In her role within LJMU’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, Dominique Aspey has helped many students achieve their dreams of starting their own businesses. But when one particular graduate started a men’s mental health charity, Dominique felt compelled to get involved.
Debbie Rogers set up Sean’s Place, a mental health and wellbeing centre for men in Sefton, in memory of her brother Sean who sadly took his own life in 2019. Having also lost her brother to mental illness a few years earlier, Dominique was determined to help in any way she could.
“Losing a loved one is always difficult but I was hit with guilt, bewilderment and many unanswered questions. When I met Debbie last year and we shared that we had each lost our brothers to mental illness, I knew straight away that I wanted to get involved. We can’t change what has happened to us but hopefully, we can prevent it happening to others."
Dominique has been a key volunteer with Sean’s Place since its inception:
“I got involved with Sean’s Place as an advocate in the early stages before the doors had even opened – helping Debbie with opportunities for PR and publicity, sharing social media posts, telling others about the support that was coming. When the doors to the centre opened in January, I was able to help in more practical ways. For a few hours a week, I get involved in simple things like making many cups of tea – we do like our cups of tea at Sean’s Place – or helping with getting some of the delicious food that’s been made to the table and tidying up. At other times, it might be recognising that someone could do with a chat so I grab a chair and chat about anything and everything. It’s about creating opportunities for men to talk and feeling that they are with friends who care.”
“76% of suicides are men who have measurably lower access to the social support of friends, relatives and community. Phrases such as 'man up' aren’t helpful either as they discourage men from talking or reaching out if they are feeling low.”
Sean’s Place aims to reduce social isolation and raise confidence and self-esteem by putting on a range of activities such as guitar lessons, cooking, woodworking, mindfulness and group talking sessions, and much more. Dominique has had some great experiences while volunteering at the centre but one moment, in particular, has stood out.
“Two of the men who visit are father and son. Dad is a full-time carer to his son and Sean’s Place offers a place for both of them to socialise in different company and meet new friends. Dad is a photography enthusiast and has an amazing range of new and vintage cameras. We talked for hours about his love of photography and looked at some of his work. That was really special to me as he was sharing his passion and you could see his eyes light up as he talked about it.”
These profound moments of shared experience only help to reaffirm Dominique’s belief that volunteering is beneficial for all parties involved.
“Volunteering is helpful to organisations and causes that need it, especially the smaller or less well-known ones. They rely on the practical help and through word of mouth, they can gain awareness of the good work they do. On a personal level, it brings me happiness and a sense of accomplishment and I’ve made some really special new friends.
“I would encourage students to volunteer, as well, as it’s an opportunity to break into their chosen career sector, build skills and contacts and enhance their CV.”
Here are just some of the benefits of volunteering:
- It helps you build confidence
- You’ll gain a sense of wellbeing and achievement
- You can learn new skills
- You can make new friends
- It can help enhance your employment prospects
- It’s fun
- You’ll be recognised for your hard work
- It makes a positive impact
- You’ll gain a better understanding of the challenges that affect people and society
- You’ll work as part of a team and experience a sense of belonging
- It can provide a welcome distraction from stressful circumstances in your own life
- You’ll spend your spare time in a meaningful way
If Dominique’s story has inspired you to become a volunteer, take a look at the opportunities that we offer at LJMU. And if you’re interested in how the Centre for Entrepreneurship could help you with your start-up idea, find out more about how they can support you.
You also can find out more about Sean’s Place and the important work they do for men’s mental health and wellbeing.