Dee Cooper, Community Health Champion Volunteer in York on World Mental Health Day

“After being diagnosed with bone cancer in 2017 and having to have my leg amputated, I felt lost in life like I had lost my purpose. I felt a former shadow of myself and the PTSD I was experiencing due to my operation was crippling. I felt I was failing as a mother and I couldn’t function in life, my mental health was hugely suffering. I got involved with the local area coordinator program and it was through this support that I accessed volunteering through the Community Health Champion program. I have found a great passion in being a volunteer through Community Health Champions, it has given me the tools to fight the darkness I was experiencing.

During the Covid lockdowns I decided to exercise over zoom with some people that I knew and it was from this zoom exercise that I discovered a passion for seated exercise. I also have discovered a passion for my own health and well-being and I realised I could achieve this through exercise. With support from the Community Health Champions Programme Manager I managed to complete my level two chair based exercise qualification. After receiving my qualification and lockdowns lifting I started to go out into the community. I managed to set up a small exercise group, meeting weekly we do around 30 minutes of seated exercise together plus time to socialise and catch-up.

The group is a really fun way to get people together, for myself having this group has been a lifeline and being a volunteer has been a lifeline too. Being a volunteer has enabled me to focus on myself and my own mental health and well-being but it’s also enabled me to push boundaries. When I was at my lowest of depression I didn’t want to leave the house. Being a volunteer ensures that I do leave the house and ensures that I do push those boundaries. Volunteering has massively reduced my anxiety and my confidence has grown more each day.

I feel like the Health Champions program has allowed me to be successful in making something of myself. I feel so powerful now, I no longer feel a former shadow of my old self, I feel like a new reborn version of myself. The love and support of all those around me that I have met through my passion for volunteering help to maintain my positive mental health. I’ve now gained further qualifications including my level three exercise instructor and I am moving onto personal training. My life has changed so much, and I know I could not have done it without the support of the Health Champions program and support of local area coordination. I would say to anybody who is facing mental health problems to consider volunteering their time, it really is worth it.”

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