If you have experienced struggles with mental health and feel you are in strong place to help others who are fighting, please be in touch. You will need to:
- Be strongly committed to helping others
- Have experienced mental health issues in order to relate to those seeking help
- Be willing to talk about your own experiences
Talking about your struggles is hard, and we therefore only accept volunteers who can be candid about their experiences and willing to devote time to helping this cause.
This isn't for everyone, so we urge you to think carefully about volunteering. Don't feel bad if you can't, like I said, talking about this is tough, we totally get it. You can always help in other ways, so if you have an idea for fundraising or have suggestions for the website please be in touch!
I now find myself as the Volunteer Manager for My Black Dog, but the journey to get here has been a long and sometimes painful one. This journey has taken me through a career in both IT and Hospitality, working with some of the biggest FTSE 100 companies and working at some of the biggest events (Olympics, Wimbledon, Royal Ascot). During this time, I have made mistakes, plenty, but have always learnt and come back stronger, and become a far better person and Manager for those mistakes. Throughout it all, I have battled with depression and anxiety since my late teens, it has shaped how I dealt with things in both my work life and personal, my friendships and more importantly my opinion of myself.
Covid and lockdowns have all impacted our lives this year, it gave me time to reflect and once I was made redundant, forced me to look at where I wanted to be in my career now. I volunteered for My Black Dog as a way to find some routine in my week, and to give support to those who needed it, a support that when I was at my lowest I couldn’t get.
Lockdown made me realise how passionate I am about Mental Health, and whilst we talk about it more openly now, we still need to back those words up with actions. Working for My Black Dog allows me to have a positive change on people's lives, with actions and words.
So, my journey brings me to a new location, but it's one that finally feels like home, like I actually belong here and that I can make a difference.
With the help of Niki and the wonderful team of volunteers, we aim to grow this organisation and ensure more people experience empathy not sympathy when trying to deal with their mental health.
Five years ago, I knew that there were things going on in my mind that I didn’t understand, I’d feel really low for no conceivable reason. On the outside things were good, supportive family and decent job but this feeling kept coming to the surface. I (wrongly) buried these feelings for years until they came flooding to the surface. I began to feel like I was failing at everything I was doing, I dreaded waking up each day. Things got really bad over a period of weeks, building to one day where I physically couldn’t pick myself up off the floor. At this point I knew I needed to get help as it was having an effect on my family. I initially spoke to a GP who diagnosed me with Depression and Anxiety, I was prescribed some medication and also referred for CBT therapy. It took time but gradually I started to feel a bit like my old self.
The reasonI volunteer for My Black Dog is that I want to help people who were in a similar position to myself. I want to turn my experience into something positive and help in any way that I can. I hate the thought of people feeling as low and helpless as I did on my darkest day. It’s a great charity to volunteer for, it’s different in being an online chat, we’re there for people who may not understand what they are feeling or haven’t said it out loud. We have a great support network for the volunteers, a hands-on volunteer manager and a fantastic, approachable CEO.
I have been volunteering for My Black Dog since Summer 2020. I have lived with my mental ill health for the past thirteen years since I lost my dad after a very short and unexpected illness. I had always been very strong and coped with two divorces and three children as a single parent, alongside a full-time job and studying for a degree. Then I lost my dad and my whole world fell apart. I think the truth was I’d been too strong and too independent for too long and this was my mind and my body’s way of telling me to take some time out. So I did. Well I had to. I had three months off from work. It felt the right length of time and I returned and was fine for quite a long time. Over the past thirteen years I have been on and off my medication (sometimes with my GPs support and sometimes not…another story…big mistake…never do this) and I have had some real highs and some horrible lows.
In January 2019 I had a complete breakdown. I was being bullied at work, a relationship I was in ended, and I didn’t get a new job I interviewed for and really wanted. I hit rock bottom. At that point I accepted that I needed help and medication. Both of which I will never refuse again. My GP asked me once, after I’d stopped my medication stating I felt better (work that one out!), if I would resist medication for a heart condition? Obviously, I said no. So he explained that I may have a chemical imbalance in my brain which causes my depression, so why was I resisting medication to help myself? It’s stuck with me and now I have accepted that I may need to be on the medication for the rest of my life. If it helps me be me, then that’s just fine.
I enjoy volunteering for My Black Dog, as I think speaking to a real person who has actually had mental health issues and understands is invaluable. We all speak from genuine experience. We will tell you what worked for us and what didn’t. We may have met with a number of counsellors/therapists before we found the right one too. And that’s fine.
During my online chats, I have met a wealth of very interesting people, all ages, from all walks of life. I have learnt from them too.
The training I received before I was let loose was great, really informative, and the ongoing support from our managers and each other is wonderful. I can’t recommend MBD enough!
July 20th 2015 the start of my journey. I was in a life changing accident which has left me disabled Down the whole of my right side of my body. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD and Clinical depression, with having dark thoughts and feelings. I treated everyone with complete contempt. I hated the world and everything in it. I was like many of us put on medication and just surviving. I went to counselling at first all I could do was cry and hate. Slowly I became more responsive to the therapy and started to believe I still had a purpose in this world. I needed something to focus on, a goal to achieve. I realised that if I could feel better with a goal or something to focus on others could too. From that moment I knew I had to help others with mental health issues. I started to set up my own charity which involved linking physical exercise and mental health, which helped me by releasing endorphins in the body. If I could help just one person I knew I had achieved something. Sadly the charity had to fold due to the lack of funding. I still had a passion to help others so I went on a search for organisations helping sufferers of mental health. One day on virgin radio I heard about My Black Dog, I looked them up and upon reading their cause I was hooked, I wanted and needed to get involved I applied and thankfully I was accepted. The work of the volunteers is outstanding the support they give to others is so understanding and true. I’m now onboard and joining other volunteers talking to the ones in need. The work that MBD is doing has helped others to change their journey. I had help and support through my own on going journey that I needed to give back, so thank you MBD for being here and giving me another purpose to live.
