John’s Story

I met John* for the first time at the Coffee Bar in St Chad’s House.  The person I see has a beaming smile -  a far cry from the person he apparently was two years ago, when he was admitted to Brocton Ward at St George’s Hospital having suffered a nervous breakdown.

John is a great representative for the charity “The Stafford and Cannock League of Hospital Friends”.  The journey to the John of today has been a challenge over the last two years, when his lowest point was probably during his two month spell in hospital.  However this allowed the doctors to diagnose his bi-polar disorder – historically known as manic –depression.  John was prescribed mood stabilising and anti psychotic medication to support his illness, and he was discharged from hospital just before Christmas, with support from his Community Mental Health Team (CNHT) and Occupational Therapy.

What John didn’t have in his life at that time was a purpose to get out of bed, a purpose to leave the house.  Sadly, he had been out of work for sometime before his illness and Bob Barber from the CMHT suggested he needed to establish some routine in his life and that is where his volunteering life started.  He approached the Citizens Advice Bureau, who suggested contacting the League of Hospital Friends. 

John has been volunteering for over a year.  Twice a week he arrives half an hour early at St Chad’s House to open up the Coffee Bar and shop.  His job involves getting the newspapers ready for the Wards to collect, and making sure everything is ready for his first customers at 9am.   The Coffee Bar and shop sells a wide variety of goods, hot and cold drinks, crisps, sweets, cakes, sandwiches, toiletries to name but a few. 

He also has a passion for horses and enjoys being a regular volunteer with Riding for the Disabled which enables him to get close to the horses as well as talking to the riders and other helpers.  John also attends a drop in club every week to meet other people who have similar mental health problems.

John admits that on his first day volunteering, he was very timid and unsure – particularly worried about handling money - but he still went along for some taster sessions to see if volunteering was for him.  He then started working at the Coffee Bar with other volunteers and gradually gained confidence serving patients, staff and visitors to the hospital.“You have to be adaptable to meet the needs of your customers, I think I can empathise with people as I understand that if it is difficult to smile when you are not feeling well” says John. 

Bob Barber  commented that“Like many people John has experienced some ups and downs on his journey but I believe that his volunteering has helped him establish a routine in his life and his recovery is remarkable because he has motivated himself”. 
The Stafford and Cannock League of Hospital Friends, runs Coffee Bars at NHS hospitals in Stafford, Cannock and Shrewsbury.  Proceeds are used to purchase patients comforts for example a present is given to each patient in hospital at Christmas. 

There are opportunities for people aged 18 and over to volunteer in our Coffee Bars and Trolley Services and you can find more information on our website at

If John’s story has inspired you, or you know of someone who would benefit from volunteering please call Gill at the Stafford and Cannock League of Hospital Friends for a chat on 01785 221372 or Email:

*John is not his real name, but this is very much a true story

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