Mental health issues are an increasingly prevalent challenge for people in the UK, with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety on the rise (Source) and with the stress and pressures that the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have brought to many people’s lives there is a real need for volunteers to support where they can right now.
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Mental health volunteering is also great way to make a difference for those who need it most. Whether you’re looking to become a volunteer from home on your telephone, in-person at locations across the UK or by organising events / activities at your local community centre we’ll help you find an opportunity that fits you best.
In this guide, we’ll be exploring the top 15 mental health volunteering opportunities for charities that anyone can get involved in across the UK and the frequently asked questions to clarify any doubts you may have. There’s also an insightful video about volunteering and a high-res downloadable poster to print and stick up in your workplace.
What is mental health volunteering?
Mental health volunteering is simply the voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and resources for community service often for a charity or for a men’s initiative like Project Pit-Stop which has been funded by larger charities. It’s a great way to work with mental health charities and make a difference for those who are suffering from mental health problems or illness from low-income families to high-flying entrepreneurs, mental ill-health doesn’t discriminate.
Volunteering can be done either in-person or by telephone and text line, depending on the charity you volunteer at which could include supporting people through their mental health issues over the telephone or simply sitting alongside someone as they talk through what’s concerning them and how to make them feel better and hopefully solve their problems. Regardless of how much time you have available there will always be something that you can do to help support mental healthcare services across the UK.
It’s important to note that whilst you can certainly be qualified as a mental health practitioner to offer the type of mental health volunteering support required, you can also just be an ‘unqualified’ good person with or without lived experience whose a caring individual and would like to give someone hope and signpost them to the relevant support services.
List of Mental Health Charities (UK)
|Anxiety UK||is a charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.||www.anxietyuk.org.uk||03444 775 774|
|Bipolar UK||is a charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.||www.bipolaruk.org.uk||N/A|
|CALM||is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.||www.thecalmzone.net||0800 58 58 58|
|Men's Health Forum||is a 24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.||www.menshealthforum.org.uk||N/A|
|Mental Health Foundation||provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.||www.mentalhealth.org.uk||N/A|
|Mind||promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.||www.mind.org.uk||0300 123 3393|
|No Panic||is a voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).||www.nopanic.org.uk||0844 967 4848|
|OCD Action||provides support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.||www.ocdaction.org.uk||0845 390 6232|
|OCD UK||is a charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.||www.ocduk.org||0333 212 7890|
|Papyrus||is the young suicide prevention society.||www.papyrus-uk.org||0800 068 4141|
|Rethink Mental Illness||provides support and advice for people living with mental illness.||www.rethink.org||0300 5000 927|
|Samaritans||provides confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.||www.samaritans.org||116 123|
|Sane||provides emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.||www.sane.org.uk/support||N/A|
|Young Minds||Information on child and adolescent mental health for parents and professionals.||www.youngminds.org.uk||0808 802 5544|
|SMART Recovery||Helping individuals recover from any addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives||www.smartrecovery.org.uk||0330 053 6022|
Mental Health Volunteering FAQs
How do I become a mental health volunteer?
You can volunteer in the mental health field by volunteering for a mental health charity or you can volunteer by organising events/ activities in your local community centre. Many mental health charities like the list above run telephone line services outside of office hours, where volunteers work from home to provide support and advice to people who need it most. If in-person is more your style and you’re looking for opportunities to get involved in your local area then reach out to the national charity and find your local representative.
Can volunteering improve mental health?
Volunteering can improve your mental health by giving you a sense of purpose, as well as being able to help those in need. It helps give you a sense of perspective and gratitude for helping others as we’re social beings. Being responsible for another human’s wellbeing is a highly responsible job to have. Volunteering can help mental illness sufferers by providing them with somebody they can talk/ vent to and give advice on how best to deal with their issues!
Does volunteering combat depression?
Volunteering can combat depression for many reasons. Volunteering is being able to help other people, whether it’s by giving your time or donating money to a good cause you are doing something that benefits others instead of just yourself so this can have mental health benefits because you’re feeling like you’ve helped someone else instead of focusing on the problems in your life.
