Headlines: January 31st, 2008

Research published today shows volunteering can help to improve the health of people living with mental illness. An evaluation carried out by the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which is working in a partnership with Community Service Volunteers showed improvements in more than half the people taking part.

The research shows mental health service users themselves report improvements in both their mental and physical health and highlights how volunteering can break down social isolation. A third of the volunteers working with the Trust at the time of the study were current or ex-service users. Volunteers were giving time at 52 sites and carrying out tasks including befriending, adult learning support, reflexology, hairdressing and working in a coffee bar.

The study shows more than three-quarters of people receiving help from volunteers felt positive about other people caring enough to give up their time. More than half reported improvements in their mental health and seven out of ten users felt volunteers gave them a sense of being included. The volunteers gained self-esteem, with nine out of ten believing they are making a useful contribution and 91 per cent of Trust staff thought having volunteers helped the organisation to provide better levels of service.

Tyna Brych, CSV Project Director, said the research clearly showed that there were significant benefits for service users and the NHS from investing in volunteer programmes. “When volunteering opportunities are properly supported and carefully created, everybody can make a valuable contribution regardless of their background and even see positive changes in their own lives in the process,” she added.