James's #BelieveInPeople story

A selfie of a man against a white background. He has a dark turtleneck on and short brown hair. The background of the image is a diagonal split with orange on the top and purple on the bottom

In today’s #BelieveInPeople story, we spoke to James, who told us how he became a peer mentor to encourage and inspire other young people, and how his role opened new doors and helped him believe in himself.

“A peer mentor is a volunteer who uses their own experience to support other people who are now accessing support. My biggest motivation to become a peer mentor was to give other young people the perspective that I’ve been where they are now.

I wanted to replicate the feeling I got from my worker when I was visiting the service myself. I wanted to support other young people, especially people who are feeling uneasy or might be thinking “do I want to go through with this, do I want to commit?” Those are same the questions I had, so I wanted to be able to provide an answer for them.

Although you're surrounded by people when you’re accessing a service, it can be quite a lonely place at first. The most important thing is having someone who can say “I’ve been in that chair, I’ve waited in that room, I’ve had someone bring me a cup of tea and some toast, I've felt how you’ve felt.” For me, being a peer mentor was about showing people coming into the service that there was something positive at the end of it.

A new opportunity

Eventually a paid role came up in the service and my managers suggested that I should apply. I didn’t have much belief in myself, because it was a data role and I didn’t think I knew anything about it. I’d spent so long having nothing in terms of jobs or opportunities coming my way. But they had this sense of belief in me that I could do this role, and I thought I may as well give it a shot.

I got the job and I started a few weeks ago. To be honest, I’ve never been happier. Every time they entrust me with a new task I can see that that belief in me is still there, and if I continue to just be myself and do my job, I can’t see that ever going away. I’m not sure people realise how much it means to me – I haven’t quite figured it out myself yet.

If I hadn’t got this role I’d have never dreamt of being a resilience worker or getting a role helping people, but it’s lit a spark and opened doors for me. And one of those doors was going to a meeting where I met Dame Carol Black, who wrote the Independent review of drugs for the government.

A standout moment

Attending that meeting was my standout point where I thought “I can do this”, because I was able to be myself and share my lived experience with Dame Carol. I was being trusted by my colleagues to be a representative in front of someone who has a lot of say over how things go in our sector.

I told her my story, from what I’d been through as a child and young teen, to where I am now and where I’d like to go in the future. 

I wanted to put my enthusiasm across about the role I’m doing, and the roles I want to do in the future. Being able to do that in a professional setting really cemented that being a peer mentor can mean the world.

That level of belief I've been shown extends to being able to get my volunteering role, which led to my paid role, which has led to meeting new people and networking. It’s really brought me full circle, and it’s helped me in figuring things out about my job and everything around me, but also a lot of things within me.

It’s made me have that extra belief in myself that was just not there even a year ago. Just in that time period, I’ve had all this trust and belief and commitment put into me to the point where I now believe I can change my future, change my family’s future, just by being there and being myself.

If you want to change your direction, grow as an individual, and live life to its full potential, we’re here to help.

Find your local Change Grow Live service and learn more about how we can support you.