However, volunteering can be difficult for a person as you can be speaking to people in challenging situations. If you are worried about this (Read: How to find balance during uncertain times) and then take it step by step and speak to mental health organisations like Mind or the Samaritans who will be able to reassure that volunteering is right for you.
Some mental health charities also offer counselling opportunities as well. The volunteer counsellor role requires someone with at least five years of experience in mental health counselling.
What charities help with mental health support?
The charities that help with mental health in the UK are all different in what they do to help mental health sufferers. Some offer telephone lines, others provide support for people with mental illness and some work on the frontline offering supports like counselling services or speaking out against mental health stigma that still exists today.
- Mind charity is based all over the UK (although head office is in London) who are always available to get in touch with mental health sufferers 24/seven. Mind provide support for mental illness through their telephone line service and also offer mental health resources to anyone who may be looking for it online on the official website.
- The Samaritans charity is based all over the country (UK) that offers a confidential listening ear to those in need of mental help or just someone and have been running for many years . The Samaritans are aimed at mental health sufferers and provide a telephone or email service for those who want to seek mental help.
- CALM is the leading male suicide prevention charity in the UK that offers support through their website, official Facebook page and Twitter account providing mental health awareness news stories on social media platforms. They also offer counselling services for young adults and mental health support for those struggling with mental illness.
- Papyrus is another mental health charity that offers support through their telephone line and other mental health services like counselling or training to help mental illness sufferers. They work with schools, colleges and universities across the UK by delivering presentations about mental health awareness which has become very popular recently due to high suicide rates in young adults.
- Young Minds are another charity for teenagers and young adults (under the age of 35) mental health and also offer mental illness support to parents, carers and teachers. They provide training courses for those who would like to help with mental illness sufferers as well as counselling services through their website which is open 24/7.
What do Mind mental health volunteers do?
Mind mental health volunteers do a whole variety of activities to help others in particular they help mental health sufferers by giving them mental health resources like books or online information on mental illness. They can also speak to those with mental issues through the Mind telephone line service which is free of charge and private for anyone who would like to make use of it.
Volunteer counselling opportunities are always available at any time throughout the year as mental health trained professional volunteer counsellors usually work in the Mind telephone line service . They listen to mental illness sufferers and try to help them through listening therapy which is a talking treatment that aims at reducing mental distress associated with mental issues.
What do Samaritans mental health volunteers do?
Samaritans mental health volunteers can take part in a variety of mental health activities to help others in particular they offer support through their telephone line service that is available 24/7 where mental health sufferers can speak about all the issues that are troubling them.
Samaritans mental health volunteers also do other tasks like go out on callouts with emergency services who deal with people who may be threatening to take their own life and mental health volunteers can provide support by speaking to them on the phone until the emergency services arrive.
What do CALM mental health volunteers do?
CALM mental health volunteers offer a listening ear as part of telephone line service that is dedicated for young men who are struggling with some aspect of their lives, whether mental or otherwise. Volunteers can also get involved with mental illness awareness training and get invited to do talks at universities, schools, colleges and workplaces across the country on mental health issues that affect young adults in particular men.
What does Papyrus mental health volunteers do?
Papyrus mental health volunteers deliver presentations about mental illness and suicide which they have been doing for many years now because mental illness is becoming more and more prevalent across the UK. They also give counselling services to those who are struggling with mental health issues as well as mental illness awareness training courses through their website which anyone can sign up for free of charge.
Mental Health Volunteering Statistics
Factual statistics from research referenced for sources (correct as of 2023).
- In the current study, the researchers found that participants ages 16-24 and 55-74 were especially likely to benefit from volunteering, perhaps because of the opportunity to build social connections and new skills. (greatergood.berkeley.edu)
- There are over 162,000 voluntary organisations in the UK and an estimated 14.2 million people volunteer at least once a month. (bupa.co.uk)
- The economic value of volunteering is estimated to be approximately £22.6 billion. (bupa.co.uk)
- 100% said Yes Volunteer Survey result from Volunteers at Dorset Mind 2021 (dorsetmind.uk)
External resources to follow:
- Does Volunteering Make Us Happier, or Are Happier People More Likely to Volunteer? Addressing the Problem of Reverse Causality When Estimating the Wellbeing Impacts of Volunteering – Journal of Happiness Studies