Many people, even those who may not particularly enjoy their jobs, are nevertheless able to feel a sense of self-worth and meaning from the process of producing a good or service that is of use to other people. In fact, several studies have suggested that returning to work on a volunteer basis after retirement can have a significantly positive impact on mental health, as employees-–no matter their field–tend to feel more involved and valued by others when devoting their time to work. That’s why there is a growing concern among the nation’s therapists and other mental health professionals as rates of unemployment reach surprising heights. Though many people experiencing mental and emotional difficulties as a result of unemployment may seek the assistance of counseling or another type of treatment, others are making the choice to volunteer their time with employers who may not have the financial ability to meet their staffing needs, creating a potentially positive value for everyone involved.
While some people affected by high unemployment levels may feel unable to afford volunteer work, others note that their fruitless attempts to find jobs have left them with ample periods of free, and potentially wasted, time. Using this time to volunteer, whether it’s helping stores through the holiday rush or working with local schoolchildren for after school programs or other venues, volunteers often report feeling uplifted by their involvement, even if it lacks an element they’ve been hoping to see again for months, if not years-–a steady paycheck.
With reports suggesting that unemployment is likely to remain a considerable issue even as the economy picks up, finding meaningful ways of fending off depression and other mental health concerns is likely to become an even more pressing issue among Americans. With volunteer work, those struggling with feelings of uselessness and isolation may find that helping out can be a wonderful bridge back to regular employment.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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