Springfield Team of Expertise, Experience and Reflection (STEER)
Springfield Mind is committed to providing the best possible service to our Community.; often our service users are some of the most vulnerable in society. We believe that Service User involvement is critical in our ongoing mission to provide better mental health for everyone in our community.
The Springfield Team of Expertise, Experience and Reflection (STEER) is needed to provide a forum for service users to discuss current services and give advice about how they might be improved, comment on plans for service development, and suggest ideas for completely new services.
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For those of you who don't know me, my name is Ben Whelan. I'm F2M Transgender and I suffer from Anxiety and Depression. If you have any questions, then please ask them; because questions prevent ignorance. I am a Volunteer for Springfield Mind and Making Space Warwickshire.
I started attending Springfield Mind on 5th August 2015. I remember the day because it was two days before I had a disciplinary at work where I got fired. It didn't feel like it at the time, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me at that point; because I got diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression six weeks before, but the person chairing the disciplinary said “there's no such thing as Mental Health.” This all started because my house was robbed by a supposed friend the previous November while I was at work, so I linked work with getting robbed. I started to not go out unless I needed to, and when I got suspended; I didn't go out at all, I spent virtually that whole summer in my house where it was safe; plus his family lived and still live four doors away from me, and they're like part of my family and I felt like I couldn't go and visit because I didn't want to see him.
I eventually had to start giving myself incentives, because beating my Anxiety to just do something as simple as leave the house was virtually impossible; which was frustrating. So the incentives were simple things like needing Milk or my Meds, I didn't go out because I wanted to anymore and just thinking about going out involved several trips to the toilet. Springfield Mind became an incentive, but through going to Springfield Mind every week speech then became a problem; because I was now having issues getting my words from my brain to my mouth, which is frustrating and embarrassing.
I heard about Making Space through going to Mind, because Jessica Brooks who worked for Making Space at the time used to come sometimes to drop off Newsletters and leaflets about the upcoming Mental Health Forums. I was encouraged to go along, and I did.
The following February I had my first volunteering opportunity on Time To Talk Day at Leamington College, I loved every second of it. The more people took leaflets and teabags from me or asked why we were there my confidence grew. After that any volunteering opportunities that Making Space offered me I accepted as long as it was within Leamington and Warwick and easy to get to as Public Transport was still a bit of an issue, especially if I was going somewhere I didn't know. Making Space Warwickshire is a Co-Production Service, working within the Mental Health Sector to help Service Users like myself to gain confidence through the different Volunteering Opportunities that they offer; anything from looking after information stalls and handing out leaflets and teabags to standing up in front of an audience and deliver a speech as part of a presentation.
Fast forward to now. I now volunteer for both Making Space and Springfield Mind, I've done so much Public Speaking I've lost count, and I always write my own speeches, helped to look after so many Information Stalls at different events including Peace Festival and Warwickshire Pride, World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Week, even taught other Volunteers the art of giving out leaflets. Don't just stand there and expect people to come to you. Because they won't, you have to go to them. Done a telephone interview on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire on Mental Health, taken part in Procurement Training, so now I can sit on Tendering Panels, been to Co-Production Meetings with Making Space and met with Commissioners, I go to Birmingham every three months for the Influence and Participation Shared Learning Group, I'm a member of Springfield Mind's STEER Group, I go to Warrington every six weeks to Making Space HQ for The Making Change Group and stay overnight in Travelodge, won the National Citizenship Awrd at The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards 2018 and was in The Leamington Courier when I was nominated then when I won and last week I met a new Volunteer for Leamington found out that she became inspired through the article about me winning.
The benefits of being involved in the STEER group are having a voice on the direction Springfield Mind's services take, your opinion is valued, and having a hand in Springfield Mind's evolution is brilliant.
Thank you for listening."