Post date: 
Monday, 2 October 2017
Two people at a cafe

Community member Steven Sutherland lost his sight at a very early age due to a complicated heart condition. After a challenging time at school, he spent three unhappy years stuck at home. Today, he volunteers to help others with sight loss and mental health issues

“When I was stuck in my house, I couldn’t get out to socialise or find work. I was given my Employment and Support Allowance and was told: 'That’s it, do nothing'. I thought to myself, what was the point of giving me money and then expecting me to do nothing?

“I hated sitting indoors and I would go down to the JobCentre every day, thumping down the door. I needed to work and wanted to be able to get out and do things.

“Mentally, it was a really tough thing to deal with. However, after three years, I decided I wasn’t going to sit in my room doing nothing any longer. 

How I got help

“I got in touch with the volunteer coordinator at RNIB and she sent me an email with information about different volunteering opportunities. One was to a volunteer with the Hospital Broadcasting Service.
“If it wasn’t for me getting involved in volunteering, I honestly don’t know where I would be today. I don’t know how much longer I could have coped with being stuck in my house doing nothing.

Volunteering for RNIB

“I became involved with RNIB not too long ago, as I wanted to be able to help others with vision impairments. I wanted to go into the smaller communities all over Scotland and the UK, and find people like myself who were struggling mentally and get them out socialising, into work and help give them a life.
“So far, I’ve been working with RNIB’s Connect Group for Scotland and their Young People’s Connect Group for the United Kingdom. I’m also going to be a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament and I help a physically disabled group on a Tuesday at a day centre in Glasgow. 
"My message to others who are struggling with mental health issues is, do not allow your visual impairment to interfere with your life.”

Support and information

There are lots of people who can help

Many people with sight loss experience issues around mental health and wellbeing. Everyone’s experiences are different. If you are struggling to come to terms with your sight loss or changes in your vision, it’s important to know that it’s okay to feel this way.
  • Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected]. To get more information online, visit
  • Speak to someone urgently. Whatever may be troubling you, Samaritans offer a free confidential advice line that you can call 24 hours a day. Call 116123 at any time from any phone.
  • If you would prefer to speak to someone online, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), have a free webchat open every day between 5pm and midnight. 

This article originally appeared in Connect magazine - Autumn 2017 edition.

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