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Volunteering with mental illness: 6 tips to get you started

Posted By Lisa Robinson, January 24, 2018
Updated: January 23, 2018
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

 

As I write this, it’s blue Monday—the saddest day of the year. Winter weather and shorter days, especially in January, can have a drastic impact on our mood. Living with mental illness myself, I agree—this time of year is far from easy.

So what’s the good news?

It’s known that community can be an antidote for feeling low. And what better way to connect with others than through volunteering? However, finding a volunteer position can be overwhelming, especially if you’re already feeling down. Knowing this, I’ve put together six tips that can take your volunteer search from blah to yah!

 

Start by listing your skills

Hey you! Yes, you. You have skills, lots of them. So go ahead and write them down. What have you learned from your experiences? You’d be surprised at how valuable your skills are. Take a few minutes to reflect on what a great asset you’ll be as a volunteer.

Determine your intentions

Now that you know that you’ll be a valuable volunteer (see your list!) it’s time to think about what YOU want out of volunteering. Are there any skills you want to learn? A specific neighbourhood where you’d like to give back? Or a cause you feel inspired by? Your answers will help narrow down which roles to apply for. Remember, you should get just as much out of your volunteer experience as you put in. You deserve it!

Find the right fit

Volunteer roles are different everywhere you go. Some are really formal and require a big commitment. If you don’t feel ready, that’s okay! You can always explore other opportunities, there are hundreds of non-profits in the city! Find a volunteer role with expectations that motivate you, not overwhelm you. Not sure you’ve found a good fit? Ask to try out the role. You never know until you’ve given it a shot!

Share your intentions

Remember those intentions you created? Share them. Share them with someone in your social network. Share them with (potential) volunteer managers. By sharing these intentions you’ll get support. And hey, you might even find a volunteer manager that adapts a role for you.

Share your needs

Just as important is to share what your needs are. I’ve personally found it helpful to talk to my volunteer supervisor about living with mental illness. If nothing else, I don’t feel like I have to hide when I’m having a bad day. At best, they might work with you to determine how they can support you in your role. Remember, this is your information to share. Only share if you are comfortable.

Follow your gut

It’s important to listen to your gut feelings. Are you achieving what you intended to in a volunteer role? If not, then don’t do it. But don’t give up either. There is an opportunity out there for everyone!

 

As you embark on your volunteer journey, remember you have valuable skills to give. Consider volunteering this winter, and throughout the year, to feel more connected to others. Explore hundreds of opportunities in Toronto using our volunteer opportunities database.

 

Lisa Robinson, Program DeveloperLisa Robinson  is leading the research and development of Volunteer Toronto's first ever placement support program to help Torontonians that are facing barriers to achieving their volunteering goals. Whether they are new to Canada, have accessibility challenges, or find it hard to navigate computers the program is being designed to give everyone the resources they need to find a meaningful and supportive volunteer role.

Tags:  Give Back  Help finding a volunteer position  how do I get a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  Make a Difference  Mental Health  Questions about volunteering  Respect  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer 

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