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How Volunteering Improves Your Mental Health

By April 14, 2022No Comments

April is both National Volunteer Month and April 17 to 23, 2022, is National Volunteer Week.

Naturally, the dialogue surrounding activism and volunteerism centers on how others will benefit from the volunteer work that you do. But years of research demonstrate that there are benefits for volunteers themselves. Whether you are a family member or caregiver for someone with a mental health condition — or have the lived experience yourself — volunteering can be a positive step toward improving your health and yield many benefits:

Volunteering – the Interim Experience

At Interim, we encourage all clients to find meaningful engagement through volunteering. Interim has a variety of fulfilling opportunities for clients to serve their peers and their community by volunteering their time. Many clients report that serving their peers aids in their own recovery and healing journey, and provides a renewed sense of social purpose. Sharing our experience and knowledge with the goal of helping others can increase feelings of self-esteem and social belonging. Volunteering can also be physically and mentally neuroprotective. Recent research indicates that volunteering increases cognitive activity and decreases the risk of hypertension, among other health benefits.

Interim’s Success Over Stigma (SOS) program is a community advocacy and educational outreach program designed to combat the three most prevalent forms of stigma: community perception, internal stigma, and external stigma. This is accomplished by recruiting and training mental health clients to share their successful stories of recovery with their peers and the community.

SOS speakers volunteer to tell their stories to schools, businesses, civic groups, and faith communities, helping to educate the public about the obstacles they have faced in their personal and professional lives, as well as their success in overcoming those obstacles. They also serve as speakers at inpatient psychiatric units, spreading the hopeful message that recovery is an attainable goal.

Volunteering is often the first step toward long-term employment opportunities within the agency as a Community Support Worker or Wellness Navigator. As clients move through their own recovery, they are better able to serve as role models to their own peers, providing guidance and support.

Kontrena McPheter, Program Coordinator for Success Over Stigma, summarized her experience:

“Interim took me when I was at my bottom, and helped guide and mold me into who I am now, a Program Coordinator. I was a client, I lived in Interim housing, I benefited from their services. They took me from this leftover person to winning awards for just being me… I want each and every one of my peers to have the opportunity to move through the system, to find out what their dreams are, to be able to educate themselves, and to make those dreams come true because that is what Interim has done for me. No matter how dirty you are, the dirtier the better, they clean you off and dress you up and make you shine. I always equate it to my being a shattered piece of glass, and they helped me put it back together and guild it with gold, so now I’m this beautiful work of art.”

Sarah C., who began her journey as a client, and serves as a volunteer of the agency summarized her experience:

“Interim gave me an opportunity and a direction to find a platform to help repair my life, as well as offered opportunities to go to a day program where we received classes and useful tools that we could use in our everyday life that we didn’t get in our childhood. These things really helped expand my capabilities and allowed me not to be subject to negativity and self-destructive behavior. Through trial and error, and maybe destiny, I found interim and I found a new sense of self-worth. I’ve really created more of a meaning to who I am and what I aspire to.”

Interim also welcomes the assistance of volunteers from the general community. If you would like to be of service, we have several opportunities where community members can contribute their time and skills to the agency.

Group Cooking Projects

Many of our clients benefit from having prepared frozen meals accessible, so it’s nice to have a group of volunteers to prepare and package individual entrees. To schedule a weekend cooking project with your club, congregation, or co-workers, contact the Development Office at 831.649.4522.

Gardeners Wanted

If you are a gardener and would like to donate your time, the garden and greenhouse at Sandy Shores need tending during the Spring and Summer months. Volunteers who can help Interim clients with planting, weeding, and harvesting are greatly appreciated! Call the Development Office at 831.649.4522 to volunteer.

Personal Development Classes

The Our Voices and OMNI Resources Center would love to offer a wider range of classes. If you can teach a four-to eight-week classes in yoga, art, Spanish, or cooking, please contact the Development Office at 831.649.4522.

Sign up today for the Frank Warren event.