Dr. Ducharme’s Blog March 2, 2020 Volunteer…It is good for your mental health

Dr. Ducharme’s Blog March 2, 2020 Volunteer…It is good for your mental health

March 2, 2020
Dr. Elaine Ducharme

I have to admit the idea for this blog came from an article in AARP. Yes, I am clearly old enough to get AARP. And, I find it to be an excellent magazine. Volunteering is a great way to give and to receive. When we help others, we generally feel better about ourselves.

The Independent Sector, an organization that gathers tons of statistics about charitable activities, places an Estimated National Value of Each Volunteer Hour every year. That value stood as of 2018, at $25.43 an hour. The actual amount varies from state to state, but we can see that volunteers are precious people, critical to our communities.

Volunteers clearly don’t help out because of the money. But most of us notice a subtle shift in ourselves when we volunteer. We feel more connected to others, and we become less absorbed in the normal stresses of daily life. We share our experiences with others and want to help more.

The benefits of volunteering can include social, emotional, physical, and professional perks. Here are a few benefits you may not have considered:

Volunteering can give seniors a great sense of purpose and counteract loneliness. It can also get seniors who might not be terribly active, moving. Being active and engaged generally leads to increased happiness. In addition, seniors often have wonderful skills, patience and time to share with the community.

 Volunteering can actually help many who experience mental illness. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of inmates in the U.S. have some form of mental illness. Programs like Paws for Life allow incarcerated individuals to train shelter dogs. It is evident to prison officials that inmates become calmer when they work with the dogs. They seem more committed to their rehabilitation too.     

Similar programs help war veterans recover from PTSD when they volunteer at animal shelters. Dogs are man’s best friend, but helping those in need proves to be beneficial for both humans and canines.

There are so many ways to volunteer in both in our own communities and the world at large. I personally volunteer for the Red Cross. This is an amazing organization that serves so many both at home and abroad. Whatever your interest, there are plenty of opportunities. Think about your interests and skill sets. Whether it is helping to do something as physical as building houses for humanity, supporting a political candidate, serving meals to the poor or tutoring kids in schools, there are opportunities galore. If you are music fan, consider volunteering at a concert. If you love theatre, volunteer to be an usher. Driving cancer patients to chemotherapy appointments can be incredibly gratifying for both the volunteer and patient.

So, consider becoming a volunteer. Both you and the community will benefit.