What it’s Like Working for a Mental Health Charity
I’m very proud to work for Hertfordshire Mind Network as their Senior Marketing & Wellbeing Access Officer. My role involves updating our website and social media channels, as well as creating digital and printed materials, such as posters, leaflets and adverts. I also organise and attend community events, presentations, webinars, digital events and conferences—actively promoting the charity and our partners/funders where necessary.
I started here in September 2021, but my first charity job was for Groundwork East back in 2018, where I began as a volunteer marketing assistant. This progressed into a paid role and gave me the invaluable experience I needed to get my next position, marketing assistant for National Animal Welfare Trust in 2019.
I spent two years at this wonderful animal charity, but I’d always wanted to work in mental health. Having suffered from psychosis in 2016, I realised during my recovery that I wanted to help other people overcome mental illness.
This brings me on to lived experience, which in my opinion is one of the best things about working for a mental health charity. It’s so valued internally and shapes everything that we do. On every single one of our job application packs, one of the desirable parts of the person specification is lived experience.
I personally have a condition called schizoaffective disorder, which I manage daily through anti-psychotic medication. I’m lucky that my support network includes my line manager, who’s checked with me several times to see they need to make any adjustments for my role. This simple gesture gives me enormous comfort and peace of mind. It also makes me feel confident that if I did ever struggle and needed support, my employer would be very empathetic and understanding.
This year I’ve been invited to help write and present our upcoming ‘psychosis and schizophrenia’ training course and I’m really looking forward to this.
Diversity and adaptability
Another thing I love about working for a mental health charity is how varied the roles are that my colleagues do. This really reflects the diversity and adaptability of our organisation. As well as the more office-based roles (marketing, fundraising, finance, HR, admin etc.), we have crisis support workers, hospital outreach workers, children and young people coordinators, refugee outreach workers and many more.
Many of our staff work with caseloads too, so they’re constantly out in the local community helping our clients. I have a lot of respect for them, as this involves dealing with difficult situations such as domestic abuse, homelessness, and people who are experiencing suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. These, of course, can be hard to deal with every week and emotionally draining.
Luckily we practice what we preach, as staff mental wellbeing is always a top priority with our senior management team. We have a monthly ‘wellbeing hour’ over Microsoft Teams, and there’s a huge amount of training and support available internally, in addition to regular one-to-ones. There are also weekly yoga sessions and a choir, so plenty of things to choose from.
Positive, flexible culture
I must mention the fantastic culture as well. This is a breath of fresh air for someone like me who used to work in the corporate sector. All our staff, volunteers and trustees are incredibly passionate about mental health, and we definitely bounce off each other’s enthusiasm and positive energy.
We’re fortunate to be able to work flexible hours and I think this helps with morale. For example, I attend a men’s mental health football group every Wednesday, which always does wonders for my mood. Then I’ll make up the hours during the rest of the week, starting earlier or finishing later to ensure I get my work done.
There is further flexibility available for me through working from home on occasion. I prefer this every now and then when I have a big task that requires a lot of focus. Lastly, we have made the most of staff social opportunities since coming out of the pandemic. We had a picnic in the park last summer that was loads of fun. Our Christmas party was well attended last year and we also like to socialise within our smaller teams wherever possible.
Collaboration with colleagues
I feel lucky to have had many highlights of my time working at a mental health charity so far. My personal favourites are the chances to collaborate with colleagues. My induction was full of insightful shadowing sessions, including spending an evening with a volunteer from the Nightlight Crisis Helpline and learning about that service in action.
I’ve been able to rely on my colleagues’ participation when it comes to social media awareness days. Last year for World Mental Health Day, lots of us had our pictures taken holding up a ‘pledge’ we promised to make. I had plenty of excellent contributions like, ‘I pledge to normalise men talking about their mental health.’ The posts had great engagement and were our most liked, commented and shared, which was really heart-warming.
I am biased, but I firmly believe you can’t go wrong working for a mental health charity. Some of our staff started as service users and/or volunteers, so we have a number of nice stories when it comes to their journeys. It’s a truly great cause to work for and I’ve found it extremely fulfilling.
James Lindsay has worked in the charity sector for more than five years in various marketing roles, starting off as a volunteer. He is now Senior Marketing & Wellbeing Access Officer for Hertfordshire Mind Network, a mental health charity affiliated with national Mind. He also likes to get involved with mental health causes in any way he can, by using his lived experience to help others, raise awareness and reduce stigma. You can get in touch with him on social media, visit his website or order his book.
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