Monday 4 July 2022

Mental Health Volunteering: An Student’s Review

Rosie talks about her own personal experience as a volunteer with a crisis line. She further discusses some of the pros and cons of mental health volunteering.

- Rosie

Volunteers Week is celebrated from 1-7 June 2022, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on my experience volunteering in the mental health sector.  For over 18 months I have been volunteering for a crisis text line service called SHOUT 85258.  

SHOUT is a free, confidential text support service that runs 24/7. My role involves listening to texters, signposting them to relevant resources or support and helping them reach a calmer place. After 140 hours of volunteering to date, you get to know the important factors of crisis volunteering- the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’ve made a list of some of the pros and cons of mental health volunteering. If anyone is considering getting involved in mental health volunteering, it may be worth taking a look. Please keep in mind that volunteering can look different for everyone, so this is merely a snapshot of my experience.  

Pros of Mental Health Volunteering: 

  • Provides a sense of purpose. Volunteering focuses on something bigger than yourself. Supporting people who are struggling and going through adversity can help bring some valuable perspective to your own life.  
  • Helping to make a difference. If you have an empathetic, caring character this may really suit you. I find it empowering and rewarding to know I am helping others who are struggling, one person at a time.
  • Learn a lot of new skills: During my time volunteering, I have developed valuable knowledge and skills. This includes training in risk assessment, safeguarding, communication and more. These skills are highly transferable across a wide range of career pathways but particularly in the mental health sector.  
  • Work Remotely:  I am lucky enough to volunteer on an online platform, so it is super easy for me to access. This means I can do it any time of the day, from anywhere (even in the comfort of my own bed). Particularly when I have a busy schedule at university, the flexibility of shifts is always appreciated.  

Cons of Mental Health Volunteering: 
  • It is unpaid: I guess that’s why they call it volunteering. In some ways, that’s one of the joys because you are doing something so valuable without any kind of financial gain. Understandably, as a student trying to prioritise finances or finding paid work this can be a challenge, so it is worth keeping in mind. 
  • It can be emotionally exhausting: Working in mental health is tough. Some conversations are more emotionally draining than others. Therefore, it is so vital that you look after yourself and take time for self-care. 

Volunteering has been such a rewarding experience for me. Even at times when I have found it more challenging, I know I have learnt important and valuable lessons. Knowing that I have helped others to feel listened to, supported and validated is one of the best feelings. Volunteering has had a huge impact on the way I listen to and support others in my personal life too. In my view, it has made me stronger and more compassionate in all areas of my life. I take great pride in my volunteering and would absolutely recommend it to other students.

Find out more ways to get involved with Student Minds and volunteer today.

Hi there! I'm Rosie and I am studying psychology at the University of Bath. I love my subject and I have always been interested in mental health. Helping people makes me happy and I am excited to share my experiences with my peers.

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