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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.

 

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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I Love My Pink Shirt!

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, February 8, 2016
Updated: February 5, 2016
 
 Founders of Pink Shirt Day - Photo courtesy of Pink Shirt Day

 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes  

 

February 24 is Pink Shirt Day, a national day to raise awareness about bullying. Pink Shirt Day was started in Nova Scotia in 2007 when a male student wore a pink t-shirt on the first day of school and was bullied about being gay. Two senior students overhearing this, mobilized their school community to respond and the next day hundreds of students came to school wearing pink shirts. This awesome story showcases students creating community responses to harm and empowering others to do the same!

 

At its root, bullying is about discrimination and believing it’s okay to make fun of someone because they don’t fit into society’s mythical norms. There are many things you can do to empower students and fight the causes of bullying.

 

Here are just 5 ways you can get involved. To find the relevant opportunities available through Volunteer Toronto, search by the Category identified:   

 

Raise Awareness about Discrimination (Advocacy Positions)

Become involved in organizations that raise awareness about the diversity of people’s experiences and seek to create change. Whether it is promoting LGBTQ inclusion, educating about classism or advocating for those who live with disabilities, raising awareness plays an important role in combatting discrimination.

 

Be a Positive Role Model (Counselling/Mentorship Positions)

Mentorship plays an important role in empowering youth and allowing them to feel affirmed and heard. Having a positive role model, outside of school and home, can help youth explore opportunities, work towards goals and develop in exciting new ways!

 

Participate in Extracurricular Activities (Artistic Work/Crafting Positions or Recreation/Sports Positions)

Being involved in programming outside of school is imperative for youth with unique gifts and for those who don’t do well in classroom settings. Youth can truly shine learning a new instrument, playing sports or knitting scarves.  Recreational activities outside of school are important for youth’s personal growth and well-being.

 

Tutor Students (Teaching/Tutoring/Assistance Positions)

For some youth, school is difficult because they have trouble with literacy or understanding math and science concepts.  Volunteer tutors play a large role in assisting youth with school work and helping them to better engage with the material in the classroom.

 

Provide Counselling Support (Counselling/Mentorship)

Sometimes youth need someone to talk to. Providing support in-person or over the phone is important, whether in an on-going position or for youth in crisis.

 

On February 24, let’s celebrate those Nova Scotian youth who took a stand for inclusion and help empower other youth to do the same!

Tags:  Anti-Bulling  Bulling  Education  Mental Health  Pink Shirt Day  Respect  Role Models  Toronto  Volunteer  Volunteering  Youth Mentorship 

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