Meet our mentors and volunteers!
Each week our mentors come in and give up their time to help support young people through our computerised CBT programme, Bazaar: A Marketplace for the Mind. Read some of their stories below:
I suppose my journey to becoming a mentor at the Open Door Centre is a slightly unconventional one. Since being diagnosed with my condition, Friedreich’s Ataxia, at 15, I had struggled for purpose, belonging and direction in my life. The progression of my physical symptoms led to battles with my mental health and ultimately affected my education after I dropped out of my university course in Psychology and Criminology after a year.
The course I took portrayed a curiosity for the workings of the human mind though – a lot of books I’ve read reflect this interest too. I also write a blog (www.wobblygriff.wordpress.com) on my life with Friedreich’s Ataxia, and I often seem to come back to mental health or psychology on there. So I guess what I’m saying is I have a decent grasp and feeling for human emotions.
A few months after leaving uni I was really struggling. While part of me knew I’d made the right decision to leave, due to my fatigue, I did spend a lot of time beating myself up mentally and asking myself ‘what if I had just carried on?’ Then one morning in early 2018 I woke up with the idea of volunteering. This sort of thing might not seem a big deal to some people, but to me it was a completely novel idea – something I’d never have considered previously. I found a website called do-it.org and narrowed the search down to opportunities that might suit me. I found two, so I sent some emails. I was invited to some group training in both, went along, and as I felt more at home at ODC I decided to focus on that.
Initially, my plan was to maybe just try and complete the training course and meet some new people to give me a bit of confidence. I still wasn’t sure I’d actually go through and become a fully-fledged mentor. But when I got chatting to my course mates, some of whom mentor at ODC with me now, I started to settle down and feel part of it all. Encouragement from Greg, the Open Door Centre Charity manager, really helped me too. He’s a big Liverpool fan, so we immediately had that in common!
So after the training course and learning the ins and outs of ODC’s online Bazaar CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) programme, I was all set. It’s a really straightforward programme to use, and can be accessed from anywhere by logging in. I find this really useful as I don’t have the best memory so I can login from home before a session and refresh my mind on what is coming up or what was said between a member and myself the week before.
I’ve now had around 12 members (mentees) I think, and I love it. Although I only do a few hours per week, I always look forward to going to ODC that day. There’s no better feeling than helping someone sort things through mentally, and hopefully finish their eight week CBT course with a stronger and calmer mind than when they arrived. Also, the sessions aren’t just a one-way street. I too am reminded of the techniques of maintaining a healthy mental state as I go through the slides with my mentee, and I am constantly applying them to my own life.
We also do little courses as mentors now and again, to further our knowledge of some key topics in young people’s mental health nowadays. We have talked as a group about the pressures social media can bring, and recently spent an evening increasing our skills in suicide prevention. Christine Clark, a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide awareness in the workplace, presented a really insightful presentation to us all. While these sorts of issues may seem daunting, senior staff members like Adele are always more than happy to listen and offer advice if you feel like you need it.
To end on a lighter note, we also have occasional socials, designed for the mentors and other staff to get to know each other properly. This is a great opportunity to meet some of the mentors who volunteer on different days to you. Everyone involved at ODC is really warm and easy to chat to and I’ve loved making some new mates. The first event I went to was a little barbecue in the garden of ODC’s old premises in Wallasey in summer 2018. We also went to Ghetto Golf later that year which was loads of fun. And this Thursday (27/6/19) we’re off to play (do?) (watch, in my case) Zorb Football. If anything, I’m sure it’ll be a laugh! The costs of these social events are covered by ODC too which is great.
The Open Door Centre is such a vibrant, kaleidoscopic (just look at the décor) hub of positivity. Come and see for yourself!