My journey on the YRG

One of our amazing Youth Reference Group members, D'artagnan, shares their volunteer experience with us.

I have been a headspace volunteer for just over a year now.

Undoubtedly, it’s been one of the most rewarding endeavours of my life to date. It’s difficult to be able to explain everything about this opportunity in one post, and just how much of an impact it’s had on me as an individual, but I will try to leave you all with the best of the best from my time at headspace as a volunteer.

Mid year, 2018, I was first accepted into the Youth Reference Group (YRG) as their newest recruit. I entered the monthly meeting, nervous and worried about being accepted, but by the time the meeting drew to a close, I knew this was going to become something akin to a new family and honestly? I couldn’t have been more excited and overwhelmed.

This meant more to me than simply being the new kid on the block, as it were. This was officially, the first major space I was entering as myself. Prior to the YRG, I was perhaps out as a queer, non-binary individual to several of my closest friends and those that needed to know in clinical settings. I never conceived of a time that I’d be able to be part of groups, activities or organizations as an authentic version of myself without having to fight for my place - yet here I was, introduced as who I really am from the start. This has allowed me to grow more self assured, and has offered me the chance to use the platform to spread awareness for LGBT+ mental health.

Every year, The YRG works to accomplish one major task, and last year, the project was a single issue zine about mental health from a young adult’s perspective. While I came into the group part way through production, the YRG was generous enough to grant me space within the zine to dedicate towards queer mental health. You can’t begin to understand how much that meant to me, to be accepted so completely, and be taken seriously in such a forward manner. After the zine was released to the public, I’ve been given countless opportunities to continue with my efforts and I will never be able to thank headspace or the YRG enough for helping do this.

I cannot continue without pointing out just how far this zine went towards helping me though. I was able to come out to my parents at 19, thanks to opportunity that the project gave me. headspace, and it’s volunteer program gave me the power, agency, and strength to do something I didn’t think I’d ever have the ability to do, and I can’t express how transformative this has been. Now, I’ve marched at Mardi Gras with headspace, and will continue to do so for as long as possible.

The YRG goes beyond personal projects and often ventures into community engagement programs, helping headspace open rapport with schools and open spaces in the local areas. Being able to help with this has been incredibly gratifying. I’ve since been able to approach my graduating high school about mental health for its pupils, helping to foster better understanding about mental wellbeing and health - all the while building relations for headspace.

Furthermore, there have been numerous opportunities to participate in health forums for school staff members, immigrant adolescents and everyone in between. My fellow volunteers and I have had the chance to engage with other services and organisations to develop community projects, for disengaged youth and HSC students, and we’ve all had chances to lend a hand to groups that run within headspace.

headspace has given its YRG volunteers amazing opportunities to build on our skills and through classes and training as well. Each one of us has been able to grow into better, more confident people through programs such as public speaking courses, cultural diversity and understanding training and mental health first aid courses. These classes help us to engage with the work that headspace does, but it lets us carry this work into our personal lives. Each one of us entered the YRG with a hope to transform the public understanding of mental health, and work on breaking down stigma one bit at a time.

Many of us have personal goals that go beyond headspace, and the opportunities that we are given show us that we aren’t simply volunteers, not at all - we are bright young people with passion and ambition that headspace wants to help to grow so we might just have a chance to make the world a better place.

We aren’t just volunteers, we are powerful people, we are family.

If you ever get the chance to become a YRG, seize it.

Join the family.