Local mental health services are celebrating the volunteers who give up their free time to offer kindness and support to people using specialist services and hospitals when they are at their most unwell.

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services to all ages in Sussex and to children and young people in Hampshire, currently has 30 volunteers working across the organisation in various different roles. The Trust hopes to increase this number to 100 by next March.

Christie Greenfield volunteers once a week at the inpatient units for Acute Care in Hastings (Castle, Abbey and St Raphael ward), accompanied by Ace, her six year old tricolour border collie. She said: “I really enjoy visiting the staff and service users every week and it’s amazing to see their faces light up when Ace arrives. “Ace is a registered Pets as Therapy dog and he loves coming in to see everyone…

“There were some people who were nervous of dogs before meeting Ace, but since spending time with him they have become more confident in his presence and will now sit and talk to him and even ask to hold his lead on walks. Seeing that positive change in people is really special and I feel privileged to be a part of that.”

Volunteers participate in a range of non-clinical activities across the organisation, which helps to complement the work of healthcare professionals. Current volunteering roles include: Tai Chi instructor; cooking group volunteer; gardening group volunteer.

Natalie Poland, Volunteer Service Coordinator for Sussex Partnership, said: “Volunteers are such an important resource for our services. They enable our teams to run more groups and activities which help our service users in their treatment and recovery.

“Volunteering is such a brilliant to thing to do, so if you are over 18 and really enjoy helping others, please get in touch to find out what vacancies we have available at the moment.”

To find out more about volunteering at Sussex Partnership, go to  www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/volunteer or email  [email protected]

For more information about Volunteers Week, go to https://volunteersweek.org

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