Change Together volunteer Stephen Baynes talks about his experience of challenging mental health stigma in the community through conversation with people at events in Hackney, as part of a Time to Change-funded project.
My name is Stephen and I’m a volunteer Change Maker and a steering group member for Change Together, a project led by Peter Bedford Housing Association and Volunteer Centre Hackney, and funded by Time to Change.
I’m someone who has experienced mental health issues and I thought this would be a great channel for creating awareness around mental health.
It’s very important to challenge the stigmas and discrimination people with mental health issues face. It’s something that is invisible, you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have a mental illness. No matter what an individual’s issues are, they can still feel ashamed inside.
It takes projects like this, reaching people in the community to break down the barriers, and create awareness so people understand. And for volunteers who have experienced mental health issues in their life, its a positive way to support their own wellbeing and that of others.
This project can definitely make a difference.  It can make a difference to us, the volunteers, as we have our lived experience and talking about it is liberating and empowering. Also, it creates awareness with people who may not have given any thought to mental health issues and the challenges  that people may face. When someone meets you and listens to your story, then they share something about themselves, or somebody close to them, you can see a shift in their attitude.
As volunteers we are creating  positive role models in the community and helping to challenge the discrimination. In some  ways, everybody is affected by mental health, whether its a relative, a partner etc.  And this project enables us to reach out.
This project is great, meeting different people from all different backgrounds and talking  about something that I’m passionate about, contributing to the bigger picture.
I currently work raising awareness as a street fundraiser for The  Children’s Society.

* Change Together recruits volunteers throughout the year. Find out more about volunteer opportunities here, or contact project coordinator Bex Large to discuss how you can get involved.  We look forward to speaking with you!