Friends mend minds

Robyn Raymond shares her experiences at the annual general meeting of the Friends of Valkenberg Hospital.
Robyn Raymond shares her experiences at the annual general meeting of the Friends of Valkenberg Hospital.
Mental illness makes no distinction of where you are from or your circumstances – but at Valkenberg Hospital there are friends who can help you face the future.

The “voices” of those friends had a chance to speak at the Friends of Valkenberg Trust’s annual general meeting this year with service users and volunteers taking the stand with staff, to share their experiences of recovery from mental illness.

The Friends hosted their AGM at the newly refurbished historical buildings of the Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital on Wednesday 27 July where volunteer Robyn Raymond from Rondebosch, along with others, shared their experiences.

“My work as a volunteer showed me that anyone can be affected by mental disorder – bakers, teachers, receptionists, young people, older people ...” she says.

“I have also had the immense privilege of watching people heal and transform themselves from week to week. Each week, personalities bloom and people open up. And that’s incredible.

“We are not nurses or psychologists, but in many ways, we play a small role in that transformative process, and it’s incredibly humbling.”

A number of service users also shared some of their journey and the projects they are working in.

“Friends of Valkenberg is such a supportive environment,” says a service user who cannot be named.

“The help they give is not only emotional and psychological, but also practical. When I had nothing at all, they gave me clothes – I was able to wear a smart suit to interviews.

“They provided support in arranging my learnership (through the skills development programme). When I have an interview they always give me encouragement and try to motivate me so that I don’t give up trying to build a good life for myself.”

Raymond summed up an important message on closing:
“I have learned to value my own mental health and the importance of my support structures.”
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