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Make a stand, volunteer (supporting Mental Health Awareness Week 2014)

Mental Health Awareness Week from 12-18th May 2014 is raising awareness of anxiety.

Community Action Suffolk is keen to share great stories about the power of the volunteer and how it can help individuals who are recovering from mental health illnesses.

With your help, we want to reach as many people as possible to help them to understand, manage and overcome the anxiety which can impact on our daily lives, so please feel free to share our stories we are publishing this week.

mental health awareness week
Make a stand, volunteer.

During this week of awareness, we will show how people can engage with their community and groups around them, and start to build some connections and support networks. One of the ways to do this is to become a VOLUNTEER!

Today’s world is full of busy-ness at every step, most people are plugged into networks, face to face as well as virtually. However, for some people it has become a place where they feel isolated, nervous and anxious. Whether because of where they live, or because they do not have the support network around them that we all need to thrive.

In such a world where we are all busy chasing from one place to the next it is easy to forget about what it is we can’t see, and understand the impact it has upon people. With 1 in 4 people now suffering with a Mental Health illness (this equates to approximately 180,000 people in Suffolk) it is a hidden illness which many people still feel unable to talk about to friends and family.

The Mental Health Foundation Report, 2012 stated, “The UK faces challenging and unstable times with volatile economic markets and job uncertainty. Many people say they feel too stressed and busy to worry about helping others or say they will focus on doing good deeds when they have more ‘spare time’ but the evidence shows that helping others is beneficial for people’s mental health and wellbeing. It can help us:

  • reduce stress
  • improve emotional wellbeing
  • benefit physical health
  • achieve a sense of belonging and reduce isolation
  • live longer
  • get rid of negative feelings

Many people understand that volunteering somehow makes them feel good and better, but what are the actual implications for your health, and can this really ever been proven?

Dr Dan Robotham, the lead author of the report says, “Churchill once said, we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. Scientific evidence shows that helping others has benefits for our mental and physical health. It promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness, can bring a sense of purpose and reduce isolation, can help get rid of negative feelings such as anger, aggression or hostility, and may even help us live longer.”

As well as the psychological effect which Dr Dan Robotham refers to, Dr. Suzanne Richards and collegues at the University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter. has reviewed 40 studies from the past 20 years on the link between volunteering and health. The paper has shown that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22% reduction in the risk of dying.

Volunteering is not the realm of any particular age group, and the evidence above shows the positive effect that it can have. Whether you are a child or someone in the later stages of life you can enjoy what volunteering can offer, as well as enjoy the spin off of it making you healthier and perhaps live a little longer!

During the coming week, we will be highlighting how volunteering has helped individuals and groups in the Mental Health Forum with a variety of articles from across Suffolk.

Community Action Suffolk can help you find the perfect volunteering opportunity, whether you’ve just a couple of hours to give, or you would like to commit to something longer. Visit our volunteering pages to find out more, or contact y[email protected]