Joanna Poole is an Expert by Experience Leader with Rethink, a charity working to improve the lives of people who are severely affected by mental illness. Here, she explains how her own experience with mental health led to her becoming a volunteer and helping others on their road to recovery.
“I was motivated to volunteer as I wanted to do something useful and give back to the mental health service that has helped me for so many years.
“I am on the Open Mental Health (OMH) Partnership Board and my role has a specific focus on advancing mental health equality. I am also helping to deliver the Rural Communities Project which aims to improve access to mental health services for the farming communities.
"I haven't been able to have a career because of my mental ill health but my volunteer role has presented me with lots of incredible opportunities.
"Once every three months I attend learning days at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London. I speak at conferences and other meetings about my lived experience, and try to motivate people to get involved with OMH.
"Thanks to my volunteering, I am busy, fulfilled and feel part of a community that I really care about. I am doing things I never dreamt of, especially speaking to loads of people at a conference.
“I would recommend that others volunteer as it's so good for your wellbeing and you get to meet amazing people every day. Even If only in a small way, you can change the world for the better!
“I'm really thankful for the chance to volunteer in the mental health services in Somerset. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!”
Alex Nelson, Co-production Officer at Rethink, comments:
“Jo has been volunteering with Open Mental Health/Rethink for over two years. She is an advocate for advancing mental health equalities and a voice of lived experience. In her role, she's reached many communities and individuals. The OMH alliance would be a very different place without Jo's contribution, and the Expert by Experience Leader team wouldn't be the same without her.”
Rethink is a member of Open Mental Health, an alliance of organisations working together to ensure that people living with mental health problems get the support they need, when they need it.
If Joanna's story has inspired you to get involved in volunteering, click on the link below to see the current opportunities available within Open Mental Health.