Twenty Years of Giving Back

In 2002, having had to give up her job due to mental and physical illness, Michelle found herself in a volunteer centre. She found a role advertised at a local hospital which had looked after her mum and decided she wanted to give something back. Twenty years later and Michelle has been volunteering ever since.

It was great, it got me out my bed, gave me a bit of self-confidence back and a self worth which had taken a dive when I had to give my job up.

It wasn’t until 2010 that she attended a self-help group in Edinburgh when she first got involved with Bipolar Scotland. Michelle had been diagnosed with bipolar years earlier so decided to attend the Edinburgh group to get support. After attending a couple of meetings Michelle and a fellow member of the group agreed to stand in for a few months as group facilitators before taking on the role permanently.

Volunteering as a group facilitator is very rewarding and the mutual support I receive from the group really helps me to stay on track, particularly when we were in lockdown, and I was shielding.

The Edinburgh group became the Lothian Group shortly after. Michelle had built up a lot of useful contacts through both using services and volunteering over the years and was able to start introducing guest speakers to the group. Within a few months, the Lothian Group had to change venue to make room for the increasing number of people attending. Michelle has not only contributed to Bipolar Scotland through the running of self-help groups in Lothian, she also spent ten years as a member of the board. Michelle was able to use her experience of living with bipolar and knowledge she had gained from volunteering to help shape Bipolar Scotland’s strategy.

One of the best things I've got out of volunteering is the friends I've made and the people I've met along the way.

Michelle has not only helped grow the Lothian Group into what it is today, but has also been instrumental in setting up new groups such as Lothian carers and Lothian 18-30. Last night the Lothian Group met as usual but it marked a special milestone for Michelle. Incredibly, over 12 years after standing in on a temporary basis, Michelle facilitated the Lothian group for the 150th time.

The sheer number of people that Michelle has provided support for over those 150 meetings is something she should be immensely proud of. Everyone at Bipolar Scotland wants to say thank you to Michelle and all of the group facilitators for their enthusiasm and dedication which drives everything our charity does. Michelle is currently our longest serving volunteer and we hope she’ll be sticking around for a few more years yet.

If you would like to volunteer and support people living with bipolar in Scotland, check out our volunteering page to see what roles we are currently recruiting for.

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