Thursday 4 June 2020

Volunteers’ Week: The Benefits of Volunteering

Emily shares her experience with volunteering and its benefits for mental health.

- Emily Maybanks

Volunteering can have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing in so many ways. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. With Volunteers’ Week 2020 running from Monday 1st June until Sunday 7th June. Now is a chance to show appreciation and gratitude to the volunteers across the country and around the world who give their time to causes special to them. It is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. Although the coronavirus pandemic has stopped many of the things we would usually do, there are still many ways we can get involved with volunteering online, and we can use this time to think about what we can do once the pandemic has eased enough to be able to volunteer normally again.

There are opportunities to volunteer online at this time by teaching or tutoring online, or running support sessions via platforms such as Zoom or Skype. Usually, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer such as in charity shops for local and national charities, in hospices and hospitals and volunteering in schools by reading with children or supporting children and young people with SEN for example. Also, there are volunteering opportunities in libraries, museums, animal shelters and national parks.

As a university student or graduate, volunteering can really help you to advance your career, learn new skills, and use existing skills. Volunteering can help you to gain experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, task management, and organisation. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first. Furthermore, there are plenty of opportunities at university to volunteer, with many universities having a volunteering service. While I was at university, I volunteered for my students’ newspaper and dedicated a lot of time to it, and enjoyed being able to meet new people and learn new skills. Since graduating, I have started volunteering at the radio station at the hospital in my hometown, which has again enabled me to gain a new experience, meet new people from different walks of life and learn new things.

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer,  however, the benefits can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. Volunteering also has many benefits for mental health; giving your time to others can help protect both your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.

While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your day. It increases your self-confidence and provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals. Volunteering can also help you feel less lonely. Furthermore, it can help those who really struggle with their mental health to gain confidence before they think about returning to work or looking for a paid position.

Volunteers’ Week 2020 is also a time to express our gratitude to those who have dedicated their time to helping during the coronavirus pandemic, either by volunteering in hospitals or by dropping off food and essentials to family, friends and neighbours.

“Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” 

For more information Student Space is here to make it easier for you to find the support you need during the coronavirus pandemic.

For more information and support on looking after your wellbeing at university, click here.

Click here to see more information from Student Minds about the coronavirus outbreak and mental health. 

My name is Emily (Em). In 2018, I graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting where I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. In September 2020 I will be starting a PGCE at the University of Reading to train to teach Secondary MFL (French and German). I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now also as a graduate, as well as various other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help and inspire others.

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