The benefits of volunteering for mental health – as told by our volunteers, and Megan (Fundraising and Digital)
It’s Volunteer’s Week!
Here at L&S Mind, we’re celebrating the amazing work that our volunteers do to help us, in our mission to make sure no-one in our area has to go through a mental health problem alone.
Our telephone and email Information Service, and our psychotherapy service, are both run by volunteers. Many of our Peer Support Groups are also assisted by volunteers. Without them, we’d be unable to help the thousands of callers and service users that come to us every year for help.
But we run our volunteer programme for another reason, too. In fact, it’s one of the ways we work to promote better mental health and wellbeing.
Studies show the happiness you can get from doing charitable acts like volunteering is actually staggeringly high, and that these activities can have many more direct benefits for yourself than you’d think. Almost any type of generous act, it seems, can have a positive impact on your mental health, and often your physical health too.
A recent study by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau found that volunteering can boost employability, self-esteem and physical health, as well as helping those with mental health problems to feel more able to manage their conditions.
The combination of getting outside, meeting and interacting with others, keeping busy and helping others in need can all come together to make you feel pretty good about yourself – even if you do lose out on your time and money in doing so.
We’ve been able to help many people back into employment, education and training through our volunteer programme. But, most importantly, it’s one of the ways we help to improve their mental health.
I asked some of our current volunteers about what they have gained from giving up their time to work with us. Here’s what they had to say:
I have found volunteering for the Information Service hugely beneficial. It makes me feel really useful to be able to signpost people to the right support. I really enjoy working at the offices as the team are so welcoming and supportive.
I have volunteered for L&S Mind for over six years now with a wide range of office responsibilities and tasks. This work has offered me a work reference and on-the-job training for office administration with transferable skills.
I have had bouts of depression every other year or so since 1995, each one lasting for two or three months. On each occasion, although I felt I’d never get better and everything was too much trouble, I did manage to keep up my voluntary work every week. I think that persevering with the voluntary work, no matter how bad I felt, gave me a sense of purpose and got me out of the house, plus the opportunity to interact with other people.
To anyone suffering mental health problems, I would strongly recommend voluntary work, as an aid (though not the sole means) of effecting a recovery.
I can speak from personal experience about the benefits of volunteering. I first joined Lambeth and Southwark Mind as a volunteer after months of failed attempts to find full-time work after leaving university. I lost my sense of purpose as a result of being suddenly unoccupied, and this drastically lowered my self-esteem and state of mental health.
So when I found a chance to help out here in Brixton, in a place where I could meet new people and use and develop my skills, I jumped at the chance. Fast forward six months, and I’m lucky enough to now be working full-time within our amazing team of staff and volunteers. My current role still gives me many of the same opportunities that first drew me here as a volunteer, which is exactly what I love about it most.
Whatever your interests, abilities and capacity to help, there are opportunities to reap the benefits of volunteering wherever you may be. Give it a try – you just might be pleasantly surprised!