Linda Sanders talks about the important contribution that volunteers make to the work of the trust and also about the benefits of volunteering to the volunteers themselves.
I’m Linda Sanders, the Voluntary Services Manager for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust. Volunteers are an invaluable resource to the trust. Their time, commitment, dedication and skills make an important contribution to the quality of the services we deliver.
We recruit volunteers for a wide range of activities including befriending, gardening, driving, and for the snack shops at Memorial Hospital on Shooter’s Hill and Oxleas House at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich.
People volunteer for a variety of reasons – especially wanting to help others. But it’s also ok for them to want some benefits themselves from their volunteering experience.
For example, volunteering can give people new skills and experience that can help them to find work. And for volunteers who are recovering from mental illness, it can help them to build their confidence and self-esteem, make new friends and gain a sense of purpose.
Volunteers work with our staff as a team and make a positive difference. They provide a personal and human element to patient care and their skills, energy, life experience and commitment all complement trust activities.
Volunteering is not about ‘charity’ and ‘giving’, but involves working together for mutual benefit. It’s about contributing existing skills, learning new skills and brings benefits for both the volunteer and the trust.
If you’d like to find out about opportunities to volunteer, call me, Linda Sanders, on 020 8836 8510.
Shouvik Datta's inspirational story charts his journey from mental illness to a fulfilling life teaching English as a foreign language that has so far taken him to South Korea and Prague in the Czech Republic.
Hello, my name is Shouvik Datta. I teach English as a foreign language and I use Oxleas services.
I first became ill around 1998. I started to think people were talking about me and that the Government was out to get me. I went to see a psychiatrist but I didn’t accept the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
My illness got worse. I left work, and a couple of years later I was sectioned and admitted to hospital. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I started taking medication and using the occupational therapy services. These really helped me to become less alienated.
When I left hospital I started attending Horizon House regularly. It’s a clubhouse that supports people recovering from mental illness and arranges work placements for them. The placements were very important in helping me to build my confidence and communicate with people around me.
I decided to take a course in teaching English as a foreign language and when I passed applied for work abroad. This led to a job in a state elementary school in Incheon, South Korea. This was a really positive experience. I was able to use and develop my teaching skills, make friends and do completely new things like acting in a play and white water rafting. It was challenging, but it really built my confidence about what I was capable of.
Since then I’ve worked back in England and taught English in Prague to professionals at European and American companies and at a state secondary school.
My experiences have taught me that I can communicate with people from different cultures whose first language is not English and that they are interested in me as a person. This has given me self-confidence and I’m looking forward to new challenges in the future.
Sue talks about her illness and the role that Oxleas' Horizon House - where she now works - played in her recovery.
Hello, my name is Sue Clark and I work at Horizon House as a clubhouse support worker. I’ve also used Oxleas services in the past.
I started to become unwell after marriage problems and my husband’s friendship with another woman. I became obsessed with it and things got worse over two years until finally I started smashing up the house. I was arrested three times in a single week and on the third occasion was sectioned and taken to hospital. There I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and put on medication.
During my six weeks in hospital I realised that if I went home I would get ill again and that I didn’t want to return to someone who had been violent towards me for 25 years. So when I left I went into B&B and then into supported housing.
During this time I was supported by a really good CPN – a community psychiatric nurse – who encouraged me to take up volunteering work. I really enjoy talking to people so the work was fun. It also helped me to develop my interest in mental health as I joined the Service User Council and the Board of Trustees at Bromley Mind, the mental health charity.
Volunteering was also good for my CV – I hadn’t worked since 1977 – and after a year I was able to get a job with Mind and come off benefits. I then got a temporary job with Oxleas at Horizon House - a clubhouse that supports people recovering from mental illness and arranges work placements for them. I took the opportunity to train as a HCA – healthcare assistant; however I didn’t get the chance to use my training as I was offered a contract at Horizon House.
Oxleas has supported me throughout my illness and recovery and now at work. I’m currently enjoying being involved with a group of Horizon House members who visit wards to talk to patients about employment opportunities. I’m also enjoying a new life with my partner.
Oxleas employment advisors support service users who are ready to return to work or education. In this film, Frederica Joseph outlines the range of help and advice they provide.
Hello, my name is Frederica Joseph and I am the Community Resources & Employment Coordinator based at the Recovery Team in Greenwich. I manage a team of 5 Employment Advisors who work with clients from the borough of Greenwich.
Employment Advisors give advice, information and support to clients seeking paid employment; volunteering placements or who want to increase their skills thorough training and/or further education.
This includes guidance on areas such as searching for jobs and volunteering opportunities; interview preparation; CV and application writing, and educational options.
For example, one of our advisors is involved with a project in partnership with Greenwich Local Labour and Business and Greenwich Education & Training Advice. The aim of the City Skills Partnership project is to help people claiming incapacity benefits achieve their vocational and educational goals while also increasing mental health awareness in partner agencies.
Once an opportunity has been gained, Employment Advisors continue to support clients by telephone or with practical assistance over an agreed time-period which will depend upon the client's needs.
Preparing for and finding work is often a key stage in recovery from mental illness. One of the ways people can build their confidence and get ready for work is by volunteering, and Oxleas supports people to work through coordinated volunteer schemes. These help people to learn new skills and get used to a work environment and a regular routine.
People can encounter stigma and discrimination when returning to work after mental illness and the trust is determined to overcome this. Oxleas has signed up to the MINDFUL EMPLOYER initiative aimed at challenging discrimination in the workplace, and its Bromley clubhouse Horizon House has forged close links with local employers and arranges work experience placements for its members with them.
Research shows that it is in employers’ interests to hire people who have experienced mental illness as they work harder, are more loyal and less likely to take sickness absence than their colleagues.