard-to-find commodity, time.
Initially, I queried my ability for this role, but I saw Befriending as an opportunity to do something on a personal level, devoid of faceless systems, encountered for most of my working life.
After excellent volunteer training, care was taken to achieve a Befriending match. As for my early trepidation regarding ability, just being yourself is the key. Someone who cares and has time is a good foundation to build on.
Each Befriending relationship is a unique journey. I have learned to avoid preconceptions and expectations; just to go with the flow and see where it takes us. It may be a relaxed chat over a cup of tea, a sympathetic ear, listening and understanding or dropping the occasional pebble in the water to gauge a reaction.
My experiences have made me realise how mental health problems can so easily lead to isolation and loneliness and to recognise that a person does not need to be living alone to be lonely. There most definitely is a feel-good factor about Befriending, where you can see first-hand how your small amount of time can impact on the quality of life of another person. And the great thing is, you get to meet some really nice people!
I asked myself from the outset, what happens to the person after Befriending? I learned by experience, the answer was scary. However, things have changed and there is now more visibility and lateral thinking across like-minded organisations. There are also some great pioneering projects that have become locally accessible for people suffering mental ill-health e.g. Buckinghamshire Recovery College; Lindengate, a Buckinghamshire-based registered charity that offers specialised gardening activities to help those with mental health needs, not to mention a diverse range of different music therapies.
I like to view Befriending as a first stage in breaking isolation. It is during Befriending that the possibility of moving forward into wider social contact can be explored and supported.
I have always found Bucks Mind management support and advice helpful as a Volunteer. More recently the support has been significantly strengthened by ongoing training and increased visibility of policies, procedures, and structure.
Fancy giving volunteering a go? Check out the voluntary groups on our signposting page.