Helen first started struggling with her mental health as a teenager in the 1980’s. At the time mental health was not discussed or understood as it is now. This resulted in Helen not sharing her experiences or getting the support she needed from an early age. Despite these challenges, Helen left school at 16 and pursued a varied career that took her from banking, to local government to working in the NHS. Throughout her adult life, Helen has had to cope with recurrent depression and anxiety.
Earlier this year Helen found herself living in temporary Bed & Breakfast accommodation and without work. It was a chance encounter at her local Job Centre that Helen heard of GL11. “I had a meeting with my Job Coach and at the same time as my appointment Lucy and Tristan from the GL11 GEM team had a stand at the Centre. I started chatting to them and found them both very friendly and approachable. We discussed the possibility of volunteering at GL11 and was also told all about the various activities and groups running there”, reflects Helen. “I visited the Hub soon after and from the moment I walked through the door I felt welcomed and included. I started attending the weekly Choir group and then asked about volunteering. I met with Sandra, GL11’s Volunteering & Wellbeing Co-ordinator. Because of Sandra’s warm and friendly manner, I immediately felt comfortable and at ease and was able to discuss my difficulties and why I wanted to volunteer”.
“Helen came to GL11 when she was going through a dark time in her life”, explains Sandra Longstreth, GL11’s Volunteering & Wellbeing Co-ordinator. “Helen was feeling low, had little confidence and was desperate to feel wanted again. I met with Helen on a 121 basis initially, helping her to feel more relaxed and finding out what she enjoyed doing. Helen is passionate about helping and supporting people, so volunteering was the perfect way forward”.
After several 121 meetings, Helen’s confidence had increased and together she and Sandra decided that the Invisible Illness group held on a Monday afternoon was a “good fit” for her. Kath, Invisible Illness group leader adds “Helen is a fantastic help to us all. Always quick to help and support anyone in need, wherever it is physical or emotional support. Helen is always smiling, positive and with a lovely sense of humour. Nothing is too much trouble for her! We love having her in the group, she is a real treasure!”.
“Since attending GL11, firstly as a Choir member and since July as a volunteer”, adds Helen, “I have been able to regain my confidence and self-esteem. I feel as if I’m beginning to get back on my feet after an extremely distressing period in my life.
I also volunteer at the Barnwood Trust and Teckels Animal Sanctuary and love giving something back. Volunteering has been a lifeline for me and without it I daren’t think how I’d be feeling now. GL11 is a friendly place full of warmth, care, compassion, empathy, understanding and inclusivity. GL11 may be a Community Hub, but I would also say it’s the Hub of the Community”.
Invisible Illnesses Group
GL11’s Invisible Illnesses Group aims to offer a relaxed atmosphere for those that suffer from any invisible illnesses (such as Fibromyalgia, M.E, depression). Meetings take place every Monday afternoon during term time where participants get to meet with others, share experiences, develop friendships and spend time unwinding with optional arts and crafts activities.