Banishing the January Blues: Doing Good and Feeling Good

Add a Rosy Tint to the January Blues by Volunteering to Help Others

As 21 January – labelled the most depressing day of the year hits, Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is calling on people across the North of England to give Blue Monday a rosy glow by volunteering their time at a local community group or charity.

As well as making a difference to others, Big Lottery Fund research has found that volunteering can help to increase skills, confidence and self-esteem.*

Leading Behavioural Expert Judi James, said: “Volunteering to help others is a great way to meet new friends, increase self-confidence and self-esteem and give you a sense of personal achievement. It may be cold outside, but a little time spent helping others can give you a warm feeling of satisfaction and help you to beat the blues.”

BIG funds thousands of good causes across the UK – from respite help for carers, projects to help people overcome disabilities or illness, supporting children and young people to fulfil their potential, or regenerating parks and public spaces – many of which are looking for volunteer support.

Healthy Minds, Calderdale is looking for volunteers to help with the Healthy Minds support group and their anti-stigma work. The project supports people living with ill mental health by focusing on using a holistic view to recovery, recognising that there are many factors that can help someone’s recovery journey, including peer mentors, support networks and challenging stigmas associated with mental distress.

Dianne Darby, Support Group Worker said: “Volunteers are essential to the work of Healthy Minds. Particularly in the anti-stigma project, volunteers will work with the project worker to devise and deliver workshops to secondary school students to raise awareness of mental health. The volunteers gain new skills and work to their strengths and find the experience hugely rewarding and empowering”.

Community health champion and Calderdale volunteer, Katie Siobhan, 31, who has been volunteering at the project for the last eight months, has been using her own experiences with ill mental health to help others. She said: “Up until two years ago I had chronic and mental health problems with no hope, no aspiration or purpose. Being part of an organisation has given me purpose and meaning and has put something into my day and life. I always felt worthless but now I can give something back and it helps with my journey and theirs”.

On Blue Monday Katie is inviting people to ‘paint away the winter blues’ by hosting a blue themed arts and crafts event at Big Lottery funded King Cross Library in Halifax from 12-2pm.

The Lorna Young Foundation, based in Huddersfield is looking for people all across the region who would like to support local people to set up their own ‘Fair Trade Social Enterprises’. In addition to creating innovative UK-based projects, the Foundation works to challenge trade injustice and the roots of poverty through business education for producers overseas.

Christina Longden, Project Manager said “During 2012 we received help from Stuart Vallantine. Stuart was struggling to find employment – he is a ‘highly functioning autistic’ but after seeing his own websites and chatting to him we recognised his brilliance, his skills and his ability to work hard. We were deeply impressed by his work and his commitment and were delighted to learn that after volunteering with us he has been able to find employment.”

Stuart Vallantine, 33 said: “The Lorna Young Foundation gave me a sense of purpose and something to aim for.  I had lost most of my self-esteem. My experience at the Foundation meant I gained worthwhile experience and boosted my CV.”

As well as volunteering for projects funded by Big Lottery Fund, there are thousands of other activities and charities in need of support. Visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/volunteering for more information and signposting to different organisations and websites that help people to get involved.

Vanessa White, Big Lottery Fund’s Head of the Yorkshire and Humber region said: “The 2012 Games showed the public’s appetite for volunteering and the thousands of people signing up to support the Commonwealth Games reinforces this. But volunteering for a local project or charity is just as valuable and can have an even greater impact: it can make a significant difference to your community or the lives of people in need, and our research shows it can help you too.

“Whether you have half an hour to chat to your elderly neighbour or can offer a more regular commitment there are opportunities for everyone to volunteer.”

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