The power of volunteering

I have volunteered as a listening volunteer with Samaritans for a number of years. My journey as a volunteer began when I had a mental health breakdown – during my recovery I decided to do something I had always wanted to do – train, and begin volunteering as a Samaritan.

After losing my partner to suicide in 2018, I became even more passionate about helping people and I was grateful to be able to return to my volunteer role, and the support of my fellow Samaritans, after my bereavement.

I have volunteered at two different branches, alongside lots of wonderful people and I have had the privilege of being there for many, many people who needed someone to be there for them. It has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done – and - recently I have made the decision to step down as a Samaritan.

It is time for me to do something different now. What was crystal clear to me was that I wanted to find another volunteering opportunity in which I would be making a contribution to the prevention of suicide.

So – I am very happy to be able to share that just last week, I completed my training to become a Champion Volunteer with PAPYRUS.

PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide is the UK charity dedicated to the prevention of suicide and the promotion of positive mental health and emotional wellbeing in young people. PAPYRUS exists to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives, by shattering the stigma surrounding suicide and equipping young people and their communities with the skills to recognise and respond to emotional distress.

PAPYRUS was founded in 1997 by a group of bereaved parents, who had each lost children to suicide. The founding parents shared the core beliefs that suicide is preventable, and that those of us with lived experience of suicide have a valuable and unique contribution to make to the wider conversation around suicide.

Since it was founded, PAPYRUS has grown into a leading UK-wide youth suicide prevention charity. The PAPYRUS suicide prevention helpline, HOPELINEUK, is staffed by trained suicide prevention advisers, who work with young people – and anybody concerned for a young person – to help keep them safe from suicide. HOPELINEUK is a free and confidential call, text and email service, which is available from 9am to midnight, every day of the year.

PAPYRUS work hard to create suicide-safer communities across the UK and press for change to current legislation around suicide prevention on a regional and national level.

Sinking Feeling is PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide’s short film which has been created in collaboration with the BAFTA Award-winning animation studio, Blue Zoo.

Launched on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021, Sinking Feeling explores themes of loneliness, isolation and the importance of peer support; it tackles the heart-breaking reality that many children and young people are suffering in silence without the vital help and support they need.

Now that I have completed my training, I will be volunteering as a PAPYRUS ‘Champion Volunteer’ – I will be helping to raise awareness of suicide prevention by delivering short talks, known as SP-ARK (Suicide Prevention – Awareness, Resource, Knowledge) sessions for organisations and at events and conferences.

I am really excited to be part of an organisation that is helping to save lives every day - and so looking forward to getting out there helping to raise awareness of suicide, and playing my part in reducing the number of people who die by suicide.

I would recommend that everyone consider whether they have something to offer as a volunteer – there are so, so many different types of volunteering opportunities – there really is something for everyone. You don’t have to make a huge commitment, or give lots of time. There are so many organisations that would be grateful for whatever time and skills you can offer.

The thing that I didn’t appreciate, until I started volunteering myself, was just how incredibly rewarding it would be. I have experienced such fulfilment and – I have learned so much too.

Volunteering has proven benefits to mental and emotional wellbeing and even to physical health.

Employers are also starting to see the benefits of volunteering, for their employees. The pandemic has given people time to reflect. Smart employers want to build a more positive workplace.

Supporting employees to engage in volunteering activity that gives them a greater sense of purpose, helps them feel connected and energised - and allows the organisation to forge closer links to their community; and give back in a focused way to a wide range of charities, who need our help now more than ever.

We’ve partnered with Social Good Connect - who are making volunteering accessible, easy, fun and inspiring when many are feeling disconnected and flat. With employee volunteering through Social Good Connect, it shows that you care and are aligned with the new needs and wants of your people.

Social Good Connect make employee volunteering easy by connecting employees with their perfect volunteering opportunities through their digital search and match technology. A not-for-profit, social enterprise that helps employees unleash their skills to create an impact for the causes they care about - Social Good Connect are connectors for good, building bridges across private, public and third sectors, because connection always beats isolation.

For more details about PAPYRUS please see their website: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/

For more details about Social Good Connect please see their website: https://socialgoodconnect.org/

With love, Claire (MHIB CEO)

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