Community Minded is a project that will support people with mental health problems to volunteer in their communities. Central to the project is the belief that a good volunteering experience is good for mental health. This is supported by the way that volunteering can help people achieve the 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Give Back, Be Active, Keep Learning, Connect, Take Notice.
The project provides a range of support for people with mental health problems to help them prepare for, then find and sustain meaningful volunteer opportunities that will benefit them and the organisation that they volunteer for.
The project is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and we will be working with 450 people in Stockton over the next 3 years.
Our work with participants.
For people with mental health problems finding a suitable volunteering experience can be really challenging, the stigma people feel because they have mental health problems, often combined with low confidence and self-esteem, can be so anxiety inducing that those first steps taken towards volunteering are never taken. To help overcome these barriers we will do the following:
An initial 1-2-1 assessment with a Mind member of staff where we explore what support needs the person has, what their initial aspirations around volunteering are and what we can specifically do to move this forward.
15-20 hours of ‘Pre-Volunteering’ training. This will be co-designed by our existing volunteers and will include an exploration of the skills and qualities that the person has to offer a volunteer organisation, what sort of opportunities are out there, the benefits of volunteering, communication and interpersonal skills to ensure that good relationships are developed and maintained.
Ongoing support as their volunteering journey takes place. This would be person centred and flexible, it could include an offer to have a ‘buddy’ arrangement from one of our existing volunteers.
Our offer to organisations.
A key to the success of this project is how we work with you. Rather than simply direct people to you who might make a suitable volunteer we would like to take a considered approach where we work together to ensure that a mutually beneficial relationship is achieved. What we can offer is:
A referral pathway for potential volunteers who have already done some preliminary work with us to consider the commitment needed to volunteer and what it is they want to get out of volunteering.
Awareness training for your organisation to help you develop a volunteering culture supportive of people with mental health problems. This training will be co-designed with our volunteers and delivered by our staff and volunteers.
Buddying/mentoring support from our existing volunteers who can offer peer support based around their own experiences of volunteering. We recognise that you may already have arrangements in place to support new volunteers but we would be happy to work with you to see if we could complement or add to this. In some circumstances it may only be needed for a short period of time, or not be needed all.
Sharing our experiences of Investing In Volunteers with you. We were very proud to achieve the standard in 2013 and retain it in 2017. We would certainly not set ourselves up as experts in all things volunteering but we did learn an awful lot through the experience and we are always happy to share this, especially with organisations who are happy to work with us to help improve the health and wellbeing of people in our local communities.