How can volunteering help your mental health?

Volunteers week

With it being national Volunteers week from 1-7th June, it is important to say that there’s good evidence that volunteering brings benefits to both the person volunteering and the people and organisations they support.

Volunteering involves spending unpaid time doing something to help other people or groups, other than (or as well as) close relatives. Evidence suggests that volunteering brings health benefits to both the volunteers and the people they help. The health benefits include both physical and mental health.

In an attempt to measure the benefits on volunteers, Volunteering England commissioned the University of Wales to undertake a review of research on the subject. Dr Rachel Casiday, lecturer at the Department of Voluntary Sector Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter, led the review. She describes its findings below.

“Peer support doesn’t just work one way,” says Dr Casiday. “Even if you’re in a mentoring role, simply talking to someone else who is struggling with the same issue can support you as well. It’s not just an act of charity. In a lot of cases, the volunteer is helped as much as the patient.”

The NHS state the following benefits of volunteering:

  • Quality of life – reduced isolation, depression, and anxiety
  • A healthier lifestyle
  • A better ability to cope with ill health
  • Improved self-esteem and purpose
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Learn new skills
  • Have fun

In an article by Aimee Mead (2014) in the Guardian newspaper, she talks to various people who have volunteered and stated how it had changed their life. Laura Mcbeth explained the benefits she has experienced from volunteering with Rape Crisis; she’d felt an overall improvement in mind and body.

“I’ve experienced an overall improvement in mind and body. The most significant impact is a sense of having a meaningful purpose and knowing that the work I’m doing is directly contributing to people’s lives in the area where I live. It provides a means in which I can, even in a small way, address a social problem I care about. In mind and spirit, it has brought a sense of equilibrium for me, and I feel more balanced in what I take versus what I give from society.”

As well as helping other people, volunteering can be life changing for the individual doing it. Physical and mental health benefits for example more exercise, reduced isolation, and depression. However, it is important to say that volunteering can often lead to becoming better skilled, qualified and even enhanced employment opportunities.

How are you celebrating Volunteer week?

By Reece Hobson.


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