Honour for woman battled mental health problems to help others in need

Margaret Wenham from EDF pictured with her award.
Margaret Wenham from EDF pictured with her award.
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A TIRELESS volunteer has been recognised for her devotion to those in need.

Despite having battled mental health problems of her own in recent years, Margaret Wenham has been named this year’s North East Employee Volunteer of the Year as part of the Business in the Community 2014 Responsible Business Awards.

Margaret Wenham from EDF pictured with her award.

Margaret Wenham from EDF pictured with her award.

The 55-year-old, who is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Houghton, works at EDF Energy in Doxford Park but still manages to assist a trio of worthy causes.

Margaret is a personal volunteer with the Bridge Young Carers Project in Durham, and helped Wearside Women in Need with its past two Christmas appeals for children’s toys.

She has also set up a permanent drop-off station in the EDF customer services centre, so that colleagues can make regular donations to the Trussell Trust food bank charity.

With this year’s World Mental Health Day taking place on Friday, Margaret, who first moved to Wearside a decade ago, said: “I’ve had experience of stress and anxiety when I was caring for my mother, so it really helped me to get over the problems I had by being focused on volunteering.

“The big thing for me is that this time last year, I broke a bone in my foot.

“There were some things that I couldn’t do for myself and I noticed how many people were willing to help because they saw I was hurt.

“But if you have a mental health issue, that’s invisible and at times nobody can help you.” Margaret now hopes that through her work, more people will be able to open up about their own personal mental health problems.

“It’s an illness like any other,” added Margaret.

“People would be more inclined to be open about the issue if they knew there was more support available.”

Margaret’s work has also been praised not only by her colleague, but also by project manager at Sunderland Mind, Dororthy Gardiner. Dorothy said: “I think it’s just great what Margaret has done. She got out of the situation she was in and she’s using that to help others through their problems.

“Employers need to give their employees the information on mental health issues and we certainly welcome how EDF have worked with Margaret.”

Kevin Gatens, head of account management North East at EDF Energy, said: “Without dedicated employees like Margaret, our work in the community would be so much harder to execute.

“Her personal commitment to local causes is remarkable and her infectious enthusiasm in encouraging others to get involved as a force for good in their own local communities is an inspiration to us all.”