Volunteers’ Week 2020: Jessica’s story

05 Jun 2020


I started volunteering with Sheffield Flourish about a month before the coronavirus pandemic swept the UK. I was just beginning to find my feet within the art group, CAST, which usually runs on a Monday afternoon, when everything came to an abrupt halt and lockdown began.

For our members, the various enterprises and groups that run within the Sheffield Flourish umbrella give structure, support and interaction to people struggling with their mental health, within a friendly and creative environment.

The loss of the physical aspect of our services has been extremely difficult for some. People living with mental health problems are often socially isolated already and we have seen their problems worsen as the months have passed. We expect this to continue as we move into recovery but the importance and effectiveness of staying in touch with as many people as possible is clear. The digital world has proven crucial for this.

We have kept in contact with our members through weekly phone calls, email and Monday afternoon Zoom sessions, replacing our regular weekly group at CAST. This format, alien to us all at first, now provides a comfortable space where we can chat, laugh and share while being able to see each other.

We have just introduced some virtual creative art sessions into the Monday mix of activities and the first class was a great success. Some of our members find it difficult to create by themselves and it’s wonderful to see how the virtual space can replicate the studio and enable creativity.

Some phone calls are not always easy to make as people struggle with the new reality, but it feels like a privilege to talk to people about their issues. We can listen to them and gradually get to know them in a way that would never have happened under normal circumstances. A few members are managing to benefit from this strange new world and it’s a joy to be able to witness this and share in the positives. And then to be able to share a virtual space with them and my fellow volunteers - is extraordinary.

As a self-employed person whose work has largely been closed down by coronavirus, volunteering for Sheffield Flourish has been an unexpected silver lining. It’s important for me to be part of something positive during this pandemic and I’m thankful we have the digital technology to keep delivering much appreciated support to our members - for however long is necessary.

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You can find out more about Sheffield Flourish through its website including information about its enterprises and local people’s mental health stories. Sheffield Flourish also runs the Sheffield Mental Health Guide, which provides information about mental health services, activities and support in Sheffield. 

During Covid-19 the Sheffield Mental Health Guide is now the coordination point for service updates relating to covid-19 in adult mental health services, children and young people’s mental health services and general support (relating to mental health) in Sheffield to provide up-to-date service information. If you’re from Sheffield you can also call 0114 273 7009 or email info@sheffieldflourish.co.uk to speak to an Information Coordinator at Sheffield Flourish who can help you find support.