Involving volunteers with mental health problemsBy Dawn Iverson | July 2nd, 2010 | Category: FEATURE, GETTING STARTED, MENTAL HEALTH, RECENT POSTS | No Comments »
Supporting someone with a mental health issue as a volunteer is not so different to good practice in all volunteer management. The following tips were put together through Capital Volunteering a London wide project that has now closed led by CSV and the London Development Centre.
- Do provide access to information around benefits, often people are on disability benefits and a move into volunteering can cause anxiety around this.
- Do build links with employment and training providers that might help people with training and support in areas like self confidence, assertiveness, basic administration and IT skills. Many people with mental health issues will have been out of the work place for a while, and/or had their career and education interrupted. Often there are projects and services out there which can help with this.
- Do keep in touch with people waiting to start volunteering (e.g. waiting for CRB checks) It can take a while for people to build up to volunteering and a long wait can make people feel unwanted and rejected, and their interests, and well being can change. Organising a social event such as a regular coffee morning keeps motivation and interest up as well as being an informal way of building up contact with people who might not yet be ready volunteer.
- Do be available to people, and flexible in how people can access support.
- Do make sure that everyone in your organisation has an awareness and understanding of mental health, and opportunities to address issues of stigma and discrimination.
- Do have a sensitive but open conversation with the person about their mental health support needs. Include things like:
- What impact that this might have on their work and the adjustments they might need (e.g. for some people medication may make early morning starts difficult).
- Plans about what to do if someone becomes unwell, e.g. keeping the placement open for a period and ways to keep in touch etc.
- Discuss disclosure (i.e. what they want other staff and volunteers to know) and respect this decision.
- Do get a newsletter or bulletin going. This works on many levels:
- You can advertise opportunities; showing the range of volunteering roles out there and challenging myths about what volunteering can be.
- You can reach out to and involve current volunteers; providing an opportunity for people to share their experiences – good, bad or indifferent.
- It reaches people who aren’t quite ready to join in, and for them to read about others who’ve faced similar circumstances and experiences and overcome them, or stuck with it despite the challenges, can encourage others to take the first step.
- Producing the newsletter creates enjoyable volunteering roles for people who enjoy writing, art and photography.