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Volunteer-Matters

Volunteering and its impact on mental health

Volunteering helps all

In our world, mental health is gaining recognition as a significant global concern.

In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) way back in 2017 stated depression was the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. And that was before the Covid pandemic.

Since then, rates of depression and other mental health issues have increased by 25%. That statistic carries profound implications, not only for healthcare professionals but also for leaders of volunteers. Depression isn't merely a personal struggle, but a societal issue with globe-spanning implications. Communities and organizations alike need to operate proactively to deal with it.

Concerning as these stats are, however, there may be a silver lining. Leaders of volunteers can use them as a compelling narrative to attract volunteers. There are mental health benefits to volunteering. Numerous studies have consistently linked volunteering to improved well-being, including reduced stress, increased feelings of happiness and fulfillment, and enhanced self-esteem.

By emphasizing how volunteering can positively impact mental health, leaders can attract individuals who are not only passionate about making a difference but who are also seeking personal growth and well-being.

When you craft your role postings, underscore the connection between volunteering and mental health.

Highlight the fact a volunteering opportunity can not only make a meaningful impact on the lives of others, but also provide depression-fighting benefits such as reduced anxiety and increased resilience. That can appeal to individuals who are may be suffering from the effects of isolation.

Aligning recruitment initiatives with the WHO information allows organizations to tap into a growing pool of individuals passionate about mental health advocacy. As public awareness of issues around depression increases, so does the desire to take meaningful action.

By positioning volunteer opportunities within the context of addressing the health risks of depression, organizations can appeal to individuals who are eager to make a difference in this critical area and experience the mental health benefits of volunteering firsthand.

Another effective strategy is to tailor volunteer roles to promote mental well-being.

While still focusing on their missions, organizations can create opportunities for volunteers to engage in activities that foster connection, resilience, and emotional support within their communities and for themselves.

Whether it's facilitating support groups, organizing wellness workshops, or providing companionship to those in need, volunteering can be a powerful tool for building community for both clients and volunteers.

Fostering a supportive and inclusive volunteer community is essential not only for long-term engagement and retention, but also for decreasing feelings of depression in volunteers and the community. Providing training, mentorship, and ongoing support ensures volunteers feel valued and equipped to make a meaningful difference in addressing mental health challenges. Creating opportunities for volunteers to connect with one another, share experiences, and celebrate achievements creates a sense of belonging that can go a long way toward fighting depression.

You can also leverage digital platforms and social media to amplify your message.

Creating social media content that highlights the connection between volunteerism and reduced incidents of depression can resonate with online audiences, who can often feel isolated. Utilizing targeted social media campaigns can also help reach individuals who may be passionate about mental health but are unaware of volunteer opportunities within their community.

Finally, emphasizing the personal and professional development benefits of volunteering can attract individuals who are seeking meaningful experiences. Highlighting how volunteering can enhance skills such as active listening, empathy, and crisis intervention not only appeals to potential volunteers but also demonstrates the value of their contributions to the organization's mission.

The WHO's information presents a significant opportunity.

As leaders of volunteers, you can increase recruitment efforts effectively and have a direct effect on the world-wide mental health crisis. By aligning volunteer opportunities with the ability to address mental health challenges, fostering a supportive volunteer community, and other actions, organizations can attract passionate individuals eager to make a difference in the community while also experiencing personal growth and well-being.

This can be a win-win situation. We can create a future where mental well-being is prioritized, supported, and celebrated through volunteering.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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