The Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering – a Personal Account.
The Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering
Whilst working for Wirral CVS based in Hamilton Square I have been made aware through personal experience and the experiences of other people of the many benefits that come through volunteering.
Some of these benefits were especially highlighted to me through the ‘You can volunteer’ scheme run by the organisation which caters for voluntary work in a wide variety of sectors across the Wirral. To be specific, there are more than one thousand voluntary opportunities with hundreds of organisations in the Voluntary, Community, Faith and Public sectors across Wirral and nearby areas meaning that you can volunteer in Administration, Sport, Mentoring and many other types of work. On a national level, there is Volunteering England and the CVS are based across England.
Some of the benefits highlighted include, but are not limited to :
- Helping your community
- Improve your employability
- Meet new people
- Learn new skills/gain qualifications
- Improve your confidence
- Have fun
- Improve your health
- Use existing talents and skills
- Challenge yourself.
In terms of mental health I have found voluntary work to be good for my mental well being over the last few years.
One excellent aspect of voluntary work I believe is that it ‘gets you out of the house’ and mixing with other people who can also be a source of social support for an individual.
A sense of purpose is something I have benefited from, knowing that on a particular day I will be volunteering and for me it was something to look forward to.
I have found it to be a good way of ‘dipping my toe in the water’ in order to assess a type of work and its suitability whilst also gaining greater self-belief in my skills and abilities.
It is also good to be recognised for voluntary work – on completion of 100 hours of voluntary work, volunteers are invited to an awards ceremony where they are presented with a certificate by the mayor. I certainly enjoyed the awards ceremony when I went in 2010.
Something that I have come across in the last few years on Wirral MIND courses is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (http://www.businessballs.com/maslow.htm). I would argue that voluntary work can tie in with some of our human needs in terms of our social needs in that whilst volunteering we normally mix with other people and also our self esteem needs can be helped, for example with the recognition that comes from attending a 100 Hours ceremony at the Floral Pavilion which occurs for volunteers each year at present. A volunteer today said to me that through volunteering she saw many people she volunteered with as friends and friendship can be an important determinant of health as Professor Richard Wilkinson argues in his book ‘The Spirit Level’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Level:_Why_More_Equal_Societies_Almost_Always_Do_Better) which examines the role of equality vs inequality on societies across the world.
Suggested links :
http://www.volunteering.org.uk/WhatWeDo/Projects+and+initiatives/volunteeringinhealth/What+Impact+Does+Volunteering+Really+Have+On+Health.htm (University of Lampeter study on health and volunteering)