Volunteer Galway this week launched their Wellness Initiative during National Mental Health Week. The initiative emanated from a report published earlier this year by Volunteer Ireland titled ‘The impact of volunteering on the health and well-being of the volunteer’.
Almost 2000 people were surveyed around the country as well as focus groups taking place which examined the key factors involved in promoting feelings of well-being for those who volunteer and what makes a positive volunteering experience for someone.
“The aim of our Wellness Initiative is to highlight the positive link between getting involved in volunteering and overall feelings of well-being for the volunteer” stated Ruth Fagan, Volunteering Development Officer with Volunteer Galway. “This is the first piece of national research to be carried out on this topic and the findings are very encouraging. 65 per cent of those surveyed reported an increase in their self-esteem after volunteering while over half reported an increase in their mental health and well-being” stated Ruth.
“By launching the initiative our hope is that not only more people will consider volunteering as a means to improving their well-being but also that mental health professionals working in the community will also know of the positive benefits to be gained for those they are assisting day to day.”
Dr Malie Coyne, a clinical psychologist and NUIG lecturer is supporting the initiative and stated she believes that volunteering represents a “WIN-WIN” scenario for all involved. Whilst much is known about the benefits to the person or community receiving the help, perhaps less is known about the growing body of research indicating a strong link between volunteering and the volunteer’s own emotional wellbeing.
Dr Coyne went on to say “Being kind and showing altruism for others boosts serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing, a phenomenon also known as a “helper’s high…For those with mental health struggles who may otherwise be more used to seeking support, the feeling of making a difference to someone else’s life can be life-changing.
“I have seen this in practice with my clients, where the benefits to them of their own volunteering have amazed me.” Also supporting the initiative is Lochlann Scott Founder/CEO of Helplink Support Services, a local mental health and conflict resolution charity, stated “… you can see that once you get bitten by the bug of volunteering it is hard to stop.
“The act of doing something selfless for others I believe is one of the best acts of mindfulness that people make…you also in the majority of situations work with a team so your social circle becomes wider and your life becomes fuller; through the simple act of supporting others without gaining anything from it but a sense of happiness…in my view you cannot buy that kind of personal growt,” she said.