Samantha supports young people fighting mental illness

Samantha Betteridge is a member of our class of 2014/15 who was awarded an Excellence Scholarship for Current Students in recognition of her sterling volunteer work. Samantha is studying our BSc (Hons) Psychology degree and, as she enters her final year, has a remarkably uplifting story to tell about how she has overcome anorexia and now volunteers to help others with emotional wellbeing or mental health problems. Samantha’s ambition is to become a clinical psychologist.

“So far, my two years at Edge Hill have been the most difficult yet most rewarding of my entire life. Just before I came to University, I was officially diagnosed with anorexia and I had to choose between being stuck on a waiting list to receive treatment or trying to recover alone. I chose the latter and have never looked back. Throughout my recovery, I decided to use my own experiences to help other people so I volunteered with various mental health charities.

I soon found opportunities to volunteer with organisations such as ‘Young Minds UK’ and ‘B-eat’. I became a ‘Young Minds UK’ campaigner in October 2012 for two months and wrote an article advising young people on how to cope with the festive season. Many mental illness sufferers really struggle with Christmas time so this article included ten tips on how to relax, look after yourself and enjoy Christmas. I also wrote an article for ‘B-eat’ charity, in October 2013, for their ‘eating disorders at University’ campaign. This included advice on how to manage at University if you are an eating disorder sufferer, as well as my own experiences.  Since then, I have become a ‘B-eat’ media volunteer, and share my experiences with the media in hope that other people seek help and support.

In July 2013, I started volunteering for ‘MindFullUK’ as a life mentor. For an hour a week, I volunteer online by talking to 11-17 year olds about any emotional wellbeing problem or mental health issue that they may have. This includes talking to young people individually through a private chat messaging system, as well as talking to them on a more general level in an open chat room. The chatroom encourages people to talk about their day, make new friends and allows them to feel included in a community. Also, I have written blog posts for MindfullUK, particularly offering advice on eating disorders.

In my second year, I wanted to do something which would give me personal, rather than online, experience so I became a social inclusion volunteer for the ‘Making Space’ charity. Each week, I supported people with mental illnesses at a social drop, by listening to them, playing games and generally giving them something to look forward to. Being able to use the advice that I’d learned and been given through my own recovery was definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced, and having service users open up to me soon became something I cherished. To confirm my passion for working with people with mental illnesses, I completed a work experience on a veteran’s mental health ward which was extremely eye opening. It was here where I decided that the only thing I want to do with my life now is work as a clinical psychologist and use my experiences to help others.

Finally during summer 2014, I took a big risk in terms of my own recovery and I joined the VESL charity team to spend six weeks volunteering in Thailand, teaching English in a primary school. In order to secure my place on the VESL programme, I organised several fundraisers including a bake sale and running the Manchester Great Run and the Manchester Colour Run. Whilst in Thailand, I lived with the most generous host family and spent my summer laughing and dancing with children, as well as riding elephants, cuddling tigers and swimming in waterfalls. It was the most incredible experience.

Two years ago, I would never have dreamt of doing these things. I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people and I have been lucky enough to see some of the world’s most beautiful sights. I now believe I am almost recovered from anorexia and I now look forward to finishing my degree and helping as many people as I can!”