One in five Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem. Adults, children, youth, and whole families are suffering. With the onset of COVID-19, the mental health landscape has worsened. After six months of the pandemic, 1 in 10 Canadians reported recent thoughts or feelings of suicide and 40 percent of Canadians reported a decline in their mental health.
In response to this, Canadian organizations are working tirelessly to provide critical services and eliminate the stigma. To continue their life saving work, they need your help. One way you can lend a helping hand is by volunteering.
We are facing a mental health crisis and help is needed to support those who are suffering. Volunteering at a mental health organization is a great way to show your support and become a mental health champion. There are many benefits to volunteering, such as
Meeting new people and making new friends
Improving social skills
Sharing knowledge and experience
Becoming part of a community
Learning new skills
Gaining career experience
Becoming a volunteer can even support and improve your mental health and wellbeing. Getting involved in community programs can provide a sense of purpose, identity, and fulfillment. It can help maintain regular social contact, keeping individuals mentally stimulated. Additionally, volunteering can naturally offer people a support system and increase self-confidence. It can also reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, grief, and depression.
Volunteers fill many essential and supportive roles within organizations. When choosing volunteer opportunities in your community, think about your skills, abilities, and interests. Some opportunities include:
Working on a crisis helpline
Driving clients to outings or appointments
Facilitating peer support groups
Providing administrative or office support
Participating in one-time events such as Christmas gift wrapping or assisting at a fundraiser
Joining a board of directors
Volunteering as a crisis responder at a mental health helpline involves supporting individuals who are in crisis or need someone to talk to. This can be done online or over the phone. Facilitators for a virtual or in-person peer support group guide and lead group discussions, creating a safe space for others to share their experiences.
In each case, individuals attending a support group or calling a helpline may want to talk about things like specific mental illness challenges, suicidal thoughts, family violence, grief, addiction, loneliness, or isolation.
If this sounds like a good fit for you, here are two places you can learn more:
There are many ways to help local mental health organizations. Reach out to your local hospital, community centre, or volunteer centre to find opportunities where you can share your skills. Here are some volunteer websites to get your search started:
People with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety can make great volunteers. They offer a unique perspective and can share their story, showing others that they are not alone. Research also shows that being a volunteer can have a positive impact on your own physical and mental health. Volunteering provides an opportunity to make friends, learn new skills, build a community, and receive emotional support.
Possibly! Reach out to your local hospital to see what types of programs and community support they provide and what volunteer opportunities are available.
It depends on the volunteer position. Look at your schedule and see how much time you can give before you make a committment. Some volunteers help out a few hours per week or month. Others help with one-time events or seasonal programs. Any time you can give will make a difference.
Each organization and program will have its own legal requirements for volunteers. This may include minimum age eligibility, screening processes, and reference checks. Check with the organization you’d like to support to see what they require.
At Unite for Change, we are committed to increasing access to care and eliminating stigma. That’s why we created the Support Mental Health Fund, which supports over 470 organizations that are saving lives and creating change with critical services and programs.
Learn more about the Support Mental Health Fund today and consider donating if you are currently unable to volunteer your time. Your donation will help provide crisis intervention, counselling, peer-to-peer support, suicide prevention, and much more. Become a mental health champion today!