Experience – Volunteering

Happy Birthday from a FDAMH champion!

Happy 40th Birthday FDAMH

How did the staff and service users’ of FDAMH help me put the light on when I was in a dark place. It’s was over 23 yrs ago a walked into the old FDAMH building in Thornhill Rd, it was dark dingy full smoke as the service users were allowed to smoke in the building. I had looked into becoming a volunteer, I was starting to get my life back on track after I had been living an unmanageable, dysfunctional life for about 7 yrs with mental health issues, fulled with alcohol having being admitted to various physcatric hospitals, sectioned under the mental health act for being a risk to myself and others, had my fair share of getting that jag on the left buttock, medicated out my nut. Attended so many therapy sessions over the years it was clear I was never going to be good in those relaxation classes. That just wasn’t going to happen.

I suffered from PTSD, depression, manic highs after surviving a serious road accident where 5 men were killed, 3 being good friends work mates. I could have easily got stuck in the system, under phycatric doctors take medication the rest of my life. I really didn’t want that. I need to change my ways, shift my thinking, my behaviours, and take some serious ownership off my own health well-being.

That day I walked into FDAMH I remember being welcomed by Stuart Aitken who was the volunteer co-ordination I didn’t know how much my life would change from that day till today. I’m a working progress. I have failed so many times, made so many mistakes, always looking how to progressing to be the better version of myself

I volunteered for almost 3 yrs at FDAMH I ran the carpet bowls, organised the bingo with my American accident, I haven’t a clue why American. The service users won small coin like piece metal which they could exchange for tea coffee, or bowl soup after the bowls. I gave out that much to the winners I think they were still circulating about a year later. I ran pool, dart competitions, Making sure the new comers were made to feel welcome and felt a place of safety get a cup of tea a chat if need be.

I remember in Stuart wisdom FDAMH he sent me on a counselling course. I think I was seeing a Phycatrist. Phycologist and other profession at that time, I don’t know what I learned but I remember upsetting one person who was at the course because I couldn’t sit at peace for two min while were learning our listening skills. I’ve still got my Certificate with all the skills I learned over the 12 wks course.

I attended/supported the self-help group with Margaret that was interesting realising just how unfortunate people were how lucky they were to have a place to come for support, share their concerns or just have a place to just Be.

I felt like part off the furniture in FDHMH, my life was slowly coming together, I wouldn’t say I had the light on, more like I was at time in control of my own Dimmer light switch. It wasn’t easy but looking back then life was becoming easier. FDHMH the people who attended were my inspiration, I was never judges, never felt alone we were all an equal no matter of your experience with your mental health, where you were at that time The doors never closed always a warm welcome . The service users became my friend’s, we played Football every Friday this was when I met Neil who was a new employe by FDAMH. I was crap at foot-ball never had an interest in it. When I first came to FDAMH I was about 18st I was just getting myself into shape.

I was into walking then took up running , cycling which had its benefits as I could run up down a park all day times forgetting the ball as Neil would shout “Turn and Face turn and Face” I look back and think off the times when we play football for hours I would get side effects from my medication, I go all blurred eyed. If a closed one I could see, if I opened it got worse. So I go in goals, and then had to cycle all the way home with eye shut. We had some amazing time playing football, none off us were great at football we just got so much out of it, ticking all the boxes in how to improve our health and well-being. We even got into a final at a Mental Health Charity event for service users across Scotland. So would must have had some qualities.

In my time at FDHMH I was doing other voluntary work, working in youth clubs in my local community off Bonnybridge I went to collage got a SVQ level 2 Basic needs in Care. There no doubt in my mind I was lost in the education system I was 30 before I was screened for dyslexia had no qualifications to my name so to go to college was a daunting experience, then I fell in love with learning and my life was progressing Long story short. Few yrs I worked and managed and ran youth clubs in Falkirk then Stirling council only to go on to Dundee University I got a degree in Com Ed, I was awarded adult learner off the BBC My claim to fame was I made a video with Jackie Bird promoting Adult Learning Scottish Government Campaign encouraging adults getting back into learning . And life moves on.

Never far from FDAMH keeping in touch with my good friend Neil. The old Thornhill Rd building was closed and FDAMH had moved into a state the art purpose built building. I pop in time from time I meet the new staff. Listen to Neil letting me know how amazing he was, always had the kettle on have a chat about life.

There were times in my life when my dimmer light wasn’t as bright I would have liked it to be. My mental health was always there in the back ground moods were like on a plengilum swing at times always in relation to what was going on in my life I did access FDAMH Counselling service in looking for directions as life and life circumstances has a way of telling you doing ok when really you might not be.

I’m known for challenging myself to the limits I cycled the WHW in 24 hrs a good few yrs ago raising money for the project. I never thought of ever having to pay back to FDAMH for helping me to help myself for the life I had. I did get involved in a FDHMH charity event walking over 10 hills in the Ochil’s to raise needed funds for a new self-help group for Family and friends who lost someone through Suicide. That was many yrs ago. Last August I walked the WHW for the same self-help group unfortunately my navigation skills weren’t the best in the dark got lost few times . I walked 115mls in 39hrs. (I tried walk WHW in 35 hrs its only 96mls) What an challenge, I was a broken man I raised quite a bit off money more importantly I raise awareness for this much needed service for the people across the Forth Vally.

I’ve accomplished some amazing achievements in my adult life, one walking to Mount Everest Base Camp raising much needed funds and the profile for FDHMH. It took over year plan organise raise funds for the trek and lots of charity events in my local area raising over £3000 for FDAMH.

