Making a Difference: Tina’s ‘Befriending’ Journey | Our blog

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Making a Difference: Tina’s ‘Befriending’ Journey

Tina’s journey to becoming a befriending volunteer at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust began with a desire to make an impact in her community, especially in the realm of mental health. "Witnessing friends and family members struggle with their mental health made me realise the importance of support systems," she shares. "I wanted to contribute positively and provide companionship to those who might feel isolated or lonely." The Trust's reputation for excellence in mental health care reassured Tina that she would be volunteering in a well-supported and impactful environment. 

Creating Meaningful Interactions 

A typical interaction with a service user involves a mix of structured activities and open-ended conversation, tailored to the individual's needs and interests. "We might start with a casual chat over a cup of tea, discussing their week, interests, or any concerns they might have," Tina explains.

Depending on their preferences, we might engage in activities such as playing board games, doing arts and crafts, or even just sitting together and talking. The key is to provide a friendly, non-judgmental space where they feel valued and heard.

Overcoming Challenges 

Tina has faced challenges in her role as a befriending volunteer, particularly in building trust with service users who might have had negative experiences with relationships in the past. "This can make them hesitant to open up," she notes. "To overcome this, I’ve learned to be patient and consistent, showing up reliably and maintaining a positive, supportive attitude." 

Another challenge is dealing with her own emotional responses to the difficult stories and situations service users share. "To manage this, I utilise supervision sessions offered by the Trust, where I can discuss my experiences and receive guidance and support" Tina adds. 

Making a Difference 

Tina has witnessed several positive changes in the service users she befriends. "Many have expressed that they feel less isolated and more connected, which is a significant step towards improved mental health," she says.

One particular service user mentioned that our regular meetings gave them something to look forward to each week, which helped lift their mood and motivate them to engage in other aspects of their life. 

These small but significant changes reinforce the importance of Tina’s role and the positive impact of befriending. "It’s incredibly rewarding to see the difference a little companionship can make," she reflects. 

Learning and Growth 

Through her experiences, Tina has learned a great deal about empathy, patience, and the importance of human connection. "I’ve become more aware of the diverse ways mental health issues can manifest and affect individuals differently," she shares.

This role has taught me the value of active listening and being present for someone without trying to 'fix' their problems.

On a personal level, Tina has gained greater resilience and emotional intelligence. "I’ve learned to manage my own feelings while supporting others," she says.

Overall, this experience has deepened my understanding of mental health and strengthened my commitment to supporting those who struggle with it.

If you’d like to find out about volunteering opportunities at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, visit our volunteering page.