Nearly one in five American adults lived with a mental health condition before the pandemic, according to the National Association of Mental Illness, and many experts believe the need for help is even more acute now. The good news is that there are many ways you can volunteer to help address mental illness.
Get involved locally
Local mental health and social service nonprofits need volunteers for many different roles. Contact the organizations in your area to find out which opportunities are available. If you’re having trouble finding them, look for listings of events in your local newspaper or contact your local library or United Way chapter. As you look for these organizations, think about volunteering for causes that truly matter to you. For example, if someone you love struggles with Alzheimer’s disease or substance abuse issues, working with those causes may be particularly fulfilling.
Participate in awareness campaigns
Throughout the year, the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) hosts a series of awareness events. From Mental Health Awareness Month (May) to Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (September), get familiar with these events and participate in events raising awareness about them. To find out about such events, contact your local social service nonprofits, such as substance abuse prevention, behavioral health, and other organizations. Not finding an event? Reach out to these organizations to discuss planning one. You could arrange a talk at a local school or community center or distribute information.
Be a lifeline
Crisis hotlines can be critically important for people who are suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse. Often, these phone or text lines are staffed by trained volunteers. The Crisis Text Line offers help for people suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, thoughts of suicide, or other serious issues. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline includes more than 180 crisis centers around the country that need volunteers. You’ll likely be required to complete training requirements. The organization also offers information on how to support at-risk people on social media.
Be an advocate
If you have a family member or friend affected by mental illness or disease, you know how quickly life can change for the patient, and their immediate family. Even the simplest tasks can become overwhelming challenges. And each year, organizations fight for awareness and funding to help find treatments and cures. Tap resources like NAMI, the Alzheimer’s Association, and other leading organizations that advocate for mental health resources and funding, get familiar with their legislative priorities, and call or write your government representatives and community leaders. Find out more about being an advocate here.
End the stigma
One of the biggest barriers to addressing mental health issues is the stigma they carry. Take NAMI’s stigma-free pledge as a first step. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which focuses their efforts on helping the more than 60 million people in the US struggling with mental illness, is looking for personal stories to help raise awareness. They also have a website specifically designed to educate the public about mental health.
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