It took me 12 days trekking through the mountains of Nepal. This was Beyond my wildest dreams. This was never in my life line. But yip I did walk to MBC 2016. I got the name The Yak Man from the Sherpas who were taking groups up the mountain. While others rested for the end of the day I was away venturing into ice glaciers looking for hidden gems no one may have found. This was Life changing experience, I still ware my FDAMH hoodie with pride, brings back so many happy memories. Ones I love to share.

John Wells on Base Camp Trek

Remember I told you about my Counselling skills course Stuart put me on, well today I’m back improving my listening skills and Iv almost finished my COSCA counselling course run by FDHMH, by the most amazing tutor Wendy who has been far the one the best tutor I have had. It’s more than just a counselling qualification Il have, it all about re writing the narrative, learning more about who is the real John, what’s he all about, how does he tick, why does he think the way he thinks. It about having those special qualities to listen to others with-out being judgmental, or opinionated when someone trusts you that they want to share with you their concerns, worries. That’s a very privileged place to be when someone trust you with their story. I’ve had that much counselling over the years by so many professions I thought I knew everything about Me. How wrong was I

I may take my qualification further and do a Diploma and become a qualified Councillor at the mean time I have other plans I can use my listening skills but I certainly not rule it out

I don’t see myself other than the messenger for FDHMH, ye I might push myself to the limits doing extreme challenges, only because I can. And if I’m going to be doing extreme challenges I see a wee opportunity to raise funds for FDAMH most importantly raise that profile of the services FDHMH provide for those who are in need in support with their mental health, of family across the Forth Valley.

It’s time to celebrate FDAMH 40th Birthday, that good age a long time the reaching out to so many people who for whatever reason .

I’m sure there are so many success stories, of the people who have accessed this amazing service throughout the years. Young and Old. And if there is ever a time, the climate were living in. Mental Health is at its worse ever we need services like FDAMH to keep those door open the phones at the ready to reach out to those in need.

Il be for ever grateful to FDAMH and the people who has crossed my path over the years They opening the door to me, giving me that confidence self-belief that I’m worthy, no matter where I was in my life all those years ago. Volunteering was the start off my journey in recovery.

Old Bob my best pal in the world who no longer with us was always parsing FDAMH for helping Me to help myself put the light on when I a dark place. I have a loving supportive family, a good career working with children in Residential Care, I known to the kids as Big Johnny even though I’m no very big.

We all need a champion in our lives. I’ve had so many amazing influence’s in my life all starting with the lovely staff and services at FDAMH

Happy Birthday FDAMH , mind keep me a wee bit Birthday cake

June 2021

Tags: Bereaved by Suicide, Counselling, FDAMH, Volunteering
08/06/2021 at 5:23 pm

The sense of accomplishment as a volunteer befriender

I felt a great sense of accomplishment after every befriending session in knowing my befriendee had gained something positive from the experience. I have enjoyed seeing small changes, her confidence has really improved and so has her independence – ordering her own food for example. We have had some great days out walking, cinema, shopping, bowling but it was sometimes difficult to make concrete arrangements and there were last minute cancellations. Stuart (Service Manager) stepped in when required and we had regular meetings, very supportive.

I found the training to be detailed and informative giving me the necessary skills to be an effective befriender.

Tags: Befriending, Volunteering
15/09/2016 at 2:37 pm

Retirement is the perfect time to start volunteering!

I am thoroughly enjoying my volunteering. It is great being able to spend time with an individual, knowing you are not having to rush back to an office or on to see another person.

Volunteering is something I have wanted to do for a long time but never felt able to commit to with the pressures of full time working. Now that I am retired I know I can commit. I would urge anyone thinking about it to take the plunge. The training and support that goes along with the role is excellent. It is something which people will not regret.

It is early days in my role as a befriender but my lady tells me I am making a difference to her life already. She looks forward to my visits and going out. She finds it helpful to talk to me about things she does not want to bother her family with.

Tags: Third Age Befriending, Volunteering
15/09/2016 at 2:13 pm

Volunteering in Health & Wellbeing Drop-In

I look forward to volunteering each week and for me it has allowed me to meet new people, and further develop my skills, it has also enabled me to become more aware of mental health problems and develop a better understanding. The service users have told me how they feel less isolated, supported and more confident in building relationships.

Tags: Drop-In, Volunteering
15/09/2016 at 2:08 pm

Volunteering with the Women’s Group

I have recently returned to volunteering at FDAMH after a gap of fifteen years. Although there have been many changes the centre has a friendly atmosphere and feels like a good place to be.

I attended the six training sessions, which were interesting, informative and enjoyable. It also gave me a chance to meet other new volunteers and some of the staff.

Since February I have been involved with the women’s group. Every week is different and I thoroughly enjoy my time there.

Tags: Volunteering
15/09/2016 at 2:07 pm

Great personal development in volunteering with FDAMH

On a personal level I am very happy volunteering with FDAMH. There is great support, personal and emotional and great training. After my initial training I was equipped to go into the role. The training was valid and relevant to the volunteering role and situations you may find.

On a professional level I really like the extended training opportunities, there are many areas of training and it gives me an insight into other areas that I can bring to my own work or other areas that I may work in, in the future. It also gives me new connections to people. The training gives me a better perspective of how the healthcare system works and also how professionals work with each other, linking their work. I am able to see what type of issues there are and who to contact.

In my work I deal with a lot of students. They ask a lot of questions about expectations of work and volunteering. Because of all the training I am able to give direction and information and it has helped raise my confidence as I am able to give accurate information.

Since I started volunteering with TAB I have noticed an improvement in my befriendee, their confidence is building and is more positive. We both enjoy our meetings very much.

Tags: Befriending, FDAMH Training, Volunteering
15/09/2016 at 2:05 pm