The benefits of volunteering for your mental health

06 JUL 2021

Volunteering can seem like another commitment to add to your schedule. However, research has highlighted the value it adds to your wellbeing and the role volunteering plays in improving mental health. Finding the volunteer role that’s right for you is key and committing to as little as a few hours per month can make a difference. Volunteering is just another way to Act Belong Commit and keep mentally healthy while serving your local community.

Taking time to volunteer regularly may seem out of reach for some, given the busy lives that we live. Family and work commitments are prioritised, and the digital age as well as the impact of Covid-19 have meant that many people take their work home or now work from home. This has blurred the lines between work and home life and seems to leave little time in between for looking after yourself and helping out your community. What if volunteering could serve both roles? Research on volunteering highlights the benefits for mental health and taking the plunge into a community volunteer role may be the way forward to support your wellbeing and improve your mental health.  

What are the benefits?

A UK study published in 2020, showed that people who had volunteered in the previous year rated their health as well as their life satisfaction higher, compared to those who didn’t volunteer. Volunteering was also linked to fewer mental health problems and for those volunteering at least once per month there were mental health improvements.

‘Purposeful activity’ is one of the four key areas highlighted on the Department of Health’s ‘Head to Health’ website as contributing towards a meaningful life and improved mental health. Through improved social connections and a sense of purpose, volunteering provides a sense of belonging and can stimulate both mental and physical wellbeing. Social connections made through volunteer positions are often lifelong and additional skills picked up through volunteer roles can help with employment and career progression.

A firsthand experience from one of our Telephone Crisis Supporters

“Volunteering for an organisation supporting people experiencing homelessness was initially a scary prospect due to the uncertainty of communicating with people from very different backgrounds to my own. After my first shift, which was only two hours, I honestly left there with a huge grin on my face, it was so rewarding. Over time, I felt more confident to chat to everyone within the centre. After five years, I changed jobs and started looking for other volunteering opportunities close to my new work. I now regularly volunteer for Lifeline WA and also help out with training programs for a community organisation supporting homelessness. As well as a sense of purpose and belonging, the skills I’ve learnt in my different volunteer roles have helped me at work. I feel like I can talk to anyone at any level about just about anything now!”

Where do you start?

It’s important to look for a volunteer role that works for you. Making a regular time commitment is key, and this can be as little as a few hours per week or month. Remembering even once per month has benefits for your mental health. State volunteering organisations such as Volunteering WA are a great place to start to search for volunteer opportunities close to you.  Stepping out of your comfort zone and adding something else to your schedule may seem like a daunting prospect at first but committing to a volunteer role will bring many benefits to your community and importantly, to your mental health.

If you are interested in Volunteering for Lifeline WA, then please visit our website. We would love to have you as a new member of our Crisis Supporter team, our Community Visitor Scheme or our Events team are always looking for volunteers to take part in community events all year round.

Written by Susan Edgar