Karen on her recovery through volunteering

Karen has volunteered in a variety of roles at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust since 2004 and has recently transitioned back into full-time employment for the first time in 25 years.

My journey into volunteering began from having PTSD, anxiety and depression due to being in the Bishopsgate bomb blast in 1993, and then the aftermath of the Aldwych bus bomb in 1996.

After time, therapy and determination, I started to engage in volunteering at South London and Maudsley, where my first role was at Bethlem Hospital. I helped with gardening sessions for the patients. I started to build my confidence up by realising I could help others by giving a little of my time.

Karen smiles while wearing a navy blue track top
Karen is using her experience to help others

Healing through helping others

Volunteering was making a positive impact on me, and I moved into an indoor administration role for the Volunteering Department, where I currently still volunteer. I have also volunteered on a ward at the Maudsley, taking minutes at the Community Meeting where patients had the chance to air their views, and assisted with pampering sessions where patients were able to have a foot spa, paint their nails, face masks etc.

Right at the beginning I was nervous because I used to get anxiety even being in a small space, but gradually I’ve just felt happier in myself. If I needed to step out, or if I felt that I couldn’t come in, there was no pressure.

I still get my anxiety now before I leave the house – I check the doors and go to the loo about 10 million times. It’s just about knowing that that’s what you do and that you can get through the day despite everything.

Starting a new chapter

I would not have been able to successfully apply for the full-time position at the Trust had I not gone on my journey and followed the road to recovery by volunteering at an organisation that supports mental health. I’m excited because I haven’t worked for so long. I am nervous, but I’ve been given this opportunity, so I look forward to it.

I would like to help make a difference to someone’s life by encouraging them to take that step into volunteering. Everyone is different and has their own pace and level of what they are happy with. But, allowing for any setbacks that might happen, if you keep persevering and have self-determination, there is light at the end of the tunnel.