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Volunteering & taking care of others

For lots of people, volunteering, or regularly dedicating a specific amount of time to focus purely on another person or cause, can be a useful distraction technique when they are feeling anxious or low. When you know you’ve helped someone, it can feel really satisfying and remind you of things you are good at which you may have forgotten about.  This could be something small like making a cup of tea for a family member or something bigger like starting a new voluntary job. Find what fits your life and makes sense for you.

Having a purpose is something that can save me when I’m in my darkest moments. I volunteered for a charity for a long time and it was really helpful knowing I was needed somewhere once a week. It reminded me of other things about me apart from just my mental health problems. It was also something I could put on my CV to help me get a job in the future

There are so many different kinds of voluntary roles you can do from helping an elderly person with their iPad, to stroking animals at the local animal rescue centre or putting up posters around your town for people who’ve gone missing. Find an opportunity local to you on the VInspired website or by visiting your local NCVO volunteer centre

And, if you take care of your family in your spare time or are responsible for caring responsibilities, please get into contact with your local Carers charity and remember you do have rights as a Young Carer, which you can view on the NHS website.

In the following video, Young Champion, Sophie, talks about how volunteering, including here at the Centre, helps her manage her mental wellbeing:

What young people have told us:

'Doing things for other people makes myself feel good.'

'There's a sense of productivity and and accomplishment helping others - it also feels very fulfilling.  Definitely give it a try.'

'Increasing empathy and connection to others help me get out of my own head & increase feelings of self-worth, purpose, and happiness.'

'If you are negative on yourself - make it be about others and you'll see it's good for you too!'

'Volunteering increases my mental wellbeing because it feels good to have helped someone and it just puts me in a better mood.'

'I think it helped because it helped keep my mind off things causing me stress and anxiety and focused my mind on helping others.'

'I would definitely recommend other young people to volunteer and help others because you will feel much better after doing it.'

There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.

If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.