Volunteering has changed my life – by Dean

Dean Manson 2

By father and grandfather Dean Manson, 58, from Waltham Forest

 “I am a painter and decorator by trade. For 35 years I worked on building sites all over London. 

“Then at 50 or 51, I had a nervous breakdown and I have been suffering with depression ever since.

“Over the last eight or nine years I have spent so much time in bed not wanting to get up. Feeling scared, anxious, depressed. Drinking too much. Isolating myself.

“I have had lots of CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy – and other counselling. It helped but I was still stuck in a little room. The number one thing I needed was to get out of bed and do something – anything.

“About three years ago I was put in touch with Saiba (Salam, a social prescriber in Waltham Forest).

“By now I was used to talking about feelings and stuff – not the sort of thing I ever imagined doing. Saiba is really easy to talk to and she put me in touch with the wellbeing cafe at the Hornbeam Centre. It is an amazing place – it redistributes food from the major supermarkets in lots of different ways.

“After a few sessions, I noticed the building was in quite poor repair. I offered to do a bit of painting and plastering. Then I took over all the little jobs – changing lightbulbs, clearing gutters, unblocking toilets – and I’m still doing that now. Using my skills to help them in return for what they have done for me – it feels good.

“The other place where I volunteer is Legends of the Forest (Waltham Forest’s Volunteer Centre). Saiba put me in touch with them too. I’m out volunteering at least three days a week, meeting a lot of younger people which is very good for me. I was getting a bit old before my time.

“It isn’t a cure-all but it has changed my life. I am at least 60 to 70% better than a few years ago, even after caring for my mum, who had dementia, and the deaths of both my parents. If it hadn’t been for social prescribing, I don’t think I would be alive now.

“I would recommend to anyone feeling like I was to ask your GP practice about social prescribing. It might be able to help you like it helped me.”

  •  Social prescribers connect people who have issues suffering their health that medical treatment can’t solve to local groups, activities and services that can meet their specific needs. To find out more, speak to your GP practice.

UPDATED: 28/03/2023