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A new friend and fresh beginnings

Published Tuesday 26 November 2019
  • Disability and Mental Health

Many of us scroll through the internet looking for inspiration, and that is exactly what Chris found when he noticed an advert from Group61 on a volunteer website. Eighteen months later Chris has made a new friendship and helped create inspiration for someone else too.

Group61 is a volunteer mental health befriending program. Both friends (people who have experienced mental illness or are living in a social isolation) and volunteers meet regularly with the aim to reduce social isolation and as self-confidence and trust grow through their friendship, individuals are supported to rebuild social connections within their community.

Chris understands that the world we live in can be a tough place for anyone. He’s been lucky enough to have support from family, friends and work colleagues throughout his life. When Chris came across this volunteer opportunity with Group61, he wanted to support and give back to those who may not have been as fortunate as he was.

“I have always enjoyed helping others and in the past, I volunteered at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. When I came across the job description for Group61 I thought it would be a great way to help as not everyone has had the support that I have had in my life,” says Chris.

After the Group61 training was completed Chris was matched with a young man named James. They hit it off and each weekend they would meet and get to know each other more and more.

“Each week James opened up more about his life and what he has been through. As expected, James was a little reserved when we first started to meet, and I could see that when the cafe we would meet at started to get busy throughout the morning James could become uneasy. That was always a cue for us to leave and go for a walk. Crowds were not the best places for James at that time.”

Over the next twelve months Chris saw an improvement in James. He started working for his Brother as a landscaper and living and working for his Mother and her business. Crowds were also no longer an issue for James, and the two of them would go to cafes, hikes up mountains, skateboarding and even 5km fun runs together.

“I have learnt a lot about him [James] and his family and he has also learnt a lot about mine,” says Chris. “After 12 months James and I were both asked if we wanted to continue our friendship through Group61 or if we wanted to continue on our own, without hesitation we both said we would stay within Group61 as this program has been so good for us both and more people should be involved in it.”

Two hours a week is all it takes to enhance the life of a person living in social isolation and/or living with a mental illness. Right now, more than 280 friends like James from all over South East Queensland are connecting with volunteers like Chris.

Want to get involved? Visit our Group61 webpage or call 1800 448 448.