By Jacob de Figueiredo
Just trying to do my bit.
The last year for me as been one that I don’t think anyone could have really predicted and If you think you could have, pretty dark prediction man, sort it out.
I just wanted to not think about advertising and try something selfless that I’d never even considered doing before, so I set my sights on looking for some local volunteer work around the Hemel Hempstead area. I’ve never done or, if I’m being honest, ever even considered dipping my toe into the volunteering waters but after about 20 minutes of reading the benefits it can have; stuff like keeping the brain mentally stimulated, providing purpose if you’re feeling lost, helping to combat depression and helps you build connections and build on your own personal confidence. I’m a big believer that you never know what’s gunna happen if you just take a chance on something and see where about you end up and to be honest sometimes it’s just nice to be nice for the sake of being nice, ya know.
After a bit of searching on the Internet and staring in awe at the amount of ‘volunteer office admin’ vacancies available, I thought maybe my split second thought about potentially doing something nice had come to a anti climatic end and I was destined to spend the next year lost and afraid, but luckily I managed to sweet talk my way into a position with the NHS. (My mum knew someone who said she’d give me a trail day.)
Writing this now and thinking back to before I started my volunteer stuff is pretty incredible, feels a little bit like some weird messed up dream and I’ve only just woken up now and it’s nearly time to go back to school and like did any of it even happen.
I ended up getting volunteering for the NHS Acute Day Treatment Unit acting a support worker for people who suffer from drug-induced psychosis, depression and anxiety.
At this point, when I started working there it was gunna go either one of 2 ways. I’d gain closer and sense of purpose being apart of peoples recovery process and develop a new lease on life… ooooorr…. Spiral slowly yet aggressively into a real pit of disappear that I can’t seem to escape from. So I was a little bit concerned when I first started, as I wasn’t exactly in the right mindset myself.
But, without a shadow of a doubt, it was the greatest thing I’ve ever done and my proudest accomplishment. No question.
I was the youngest person there by about 20 years, which was both a blessing and a curse. Older patients didn’t trust me, but younger ones were able to open up in a way, which wasn’t really possible before. As you’d expect, that industry is very female orientated and having a 23-year-old lad in the mix was a nice dynamic, I like to think anyway.
I started off just 1 day a week; it was all I could handle really. I mean, some of the stories and experiences some of these people have been through is stuff that will haunt me for life, in kind of a good way. Helps you remember that you’ve got a beating heart beneath all that superficial stuff and a brain that wants nothing more than to help these people. I do believe that if anyone’s put into a situation where someone’s pouring his or her heart out, exposing their pain and suffering your first response is to help, right? Humans are naturally compassionate creatures and it’s something I’d lost touch of a little bit.
I would hide in the toilet for a solid 10 minutes just to take in what I’d heard come out of someone’s mouth, stuff like childhood abuse, suicide methods, debts, failed businesses, loss of loved ones. Heavy stuff, but stuff that exists and is constantly happening all around us, stuff that nobody is above or immune to.
My mates really couldn’t believe I was working there, especially when I started to get more responsibilities and do more shifts. I’ll just say I’m not one to turn down a party so a lot of them believed I was actually a patient there, like Leonardo di Caprio in Shutter Island. And part of me kinda believed them… there was one time where I was working and a nurse had just started one of her first shifts so she wasn’t familiar with any of the staff members. We’d just had an email explaining about a new patient that would be with us for the day that matched a very similar physical description as me: Tall, brown hair, thin, young male.
We’ll call this guy ‘John’ was the sake of confidentiality.
I decided to take my NHS security tag off in order to play table tennis with another patient when I feel a hand tap me on the shoulder.
“Hey John, I’m one of the nurses here, it’s time for your medication.”
I thought, what is happening, so I replied,
“err… My name’s Jacob I’m a support worker here.”
“Ok John, we’ll talk about it later. Let’s go take your medication.”
God knows why but I just starting walking with her automatically and thought, ‘maybe this is it, maybe I am a patient called john.’
I quickly snapped out of it and ran to get my tag to show her that I genuinely did work there and wasn’t gunna become a patient that easily, no sir.
Bit of a tangent, but I thought it was pretty funny.
I learned so, so much there. Teachings and learning’s that I’ll share in another SCAB. I thought it was my calling for a while, the feeling you get from being apart of someone’s recovery process and watching them smile as they leave the building for the last time is one that’s incomparable.
I’ll just leave you guys with these two…
Nobody can help how their brain works and it’s scary how similar advertising and mental health are.