“A robust set of relationships is essential for our health and wellbeing”, says CEO of Relate Ruth Sutherland.
At our recent Honorary Representative Conference Ruth emphasised the importance of the relationship between volunteers and beneficiaries.
She says: “For many people, the volunteer may be the only person they see or speak to. As a volunteer, you are creating a relationship built on trust, where an individual feels able to open up and explain their situation, in the hope that you can help them.”
She added: “The problem of loneliness and isolation continues to get worse, but OA volunteers can counter that – they can make a difference to beneficiaries’ lives through helping them to access services and being an advocate for them.”
OA volunteer Terry Hembrow, who retired as a Major in the Royal Marines in 2011 says: “I volunteer to be useful but I also genuinely enjoy the company of my clients.”
He adds: “What could at first be a 15-minute visit often ends up being a lively, hour-long conversation.”
Linda James who has volunteered for the OA since 2012 says that beneficiaries are often pleased to have someone outside the family to talk to, as there may be issues they don’t feel comfortable discussing with their family.
Ruth says that the relationship you have with yourself is key to successful relationships with others. She says: “If you know what makes you angry and sad, and are able to convey and explain that, you will improve your ability to communicate effectively.”
Ruth is keen to add that we are ‘not born with innate relationship skills’ and that these can be learnt, and developed, throughout our lives.
CEO of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, also spoke at our event. He predicted that by 2020 depression will be the second biggest cause of ill health. He stressed it’s vital that GPs receive mandatory training on mental health, but also that the general public are given more help to ensure they’re equipped, when they hear a ‘no’ to the all-important question – ‘are you ok?’