Let’s start with the obvious… Until recently, mental health challenges and other related issues are things we usually shy away from, especially in a society like ours in which stuff like this is usually tagged “oyinbo’s problem” (white man’s problem) or at most, something that can be easily snapped out of. And I admit I used to share the same view until some level of knowledge, exposure and experience changed my perspective. Hopefully, as more people are getting aware and educated on mental health, we can truly address these issues as we ought to and eradicate the associated stigma.
I’ve been meaning to write something on this but never got past few lines of draft until yesterday (14th June) which was the 4th month anniversary of an organization I belong to, Ibadan Volunteers Hub (IVH) , a community of young people in Ibadan dedicated to creating positive change through volunteerism. Because we love celebrating even small milestones and finding every opportunity to add value , we decided to carry out a Mental Health Awareness Campaign in commemoration of that, focusing on volunteering as a tool to combat depression and other mental health challenges. We are fully invested and won’t stop speaking about this, so yes, beyond giving of ourselves, time, skills and all, we’ve literally gone mental!
You might wonder how there’s a link between volunteering and mental health, but it’s been shown and known through research that volunteering can help overcome certain mental health issues and boost overall health as supported by this article on mental health choices among many others. And as a die-hard volunteer and someone who’s struggled with some issues before (especially self esteem and body image problems), I can tell you that I’ve enjoyed the benefits firsthand and it’s very true that you just might be helping yourself by helping others.
1. Social Interaction and Connection: Depression and other mental health challenges manifest themselves in different ways and for some, it’s that feeling of loneliness or the desire to withdraw.
Volunteering, especially in teams, might be just what you need to get out of your shell and interact with others. Social interaction with others can help boost your mood and lessens risk of getting suicidal thoughts and hurting yourself by being all alone. Through interaction, you get to build a support network or make a connection with someone who just gets you, whom you can fully open up to and can help you get over certain challenges.
2. Feel-good factor: Maybe it’s just me, but there’s this warm glow and feeling I get from helping out because I feel useful and valuable. This definitely goes a long way to feel better about yourself and begin to find meaning to your existence. Which leads to my next point…
3. Boosts self-worth and self-esteem: Doing something outside of yourself can really boost your self esteem. Studies show that people who feel useless and worthless, especially older, mentally and physically challenged people, find that their self esteem got boosted again when they got involved in the community.
It might be reading to kids at a local orphanage, helping out with someone’s homework, ushering at a local event, getting involved in an art project, assisting an elderly person with mobility issues, speaking on or teaching something you are very good at, etc. It goes to show that there’s something you have that is useful and means a lot to some other person(s) out there.
4. Gets you active: I know, you probably want to lie in bed all day and wallow in self pity and self hate. Or no matter how much you try, you just feel numb with no inclination to do anything. But signing up as a volunteer can give you the needed push to get up and get active which can help you take your mind off the low feelings and gradually help get over them as well as focus your energy and thoughts towards a positive cause.
5. Gives a sense of purpose: When you find a cause or project you are interested in and give yourself towards it, it can create a sense of purpose and a reason for living. This in turn can give another reason to keep holding on, seek help and keep trying rather than just give up.
In all, remember that volunteering (or whatever you do) is not what makes you worthy, but it can help you see the worth in yourself.
If you are dealing with any mental health challenge, know that it’s really OK not to be OK at times and there really no shame in getting help, so talk to someone today. I’m sincerely sending out love and prayers to everyone out there dealing with mental health challenges.
The above was written by Timi of Teemiewrites , a fellow IVH member and spontaneous writer. It doesn’t have to stop here, we at Ibadan Volunteers Hub have decided to go mental, why don’t you join us?
I’m very much interested in your views. Contribute to this by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below and don’t forget to like, share and subscribe if you haven’t.
-The Value Adder™