Danielle Mills is a Counselling & Emotional Support Service Volunteer. We asked her to tell us more about herself and her role.

“I first came to Treetops in 2005. I’d just been discharged from hospital and although I wasn’t ready to go back to work, I knew I wanted to.

“I approached Treetops, as I’d already started volunteering in their charity shop in Sandiacre which I absolutely loved but I always knew I wanted to be a counsellor. My background is working in mental health and support work and I wanted to be able to volunteer at the actual hospice.

“I came to Treetops and did the ten-week course and it was life-changing. I think I’d always had some difficulties around the idea of death and the course completely changed my life and how I viewed death and dying and life-limiting illness. Unfortunately I did then get a job, so I didn’t end up being able to do the volunteering with the support service but if it hadn’t been for all that, I wouldn’t have got back into work to start with.

“As the years went on, I trained as a counsellor and got more experience and always wanted to come back to Treetops to volunteer because I’d loved all the support I’d had when I first came here. Also since then, my friend’s dad accessed the Hospice at Home service at Treetops and my friend, her sister and her mum all accessed the bereavement support service.

Really supportive environment

“I started as a volunteer counsellor in February and it’s great to be able to work within a really supportive environment where the training is amazing. I come into somewhere where everyone is lovely.

“People love coming here. It feels like a safe place, a place where they want to come. For young people, counselling and therapy can be quite scary. They come and they imagine someone wearing a suit and they are really shocked that they see someone with pink hair and jeans. We might play board games or might just chat, and it’s not scary and hard work and it gives them a really good experience of what therapy can be like, to take into the future.

“My youngest client is just 7 years old and I work with young people through to the age of 18 years old. They can have experienced a bereavement of any kind, a sudden death or suicide for example, not just a bereavement of someone who’s used the hospice services.

“Some of our younger clients might not be old enough to understand what’s actually happened to their loved one but they might want to talk about death more generally or they might come back when they hit another developmental age and need to process that person not being there at this important stage of their life. Or their understanding has changed and they’ve learnt more about what happened.

Even though we’re dealing with very difficult things, we’re doing it in a positive way

“For me, I very much notice that there are more and more young people having more and more issues, and this service allows the opportunity to start working with someone a little bit earlier than you would with statutory services. Getting that early intervention is really important – acknowledging that grief can affect other areas of a young person’s life.

“Bereavement clients can also come back – the door’s open for them to come back as a young person and as an adult. There’s also so much other support that people can access through the service like complementary therapy so it doesn’t just stop.

“Counselling makes me feel like I’m part of a family that provides unconditional support for people around death and dying, and anything related to death and dying.

“To be able to offer the support to trainee counsellors, to really make sure they are working at the best possible level – I think it’s really, really important and it’s setting up those counsellors for the future. People don’t leave, even when they are qualified, which I think says something!

“I don’t feel like I’m on my own which is important when you’re working with quite difficult issues to feel we’re supported as well.

“I love coming here. I bounce out because even though we’re dealing with very difficult things, we’re doing it in a positive way and you can see how the young person can move forward and reach their potential, carrying these things with them – rather than in spite of these things, how they can become part of their story in a positive way. They don’t have to forget about the person they’ve lost, they can move forward with them.”