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Volunteering to help recovery

At our blog co-production meeting this week, our volunteer and blogger John tells us about how volunteering has helped him in his recovery, and how it can be beneficial in many ways. If you have any further suggestions on what might be helpful from a supporter please contact us via the details at the end of this post.

Four years ago I was made redundant from a high profile role where I managed 30 people. My mental health quickly deteriorated, as with redundancy came a loss of purpose and of much of my social network. Initially, I had not considered volunteering and I put all my focus in getting a new role. Failing to secure a new role only worsened my mental health. The turning point came when a friend pointed me towards an African run charity that needed accountancy support, my area of expertise.

To start off with, I committed to doing only one day a week because I didn’t want to promise too much in case another role came up or my mental health continued to deteriorate. Almost immediately, I could see how my skills could help the charity. The charity managers were very welcoming and grateful for my support. After a couple of months, I increased my hours to two days a week. This enabled me to get involved in other aspects of the charity, including helping out on a farm and organising a cricket tour to raise the charity profile.

As I started to achieve things my confidence grew, and I started to look afresh at other volunteering positions and paid roles. Earlier this year I took on a three day a week paid role at another charity and the other two days are spent volunteering across three organisations including the Recovery College. I have not had any mental health relapses since I started to volunteer which is no coincidence.

The advantages of volunteering are many and I list a few below:

  1. Volunteering gives you back a sense of purpose.
  2. You can volunteer as much or as little as you feel able to commit to.
  3. It can be a step back into permanent paid employment as prospective employers look positively on people who make productive use of their spare time whilst out of work.
  4. You meet new people and it expands your social network.
  5. A good cause is very motivating and this is good for your wellbeing.
  6. You can learn new skills which can be applied in other roles.
  7. Increases your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Hopefully this article has made you consider a volunteering role. If it has, here are some suggestions of where to get more information:

  1. Nottingham Community Voluntary Service, 7 Mansfield Road, Nottingham NG1 3FB (opposite House of Fraser). Opening hours 10am – 1pm Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Nottingham CVS keep a list of local volunteering services and will assist you in searching for suitable roles.
  2. Local libraries, churches and community centres will advertise roles on their notice boards.
  3. Local charity websites e.g. Framework and Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum are two charities that are happy to receive applications online for voluntary roles.
  4. If you fancy a retail role charity shops are often looking for volunteers to help out.  

We are keen to showcase our students’ recovery journeys. If you are a former student of the Nottingham Recovery College and would like to be interviewed for our blog, please get in touch with us either through the College admin team or email

Please note that Nottingham Recovery College courses are available if you, or someone you care for, have an open referral into secondary mental health services in Nottinghamshire. If you are unsure about our eligibility criteria please contact us.

Have you found this blog post helpful? We would love to hear from you on our Facebook page or via our Twitter. Alternatively, please email our blog co-production team on


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