As humans living in this world, particularly during/post-pandemic (depending where in the world you are reading from), we all have moments of struggle. If we're fortunate, they're few and far between. For someone who struggles with mental illness, however, those moments can be frequent, long-lasting, and incredibly difficult to deal with.
So how do we support these individuals when they're part of our volunteer programmes so that they still feel welcomed and valued, and so that our programmes continue to run to full effect without extra pressure on anyone? Let's talk about creating a community of care for the volunteers we engage...
What if, instead of expecting the physical and mental health of each person in our programmes to be an individual journey and responsibility, we created a community of care around our volunteers and built a structure of support to make sure that no one was falling through the cracks. By engaging with each other, creating social bonds, and checking in with each other, we can make a difference. It is well known that oftentimes the difference between feeling alone in your struggle with mental health and feeling like you're supported by a network of people can be massive. As leaders / coordinators / managers of volunteers, we are in a prime position to form these communities of care.
But how do we do it?
Above all, remember that we are all human and we won't get it right every time. If you reach out and discover that something is going on that you don't feel equipped to deal with, there are other options. Don't be afraid to tell your volunteers that you're happy to help work with them to find the help or support they need. It isn't your job to fix the problem, it's your job to support your volunteers.
"Sometimes we need someone to simply be there. Not to fix anything, or to do anything in particular, but just to let us feel that we are cared for and supported"