It’s known that one in four of us will suffer a mental illness at some point in our lives. Volunteering is one way to overcome the challenges of mental illness which can include low self-esteem, lack of confidence and time away from the workplace.
Volunteering in community support projects belonging to the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) has helped many people regain their confidence, gain skills and transform their lives after mental illness.
Suzanne is a volunteer at the SVP’s St Jude’s furniture store in Leeds, where she sorts donated books to sell on Amazon to raise money for the SVP. For Suzanne, volunteering helped her recover from depression.
“I was a wife, a mother and I was really depressed when I was at home alone. I wanted to get back to work, but I had lost my confidence. That’s when I started volunteering at St Jude’s. Now my confidence is back, I can talk to anybody. I can have a laugh with anyone. And my depression isn’t as bad.”
Annette, too, suffered depression before volunteering at an SVP community shop led to a paid position and recovery from her illness. She began volunteering in Kenton in 2010. She had been suffering from depression following the death of her husband and hadn’t worked for several years. She rarely left her house and was heavily dependent on anti-depressants. When she decided she needed to get back into work the Jobcentre sent her to the SVP shop for a work placement.
Initially, Annette was nervous and preferred to spend her time in the stock room rather than on the shop floor. But slowly she began to interact with customers and the SVP staff trained her to use the till. Her confidence grew and her skills base expanded, and when her placement ended, Annette decided to stay.
A year later Annette applied for a new vacancy as a team leader. Having been interviewed along with other candidates, she was given the job managing the shop team. Five years on she continues to work for the SVP and hasn’t taken an anti-depressant since.
Steve Milburn, business development manager for the SVP in the North East, says, “Seeing the positive impact the SVP can have on people’s lives like this is what really makes the job worthwhile for me. Annette is a perfect example of why we have community shops like this – local people can benefit not only as customers but as volunteers too.”
Suzanne and Annette are just two of the people who have found their lives being transformed through volunteering. Hundreds others find meaning and purpose in helping others through the SVP and giving something back.
There are also 8,000 volunteer members of the SVP in local parish groups. They help others by providing friendship and support to people experiencing poverty, isolation and loneliness.