Rosie talks about her own personal experience as a volunteer with a crisis line. She further discusses some of the pros and cons of mental health volunteering.

– Rosie

Volunteers Week is celebrated from 1-7 June 2022, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on my experience volunteering in the mental health sector.  For over 18 months I have been volunteering for a crisis text line service called SHOUT 85258.  

SHOUT is a free, confidential text support service that runs 24/7. My role involves listening to texters, signposting them to relevant resources or support and helping them reach a calmer place. After 140 hours of volunteering to date, you get to know the important factors of crisis volunteering- the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’ve made a list of some of the pros and cons of mental health volunteering. If anyone is considering getting involved in mental health volunteering, it may be worth taking a look. Please keep in mind that volunteering can look different for everyone, so this is merely a snapshot of my experience.  

Pros of Mental Health Volunteering: 

  • Provides a sense of purpose. Volunteering focuses on something bigger than yourself. Supporting people who are struggling and going through adversity can help bring some valuable perspective to your own life.  
  • Helping to make a difference. If you have an empathetic, caring character this may really suit you. I find it empowering and rewarding to know I am helping others who are struggling, one person at a time.
  • Learn a lot of new skills: During my time volunteering, I have developed valuable knowledge and skills. This includes training in risk assessment, safeguarding, communication and more. These skills are highly transferable across a wide range of career pathways but particularly in the mental health sector.  
  • Work Remotely:  I am lucky enough to volunteer on an online platform, so it is super easy for me to access. This means I can do it any time of the day, from anywhere (even in the comfort of my own bed). Particularly when I have a busy schedule at university, the flexibility of shifts is always appreciated.  

Cons of Mental Health Volunteering: 

  • It is unpaid: I guess that’s why they call it volunteering. In some ways, that’s one of the joys because you are doing something so valuable without any kind of financial gain. Understandably, as a student trying to prioritise finances or finding paid work this can be a challenge, so it is worth keeping in mind. 
  • It can be emotionally exhausting: Working in mental health is tough. Some conversations are more emotionally draining than others. Therefore, it is so vital that you look after yourself and take time for self-care. 

Volunteering has been such a rewarding experience for me. Even at times when I have found it more challenging, I know I have learnt important and valuable lessons. Knowing that I have helped others to feel listened to, supported and validated is one of the best feelings. Volunteering has had a huge impact on the way I listen to and support others in my personal life too. In my view, it has made me stronger and more compassionate in all areas of my life. I take great pride in my volunteering and would absolutely recommend it to other students.

Hi there! I’m Rosie and I am studying psychology at the University of Bath. I love my subject and I have always been interested in mental health. Helping people makes me happy and I am excited to share my experiences with my peers.

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