Our Place are celebrating Volunteers Week. This week is all about expressing our gratitude towards the individuals that contribute their time and experience into making the organisation what it is.
Amanda joined Our Place as a child mentor during the first national lockdown. There’s a lot of similarities with her own business, as an adult mental health trainer. Her volunteering and work overlap, as they both maintain her strong interests in enabling people to be their best. She has a clear passion and seriousness for helping people understand their mental health and increase their mental fitness. Amanda feels that Our Place does amazing things: the passion in the team shines through for her, and she credits Kelly for being the inspiration that got her involved with mentoring.
When asked about whether she has faced any surprises working as a volunteer mentor, Amanda says “how enjoyable it is!” She notes that the support you receive from Our Place on top of the mentoring role is fantastic. Despite an unpredictable year and the disruptions the pandemic has caused, she feels mentoring over zoom has actually created opportunities. “Lockdown has made me appreciate the possibilities of things”, she says, and has underlined the importance of being able to face situations positively, with a “yes, if…” rather than a “no, because…” attitude. It is not so black and white anymore: previously you would have had to take time out and cancel mentoring sessions if you couldn’t to do it in person, but the mentoring team have adapted to the new normal.
Amanda describes mentoring as creating an environment for someone to come and talk. It’s not about the amount of time you can give to an individual, but about the quality of that time and the safety of the space you provide. There is a lot of self-value to gain from mentoring too, as it gives you the feeling of achieving something good. “Being in that mentoring moment with somebody, it’s not tangible, but you know you are in the right place at the right time.” Not only does mentoring offer an opportunity to empower others and help them figure out who they are and want to be, but the subjects that Amanda talks about with her mentees also causes a lot of reflection and consideration of her own life and parenting.
Amanda was born, grew up, and lives in Lichfield. There’s a sincere and fulfilling connection to the place, with the tip of the cathedral just in view from her home. She has a vision of a mentally healthy city. Her work is oriented around creating a future where individuals feel like they are enough and can grow. For her, being a mentor is a step towards that ambition. She would love to get back to connecting with local businesses, emphasising that there is a great significance in employers appreciating their employees’ mental health. A knowledge of and respect for mental health, if applied in the workplace and schools, will have a reverberating impact.
“We need to start shifting the conversation. Mental health doesn’t mean negative mental health and should be talked about in a positive way. We only think about it when we’re struggling. Poor mental health doesn’t mean mental illness. We have all felt stressed and anxious throughout the pandemic.” We need to think about mental health in a positive way because, as Amanda says, “negativity sticks to us like velcro, positivity is like teflon.” A point she wants everyone to keep with them is to appreciate when you have a good day and not immediately forget about it. There is a lot of hope that, through the work of mentors like Amanda, we will become a society that understands mental health and cares for it like any other physical part of our body.