Jack’s Story: From Mentor to Manchester Mind staff member
Before I got involved in Manchester Mind, I had just started university at Manchester Metropolitan University studying Psychology. During my lectures I couldn’t shake the feeling that learning about the mind and mental health from a PowerPoint wasn’t the best way to truly understand it; this feeling coupled with the need for experience, led me to begin looking into volunteering opportunities around Manchester. There were loads of opportunities available so it was difficult to determine which ones were going to give me the best experience, but when I found the opportunity to be a volunteer mentor for the Children and Young Person’s service (formally known as YASP) at Manchester Mind, I leapt at it as the role sounded fantastic and provided the opportunity to work with a very established organisation.
When I first began volunteering, I was met with the realisation that I was out of my depth and needed to learn a lot more before I could even think about helping someone.
However, with the support and reassurance of my supervisor, I came to realise that mentoring is actually fairly simple when you focus on the principles; you can try changing the world but what supporting my mentees ultimately came down to was just being there for them and opening a positive, forward thinking conversation about their mental health. I am proud of what I managed to achieve with my mentees; not only did I help them get to a place where they enjoyed life and got the most out of it, I also developed personally and acquired skills which help me every day. My confidence and empathy grew tremendously through this role; having never personally experienced mental illness in my life, the imposter syndrome was a common feeling, thinking “how can I tell this person they’re going to get better with my support, when I don’t know what it’s like”, but being able to directly see the realities of mental health and what it is like to live with such struggles, progressively increased my knowledge and understanding on how to help people. I was, and still am, under no illusion that mental health problems have an easy fix, but I am now more confident in saying that all people can be helped and can achieve a state of living where they get to live life on their terms, which is enough to make me proud of my passion and where hopefully my career is going to be focused.
During my postgraduate degree, I decided I needed to move away from part-time retail work and begin thinking about getting a job more closely related to where I wanted my career to go; I was told about an opportunity to become a Project Coordinator at Young Manchester and decided to apply. In my interview, I talked mostly about the experiences and skills I had gained from volunteering at Manchester Mind and other organisations, and mentioned very little about my time in other professional areas. I got the job and that showed me just how important volunteering was as it not only made me more employable but it also provided me with the confidence in knowing I can do the job. Working at Young Manchester has given me a much better understanding of the voluntary and community sector and I have been able to see all the positive work that is being done for children and young people across Manchester. My role specifically has shown me the importance of listening to and empowering young people in decision making; young people know exactly what they want, and if you genuinely listen to them, incredible positive change can be implemented to better the lives of young people.
I think it’s fantastic that my journey with Manchester Mind gets to continue…
Once I had graduated from university, I started thinking about how I could enter full-time work whilst also doing something which I am truly passionate about. Mental health was on top of the list, with helping young people being a close second; so when my supervisor at Manchester Mind informed me of the Peer Support Group Development Worker role for the Children and Young Person’s service, it was perfect and I’m proud to say that I got the job! I think it’s fantastic that my journey with Manchester Mind gets to continue and I am truly excited to see the impact that the peer support groups will make on young people’s mental health.
You can find out more about our Children and Young People’s Services here