Great Yarmouth and Waveney Mind volunteer said charity helped him rebuild life
PUBLISHED: 10:51 12 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:51 12 August 2013
Mind mental health companion Jamie Dalton says volunteering is a great way to give back to the charity that once supported him through bouts of depression, anxiety and homelessness.
The 44-year-old originally from Staines, London, has been a volunteer at Great Yarmouth and Waveney Mind for six months, having once battled with mental health issues himself.
Jamie first remembers struggling with depression and anxiety when he discovered there had been complications during an operation on his disabled daughter.
Born with both scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, and genetic disorder Turner Syndrome, Jamie’s daughter has spent her life in and out of hospital.
“When she was younger she had to undergo a series of spinal operations, which was worrying enough, but when one went wrong, her lung collapsed, and I feared for her life.
“That’s when I began to withdraw from the world and mentally breakdown,” he says.
Shortly after this, Jamie found himself in another life-changing situation – he was evicted from his home. Unexpectedly homeless, it was then that he decided to make a fresh start in a place where he had fond holiday memories - Great Yarmouth.
Seeking help from the area’s local charitable housing association, Herring House Trust, Jamie was able to find a home and was also referred to Mind. “At the time I felt completely isolated and alone and was so thankful to find Mind. They taught me that I matter and helped me regain my confidence to re-join to world.”
Today, Jamie says he is fully recovered and his daughter, now 16, is doing well.
“I decided to volunteer at Mind because the people of Great Yarmouth have been so accepting of who I am.
“I wanted to give something back to the community, in particular the charity that once helped me.
“On a personal level, I also understand what it’s like to feel isolated and mentally broken, so believe I’m in a great position to support others having lived it myself.”
Since his time working for the charity, Jamie has become fully qualified in mental health awareness and has recently become a companion to a young man with severe mental health issues and difficulties integrating with society.
Volunteering every Wednesday Jamie takes him out for coffee, nature walks or simply chats.
“I’m basically there to be a friend for him; I encourage him to get out of the house, into social situations and try to help him enjoy his day,” Jamie explains.
Although recovery from a mental illness will never happen suddenly, Jamie says he’s already seen signs of improvement: “Just recently, I was able to make him smile for the first time since working with him, which was fantastic to see.”
Jamie has also qualified as a teacher’s assistant and says he’d love to work with children one day, especially those with disabilities.
He also works unpaid in a café and plays in a rock and roll band.
He is finding it hard to secure paid work, and worries it may be because of his mental health history and gap in his CV.
He added: “When I come across those who are nervous or hesitant about seeking support, I just tell them my story. I find people really appreciate how open and honest I am and it helps them set out on a path to recovery.”