Emily first became involved with YMCA DownsLink Group in September 2015 when she joined a YMCA Right Here volunteer group. YMCA Right Here is a youth-led project based in Brighton and Hove that aims to promote and improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Emily says, “Mental health has long played an important role in my life, and in the lives of many people I love. So when I heard that there was an opportunity to open up conversations with young people through designing and delivering workshops on the topic of mental health, and also to help improve young people’s experiences of GP services, I jumped at the chance!
“As a volunteer with YMCA Right Here I have been involved in developing relationships with local GPs. It has included visiting many GP surgeries around Brighton and Hove, and assessing how they could do better when it comes to mental health and young people. It’s been really interesting to see the differences between surgeries, and to talk to professionals about what they think their strengths and weaknesses are.
“I’ve also been involved in designing our new social media and mental health workshop, which will be added to the workshops we’re currently delivering in schools; ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ and ‘coping with exam stress’. I’ve loved getting to talk to school students about mental health. It can be a challenging conversation, but one that is so important to have.
“The thing I enjoy most about volunteering is our weekly meetings. Our coordinator, Jacob, and all the other volunteers are such a joy to work with, and seeing them is the best way to start the week. I must be one of only a few lucky people who really look forward to Mondays!
“It is hard to juggle volunteering with university work, societies, a part time job, and keeping up relationships with friends and family – especially when you throw anxiety into the mix! In order to keep on top of everything, I’ve had to get better at planning my time, and accept that most days will be extremely busy! I’ve also been trying to be kind to myself if I don’t manage to do everything I want to – sometimes sacrifices have to be made. It’s also good to have a lovely team of volunteers you can rely on to help you out if you need it.
“I was proud to attend one of YMCA Right Here’s Walk and Talk events as a volunteer. It’s a free walking activity with a therapy dog designed for a small group of young people who experience social anxiety and isolation, or feel challenged by being in groups or meeting new people. As someone who has experienced these things myself, I was really pleased that I was able, despite my own anxieties, to go and help to provide other young people with a supportive environment. It was also great to meet Geoffrey the pug!
“Mental health issues are real, valid, and should be nothing to be ashamed of! Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness, and to be given the support they need. Speaking out about mental health issues is really important in order to get help, but that can be hard to do if you don’t know how the people around you will respond. That’s why it’s also really important to let your friends, family and colleagues know that they can talk to you. Hopefully when we start speaking about mental health issues more often, and honestly, less people will feel alone in their struggles, and more people will feel supported, and able to seek help.
“Volunteering is also a great way to make a positive difference. I would really encourage anyone who is passionate about mental health and young people to consider volunteering for YMCA Right Here! It’s an amazing opportunity to make change, meet friends, and gain skills.”
Thanks Emily, and we’re delighted that you decided to get involved with YMCA DLG!
Find out more about YMCA Right Here