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“No one has ever become poor by giving.” - Anne Frank

I’m Josh, 27 years old and trying to be as happy as possible in life, whilst helping the people around me be as happy as possible too. I am a member of the team at First Person Project, I lead a peer-support mental health group and offer individualised mentorship to people in need.

I’ve always been a person who has tried to be kind and helpful throughout my life, in fact one of my teachers in primary school told my mum on a parents evening that I had one fault. That one fault was that I was sometimes, maybe, too kind. It’s always been a natural instinct of mine to do things for, and help people as much as I can. I am starting to learn that my kindness is a gift, but maybe one which I don’t yet fully understand. It is often said that a gift is not actually a gift until it is given; however, I feel that a gift is not actually a gift until it is received. This is true when gifts are exchanged between people, but also when looking inwardly and accepting the gifts the one has to offer themselves.

I’ve worked in retail for a couple of years, then moved onto pharmacy, where I’ve been working for around 6-7 years now. In that time, I have come across people from all walks of life, with all different kinds of needs and requirements, but also with the experience of a life well-lived. I’ve been able to help so many people during these several years, I have enjoyed it, but I feel I’ve come to the end of being a part of ‘big pharma’ and may want to move away from it in future. I want to be involved with the community a little bit more, helping people in so many different ways rather than just being restricted to a more professional side of it all. Moreover, I would like to be a part of a two-way relationship of being the helper and also being helped. Fundamentally, we are all human, with strengths and weaknesses, things to offer and things we need, all working towards the common goal of ensuring the best world possible, both for now and for the future.

Like every one, I’ve had my own mental struggles, and feel I only started to suffer with them properly, or was more aware of them, around the age of 24/25. Anxiety has been my biggest opponent, one that I will regularly go toe to toe with, even now. My toughest times with anxiety really deplete me, as I have issues with eating when I have serious bouts of anxiety, and it becomes a vicious circle. I can’t eat due to being anxious, so I feel worse, then through not eating properly, my physical health goes downhill, ensuring my mental health then begins to take a beating. But it’s something I am used to dealing with now, especially now that I have finally began to understand how it all comes about, and how it all affects each other. Education and mental health awareness are key fundamentals, however more important is the action which you take once you have this valuable information. I am learning that I can focus on what is strong, rather than what is wrong; in doing so, I am able to better understand the power of the gifts at my disposal, which I can then use to address some of my needs. Furthermore, I am able to use this experience to pass on my knowledge to those with whom I come into contact with.

I’ve also had so many people close to me suffering with many different mental health issues and many different symptoms of them. Through these people, I’ve been able to learn more about other problems that I may not suffer with, but can see first-hand and how it affects those I love and care about. With my natural urge to want to help people, and my personality, I’ve found people put their trust in me to tell me about things that they are struggling with, which is great, because we all know how helpful talking about our problems is.

I have been able to work alongside a lot of people, many of whom tell me that they feel the benefits of working in a strengths-focused way. Of course, this isn’t about white-washing over the things which people have difficulties with, rather it is about removing these from the centre of the picture temporarily – this makes enough room to be able to think about the other parts of a person’s life, with the support, guidance and mentorship immediately on offer.

Through my work with First Person Project, I have been able to complete a broad range of training and developmental opportunities. I have been involved in existing activities, all of which are citizen-led, but I have also been encouraged to develop new activities based upon my own personal gifts. Over the next few weeks we will be launching a people-powered music group, whereby people can come together to partake however they wish. This is just another tool to create that social togetherness and sense of community, by the people and for the people.

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