With today being International Volunteer Day, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub takes a closer look at volunteering and how being a volunteer can have a significantly positive impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
International Volunteer Day, which has taken place on 5 December since it was launched in 1985, is the United Nations declared global celebration of volunteering. It focuses on recognising the difference that volunteering makes at a social, cultural and economic level to so many developed and developing nations.
Volunteering is sometimes described as the art of giving your time and efforts for little or no reward. The reality of volunteering is, however, far from it; the personal, health and developmental benefits that can be gained through volunteering cannot be emphasised enough.
Positive Impacts of Volunteering on Mental Health
Clearly, mental health challenges can have a variety of negative effects on the lives of those affected, including unemployment, a lack of confidence and motivation, an inability to concentrate, difficulties in trusting people, an inability to make or sustain friendships, and feelings of isolation, frustration and anxiety.
The great thing about volunteering is that is can have a range of positive impacts on people experiencing mental health difficulties. Research has shown volunteering can give people a real sense purpose and achievement, and for those facing mental health challenges it can be both rewarding and interesting, it can increase their confidence, and it can give them the chance to learn new skills.
Individuals can also see their social interaction skills improve greatly as a result of volunteering. ‘Social capital’ can be increased through volunteering by creating bonds between people facing similar problems and bridges that assist understanding and interaction with other kinds of people. This can be seen as particularly important amongst those with mental health issues that go on to volunteer with a mental health charity or support group following their previous use of the service as a client.
Interestingly, volunteering is shown to help with given structure, direction and meaning to life, particularly for people experiencing depression, anxiety or low mood. It can notably help widen people’s social networks, improve their vocational and interpersonal skills and help them gain access to education and training.
Furthermore, for those people seeking employment, volunteering is an ideal way to use spare time well, and to keep active and well-skilled during a difficult period. Statistics show that volunteering can prove a very positive stepping stone for people looking to get back into employment, without the same pressures as operating in a paid working environment.
It can arguably be concluded that volunteering is potentially more beneficial to people with mental health issues than it is to any other group in society. Due to the barriers that people with mental health issues often face in various aspects of life, the personal benefits of being included, accepted and involved through volunteering for an individual can be life-changing.
Volunteering in the Cumbernauld Area
So, just what is on offer for people who want to volunteer in the local area? The answer is several things – if you’re just at the stage of thinking about volunteering, 2020 could be the ideal time to get involved with a number of exciting projects and opportunities taking place across Cumbernauld.
For example, there are rewarding volunteering opportunities available through Cornerstone House Centre in a multitude of areas, including administration, marketing, events management, Community Space coordination, employability, family development and social media, amongst others.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, there are also many hands-on volunteering opportunities available in Cumbernauld too. Organisations and initiatives such as Cumbernauld Living Landscape, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), Scottish Wildlife Trust, Watch Us Grow, Active Schools North Lanarkshire and Seven Lochs Wetland Park work locally and regularly recruit volunteers for outdoor activities and events.
Several other voluntary sector organisations which recruit, train, involve and support volunteers operate in and around the Cumbernauld area. These include, amongst others, Bethlehem House of Bread Food Bank, CACE Older People Active Lives, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Citizens Advice Bureau, Cumbernauld Community Forum, Cumbernauld Poverty Action, Cumbernauld YMCA-YWCA, Drop In Cafe and Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland.
Individuals interesting in volunteering in the Cumbernauld area can do a specific search for current opportunities available locally by visiting the Volunteer Scotland website at www.volunteerscotland.net.
Meanwhile, if you would be interested in volunteering at Cornerstone House Centre in 2020, please contact the organisation on 01236 739220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.