I began participating in Influence and Participation opportunities, helping to shape Hertfordshire Mind Network services within a year of first accessing their support, following discharge from a lengthy hospital admission.

Having turned up to the Watford Wellbeing Centre one day in crisis, I was introduced to a staff member who was free to offer me some support at that time. From there, as I gained confidence, I began to attend the ‘Share Your Experiences’ meetings, offering my feedback.

I was offered the chance to be involved in interview panels, collaborate on new  courses and having learnt more about my personal struggles with my mental health, I was asked if I would be willing to help write a specific training on ‘Understanding Self Harm’.

With the self harm training written, I was then asked if I would like to co-deliver the training, becoming further involved in Influence and Participation activities.

In May 2022 I joined the team on a paid part time contract. I think I completely underestimated where this role would take me in the next year, but not only that, I have gradually realised the possibilities of where I can go with this role and what I can create within it. I just imagined being tucked in the corner of an office somewhere waiting for staff to email me with requests for service users to be involved in their work. Instead, I now sit in an office with the Marketing, Fundraising and Engagement team writing documents, replying to emails, assisting colleagues, and gradually trying to make Influence and Participation within the charity a bigger and more cohesive process.

Being involved in Influence and Participation at Hertfordshire Mind Network boosted my confidence and self esteem.  Not just my external confidence in regard to relating to other people but also my own confidence in my IT Skills, my organisational skills and my ability to make a difference in the world. It gave me the chance to try smaller commitments first before taking that step back into employment, which I was also able to use to rebuild my CV in preparation for that.

Jenny

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