Being a mentor with Mind BLMK. What’s all that about?

Perhaps a little background. I’m a man who has lived in Milton Keynes for 35 years and has seen the impact of mental health difficulties since I was young – family, friends and colleagues who have experienced difficulties in different ways. Anxiety, depression, eating issues, self-harm, personality disorders are all things that I knew about because of those around me trying to manage them. I have also used a counsellor when I have felt my own health wobbling – after a relationship breakdown, when there were family issues, whenever I needed someone to talk things through with. Really useful and worth bearing in mind if and when you might benefit.

Anyway…..why did I become a mentor?

The great thing about the role is that it isn’t about being a doctor or a psychiatrist or a counsellor – it’s more about being a supporter, a cheerleader, someone to listen and offer advice. If you can take a step back, understand that people are different and be supportive and not judgemental, you can be a mentor.

Once I sent my application form in, Mind BLMK got in touch and invited me to come to a training session. This covered all sorts of stuff – how to listen and communicate better, how to make sure that you don’t step over boundaries (they made it really clear that this isn’t about being a ‘friend’, but a professional role where you are friendly), some stuff about mental health conditions, how to stay safe…it was really helpful and I learned some useful things.

Once that was done, I was allocated a mentee – someone that I was going to support. His name was Bob. We had a first meeting with the Mind BLMK worker and discussed the goal that Bob wanted to achieve – he wanted to be able to go to activities to help him be less isolated, but got really anxious and couldn’t do it on his own. What he really wanted was to have a regular weekly thing with people who he could get to know, so we discussed what he wanted to try; turned out that Bob used to be a dancer when he lived in Scotland and he really wanted to do something like that again. We ended up looking at a Line Dancing group at a local community centre.

The first couple of sessions Bob was very unsure and anxious and found it difficult to get involved. He was a bit downhearted, but was able to see that it was early doors and this wasn’t going to happen overnight. On the third week, people at the group greeted Bob by name and I saw what a difference this made – simply saying ‘Hi Bob – good to see you’ made Bob feel part of something. That week, he joined in the dancing.

From then on, my involvement got less and less. I went with Bob a couple more times and watched as his confidence grew. Then we met at the start, went in together and then I disappeared until the end, when we had a chat about how it had been. Then we just met at the end and then we both agreed that Bob didn’t need me anymore – he had the group and was very much part of that group.

Being a mentor brings me a load of satisfaction. Seeing how people can change and improve their lives with what is a very small amount of support is fantastic. If there are problems, I can speak to someone from Mind BLMK (they are lovely too!) and we have regular training updates and mentor meetings which I can go to if I want to. I have learned lots from the people I work with and think that I have helped them too. It’s only one or two hours a week and makes such a difference – why not give it a go?

You can find information about the mentor role in Milton Keynes, alongside an application pack, by clicking HERE or details of all the Mind BLMK volunteering opportunities HERE