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AlisonBrill Posted by Alison T. Brill, MPH, Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Have you ever experienced that “helper’s high” after helping someone out or doing a good deed? You know, that feeling similar to a great workout or a long hug? I sure do every time I read to a young student with Everybody Wins! through the SERV Program for state employees. I’m fortunate that my employer values and encourages employees to volunteer their time to the community. The many other benefits of volunteering are what keep me going back.

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Whether you’re driving someone to the doctor, cleaning up a park, or organizing to help people keep their homes, your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity. Volunteering boosts self-confidence and self-esteem, and can even combat depression. Giving back to your community increases your sense of purpose in life while lowering stress levels. Volunteering is particularly beneficial for people with mild to moderate depression, older adults, and those with chronic diseases and substance abuse problems. Those who give back are less likely to feel hopeless and lonely than people who do not volunteer because it increases opportunities to build social connections and networks.The bottom line is that you’ll feel good about yourself because you’re making a positive impact in your community.

“If only I had the time…” you might be saying. Most of us have very busy schedules. However, we make time for what we think is important. Something to think about that might make the idea of volunteering more feasible is to choose a cause (e.g., animal rights, the environment), or a population (e.g., teenagers, immigrants) that you’re passionate about. This way, you’re more likely to want to put your energy towards your passions, and feel that you’re making a significant contribution. 

Volunteering can take many forms, from direct service, community organizing, and serving on boards, to supporting your friends and family in their efforts to improve the community. Volunteering has so many benefits to you, your family, and your neighborhood that perhaps in the future we’ll see more physicians writing prescriptions for volunteering!

If you already volunteer, thank you! If not, you can find a volunteer opportunity near you here and get started making a difference today, both for the community and for yourself. 

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