Chats with Charlie: a MindOut Online Support volunteer

What is your volunteer role?

Online Support Volunteer

When did you start volunteering?

June 2020

What inspired you to volunteer for MindOut?

I’ve always wanted to volunteer for an LGBTQ charity, although due to work commitments I could never find the time to commit to the training. Then, in 2020 I found myself in the middle of a pandemic, on furlough and with all the time in the world! As a cis gendered gay man, I knew that I held significant privileges that many of my trans, non-binary and gender queer counterparts haven’t been afforded. It’s clear to me that we made significant progress in society with LGBTQ rights, but a part of our community has been left behind. It was time for me to do something about that in my own small way. For me it was about quiet, regular activism that makes an impact to people who need support.

How would you describe MindOut’s volunteer training?

The training MindOut provide is great – it’s broad and covers a wide range of subjects. It doesn’t stop once you start volunteering and is a continuous learning process. Plus – it’s free to volunteers! You can’t argue with that, can you?

What is rewarding about volunteering for you?

There is a lot that is rewarding about volunteering at MindOut, but the positive feedback from service users is particularly important to me. I also really value the honest conversations I have with other volunteers too – they’re a great bunch.

Is having a shared lived experience of being LGBTQ/having mental health challenges important to you?

I really believe it is. I think it allows you to connect and empathise with service users. A shared understanding of lived experience around mental health puts you on a level playing field with the people you connect with. Hopefully it allows us to create a safe space where we can throw any and all judgement out the window.

How has volunteering online been for you during lockdown?

It’s given me routine! I like to plan. I’m an organiser. Always on time. Everything colour coded (you should see my sock drawer). So, volunteering gave me structure and helped me to remember the day of the week.

Do you feel that you’ve grown as a person through volunteering?

Without a shadow of a doubt. The conversations I’ve had, whether online or in training, sometimes require you to be vulnerable. And I think that when we open ourselves up to being vulnerable, we might find that’s when we grow the most.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering for MindOut?

Do it! There is strength in numbers.

Anything else you would like to say?

On second thoughts, you probably don’t want to see my sock drawer…