Volunteering: Supported Housing and Peer Support – Part 1
Alice J. Washington
Just saying … I am often thankful to my former roommates, two sisters who were from Guam. They helped me volunteer during my stay in a supported housing program, i.e., where you rent a room with others who are reintegrating back into the community. My former roommates would literally pull and drag me out bed each morning “Alice, get up we have to go to work!” I was medicated, sleepy, and had issues with going to work because of the sleepiness. They persisted, and bless their hearts, my former roommates were correct. I needed to work, i.e., volunteer to combat being overwhelmed with mental health issues. At this stage, I was “in recovery”, still having a diagnosis, in therapy and needing to think about returning to work since I needed fewer services. I needed a different type of service.
Today, I truly believe most volunteer work can be designed for behavioral health clients, who in this stage, must test and start to reuse their minds in a healthy and productive manner. Joanne Fritz authored an Internet article which applies to the general population, 15 Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering that Will Inspire You: Volunteer for Others but Also for Yourself, and supports my statement:
We all know that helping others makes us happier. We love making someone else’s life a little bit easier. However, did you know that those feelings of happiness can prevent and relieve some of our most painful struggles? Studies show that improved mental health is just another of the many benefits of volunteering.
But, there are even more benefits to volunteering. We 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.
Sure, we know that volunteering makes us feel good. Yet, did you know that, when you volunteer, you are improving your life and maybe even your health?
The benefits of volunteering are countless. But there definitely are social, emotional, physical, and professional perks.
Very applicable to behavioral health clients, but in a different way. My former roommates were making me MOVE. I could have stayed in bed letting the medications win. This did not happen because we cared about each other. I was their “girl”. On a social, emotional, and physical level, my former roommates helped me get through the “fog”. Volunteering was a safe way to relearn how to work. We needed to learn how to manage our new reality – managing behavioral health issues while working. We worked in communities who let us relearn. They gave us a chance. No judgments. No stigma. Just community acceptance and inclusion. Most of all, we helped them, too. We learned to give service to others. This type of “service” to others and ourselves is still, today … all about that hope!