Home / News / Volunteers’ Week, Bob’s Story
Article published on: Monday, 03 June 2024

Volunteers’ Week, 3 to 9 June, is a great opportunity to recognise the fantastic contribution our volunteers make to Buckinghamshire Mind’s services and our communities.

We are delighted to be able to share Bob’s story, who volunteers for Bucks Mind’s Befriending Service:

My story starts 12 years ago when I lost my wife very suddenly to leukaemia. The suddenness, shock and disbelief were too hard to manage and I struggled with how I was going to cope without her. I went into a deep depression and became very sensitive,  cutting off friends and family who seemed to say the most thoughtless things. which I found upsetting.

I was offered CBT and bereavement counselling, but nothing made much difference to the way I felt until I was referred by my GP to the Befriending service at Bucks Mind.

When I first met Mike, my Befriender, I know I was hard work because I felt so down. He was understanding and patient and gradually started to ask about my week and if anything good had happened. He made me realise that if I could find one or two happy things to focus on, it could take the edge off the sadness a little bit.

Bob sitting on a sofa and looking at the camera, smiling.

I did some planting in the garden and was proud to show Mike what was growing. Doing something positive helped my attitude change from being sad all the time, but it took Mike’s encouragement and he was the best guy to help me with my mental health.

I did wonder how I would cope with the Befriending partnership ending after six months, as I knew I may still have bad times. But Mike was very clear about when we would finish and reminded me I was in a better position and I could have a positive future. We had tea and cake to celebrate the ending.

So, I decided to see if I could volunteer as a Befriender myself and it has been one of the best things I have done. I have worked with six people who have all been different; men, women and various ages with different issues, some that I have found hard to understand but I never judge or tell them what to do.

I try to understand their issues with life, ask how they feel and help them to find their own solutions. I try and give people the space to open up, gain their trust and might suggest ideas.

It is not always easy but it is mostly successful and one person in particular is doing amazingly now, having been so scared and unable to get out. She really appreciated having a laugh.

When people are reluctant to go out for whatever reason, I will gently encourage them, suggest we go a short way together to start with and perhaps eventually go further. It’s small steps but one person was able to walk to Sainsburys on her own eventually and that made me feel so good!

If there were more Befrienders in the world it would be a better place. I sometimes struggle with wanting to help too much, but just making someone laugh can be a good tonic – and can help change their mindset just a little from totally negative and down. Life can feel more worth living and you can find something good. But you have to read people and it has to be appropriate. You have to be sad with them sometimes.

I’m a lot happier now, though I still have occasional down patches. Being part of Bucks Mind really helps -I feel valued, appreciated and useful and like I’m held in high esteem because I’ve come a long way. I love meeting the other volunteers and feeling part of something.

Thank you so much to Bob and all our wonderful volunteers. We simply could not deliver our wide range of mental health services without them.

Translate »