We would like to highlight some of the Faces of Aware. Did you know the organisation was founded by Dr Patrick McKeon, and a team of volunteers? Many of whom had their own experience of depression or bipolar disorder, and who wanted to support others. That is still Aware’s ethos today, volunteers are the backbone of the organisation.
Below is a small selection of our volunteers. Aware currently has over 450 volunteers who are a reliable support to people across the nation who experience depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and mood related conditions.
In 2020, despite the challenges we all faced, 185 volunteers completed our training (January to August) compared to 52 volunteers in 2019 (January to April). Moving online has opened up the possibility of people volunteering all over Ireland without the restrictions of travel.
In 2018, Aware volunteers answered 13,856 calls to the Support Line. In 2019, the answered calls rose to 20,748 calls. Already in 2020, by mid-September 18,852 calls have been answered. To put that into context, the RDS arena has a capacity to hold 18,500 attendees!
The Support Mail has done fantastically well this year. From March we saw an increase in people accessing all our supports. So we set the volunteers a challenge, to reduce our response time to Support Mail emails from 24 hours to 6 hours. It was a huge challenge, but our volunteers rose to it.
In light of the restrictions imposed due to pandemic, in March 2020, we had to suspend our face-to-face Support & Self-Care Groups. It presented our volunteers with a challenge as they were moving away from what they signed up for – reading body language and supporting people in person, to complete reliance on active listening over the phone and on Zoom. Our volunteers have now helped us reach people rurally who have never had access to groups as well as those who still feel the stigma of being ‘seen’ at a group. They are now supporting people as our groups begin to re-open in person around the country.
Our volunteers ability to move, develop and upskill with the demands of 2020 has meant Aware’s services have been able to able to continue, evolve and grow.
We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all our volunteers. Your empathy, generosity of spirit, and commitment is an enormous gift to people who experience mental health difficulties.
Thank you for your support this National Volunteer Week 2020 (21st – 27th September) and every week.