The Therapy of ‘Giving Back’


May 27, 2018 by Stuart Rawlins


 

When was the last time you ‘paid it forward’, ‘gave back’ or went out of your way to ‘help someone out’?

 

Well mine was on Thursday night 26th April when I hosted a ‘Men’s Only Mental Health Night’ in my local community.

 

The event did not sell anything, cost anything or preach anything; it simply created a safe environment where men could come along and hear from a few other blokes on how they have got through some tough times and how although those times were very challenging they managed to get through them and get on with life.

 

You see, for me volunteering and talking about my ‘lived experience‘ with mental health in order to hopefully help others actually also helps me feel better!

 

I am sure you may have heard about the benefits that volunteering has for our communities, particularly for those in our community who are in need of a hand up, but the benefits of volunteering or giving back for the person doing the giving is just as significant.
 
‘Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give’. Ben Carson

 

I first experienced the benefits of volunteering about three years ago when I started to volunteer once at week at my local Salvation Army when I came across an article in the paper about a schooling program (SCILS) for at risk kids that was being run at our local Salvation Army.

 

Not knowing if I could help out I simply turned up and offered to volunteer with doing resumes for the kids for free along with assisting one-on-one with their schooling lessons.
So off we went, once a week I would attend for an hour or so and act like a private tutor helping out with assignments, Maths and English lessons. Then one day one of the young girls asked If I would help her with a resume!

 

We made a deal, if she answered all of my questions I would write a complete resume for her, printout some copies on nice paper, and also put it on a memory stick for her. It took a few versions but we got it sorted and off she went with her new resume package.

 

The feeling of helping someone out made me feel alive inside, it also helped with my anxiety and depression as it gave me a feeling of purpose and of being needed. I had a skill that I could use to help someone else out and hopefully make a difference in their life.  To my surprise within a week the young girl had secured two jobs using her new resume, attitude and good old determination.

 

Each week I looked forward to my time with the kids, it allowed me to zone out of the other things in my life that were causing me stress. I would leave my sessions with the kids feeling relaxed, destressed and with an overall sense of calm.

 

Don’t just take my word for it, the Curtin University in Western Australia has published a report on ‘Volunteering for Happiness and Health’. Amongst other benefits the report stated that ‘61% of people who volunteer at least 5 times a year say volunteer work helps them feel less stressed’ and ‘volunteering presents a beneficial effect on depressive symptoms’.

 

A recent article published by ableto.com in March 2018 identified the below 7 mental health benefits of volunteering:

 

  1. Reduces stress
  2. Combats depression
  3. Prevents feelings of isolation
  4. Increases confidence
  5. Gives a sense of purpose and meaning
  6. Ignites passion
  7. Makes you happy

 

Giving Back is something that we can all do and the benefits are not limited to the people receiving the help!

 

So if you are struggling with ways to maintain or improve your mental health or simply have some spare time go out and do some volunteer work.

 

Your mental health and the community will both benefit from it.

 

Regards

 

Stuart Rawlins
Healthy Mind Healthy Future  
Mental Health & Employment | Educator |Speaker |Coach

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