Our volunteer, Terry, has also kindly contributed to our blog, you can read his story here
Hello, my name is Demelza and I’m a volunteer for My Black Dog. In 2016 I reached breaking point on my mental health which had in hindsight been building up for several years. The dam broke and I experienced a major depressive episode, suicidal thoughts and was offered voluntary sectioning. After a few years of therapy, medication and slowly rebuilding my life and health I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an underlying condition. Today I am happy, healthy and managing my condition well. I have a really fun and full life whilst also having found a new found empathy for and understanding of the struggles that we all face at some point in our lives. Although the more “formal” therapies undoubtedly helped me get to where I am today as part of the overall mix, I can also unequivocally say that talking to and feeling heard by friends, and also at times complete strangers who just “got” mental health, along the way was a massive contributor to my recovery. Of the many things that mental illness can make you feel, it can make you feel very alone, when actually it is one of the most universal human experiences and there are so many people out there who feel just like you. I joined My Black Dog as a volunteer because I wanted to return the gift that other people had given me, of just listening, not judging and supporting me in my recovery.
I have struggled with anxiety since my teens. The overbearing sense of worry and fear, like something bad is going to happen. My heart would start to race and my breathing would become rapid. My anxiety has and always be a burden, but I am beginning to control it. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere and can really affect social situations. At the age of 19, I also had my first experience of depression. To begin with, it was intermittent and I thought I could deal with it alone until it took a hold of me and wouldn't let me go. I was easily irritated and would isolate in my room and find solace in the feeling of emptiness that ate me from the inside. Depression was my only companion and it felt like it would last for an eternity. I broke my silence when I spoke to a counsellor at university and it felt so good to talk about my feelings and the thoughts of wanting to go to sleep and never waking up. That moment marked the first step in my recovery. After speaking to my GP and talking to a therapist I began to cut the ties with my black dog. Sometimes it pops back up and visits me, especially during the Coronavirus lockdown, but now I have the tools and the people around me to drag myself out of the darkness when I feel myself slipping.
Volunteering for MBD:
My whole journey with My Black Dog has been outstanding. I began in January and was one of the first volunteers to join the team and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon! Aside from the wholesome feeling of helping others, the experience has also helped me too. It reminds me that I am NEVER alone when it comes to mental health and the people who we speak to inspire us to continue volunteering. For most of the people we speak to, we may be the first person they have spoken to about their mental health and we all know how hard that first step is and their strength is inspiring. The team is absolutely fantastic too. Niki is so supportive and understanding of all of us and is always checking in on how we are doing and it's amazing to have that support. The volunteers are great too. I think of us as a community as we talk to each other both during and outside of operating hours. Our experience of mental illness creates a bond between us and we can rely on each other when times are tough. If you are thinking of volunteering with My Black Dog, I couldn't recommend it enough!
Hi, my name is Richard and I'm a volunteer for My Black Dog. About 4 years ago after two major personal incidents, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and went through some dark times and went to some very dark places. After trials with multiple medications and face to face counselling, I found help with online chat therapy which was amazing for someone who isn't brilliant in social situations. I now manage my conditions with a combination of exercise, mediation and journaling which all work great for me. For the majority of my adult life I looked at people with mental health issues with a judgemental eye. It wasn't until I had mental health issues of my own that I was able to understand and empathise. I believe greatly that connecting with people who have been through similar experiences to yourself is of huge benefit. This is my main reason for joining My Black Dog.
At the age of 17 I started to suffer from depression. I spent a large chunk of the end of my teenage years in bed alone not wanting to live this life anymore. I felt empty and numb like I wasn’t even alive. I stopped doing things, I isolated myself from everyone and went to a place I never want to go back to. I also dealt with a lot of social anxiety, body dysmorphia and self-harm. After having my mum repeatedly beg me to get help, I finally decided to see a therapist and eventually went on medication to get me to a point where I was able to help myself. I began to build up healthier coping mechanisms and started to relearn to love myself. Four years later and I'm able to go out and socialise, travel, make plans for my future and most importantly I’m kind to myself. I still have days when I’m scared I’m back at 17 but I hold on to hope and love and take things one step at a time. If I didn’t reach out for help when I did I don’t know what would have happened.
My Black Dog is a beautiful platform encouraging people to talk. Through volunteering, it has enabled me to support those that are in a similar position of struggling. After my first chat with a service user I knew this was what I was meant to be doing. Being able to listen to someone and having them open up to you is one thing, but then being told that you have given them hope is something even more incredible. Being in such dark times myself to then being able to do this is something I’m most proud of. I am so thankful for organisations like My Black Dog and amazing people like Niki for supporting people who feel like they can’t speak to anyone else. We all need each other whether we know it or not. Life is so fragile and yet so beautiful. If you’re in a position in which you can use your own experiences to help others, I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s a beautiful thing to have the opportunity and to be healthy enough to do this.