‘Volunteers need to take care too’

Befrienders volunteers have been busy helping others in distress during the pandemic and may be in danger of burnout.

WHILE the volunteers behind Befrienders work to help others and reach out to those in despair, it is vital for them to take care of themselves too.

Befrienders Penang patron Tan Lean Kee said the volunteers carry on their noble work with determination and compassion but their own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being is equally important.

“Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the number of people experiencing anxiety, suicidal inclination, depression, and other related mental health issues has increased significantly.

“At the same time, write-ups, talks and discussions on mental health issues have also become more open and have increased significantly.

“I believe that with greater awareness of mental health and the gradual removal of the stigma associated with mental health disorders, people will be less hesitant to seek help.

“Thus, I can foresee volunteers with Befrienders and other mental health providers becoming even busier,” she said via Zoom during the Outreach Knowledge Enhancement Programme recently.

Tan said taking short breaks and having peer support groups would help prevent burnout.

“These past two years have been challenging and unsettling for everyone, irrespective of age, gender or economic background.

“I understand that calls and messages to Befrienders Penang have increased tremendously since the pandemic started.

“Volunteers have been kept busy holding online outreach programmes in schools, colleges, universities and workplaces to promote awareness on mental health.

“Thus, I hope this programme put together by the outreach team can help the volunteers themselves and show appreciation to them.”

The programme, which was attended virtually by some 60 volunteers, saw the sharing of grounding techniques and other knowledge as well as poem recitals.

Befrienders Penang outreach director and organising chairman Chew Lay Kean said the programme aimed to help volunteers as there had been no upgrading training since last year.

“Befrienders has not had any upgrading training for experienced volunteers and there were no team building or social gatherings.

“This programme incorporated all these elements and we featured a sharing session on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help volunteers cope with their stress during their befriending sessions.

“The aim is to help them cope with their daily life challenges as well, besides giving them a platform to share their talent and expertise,” she said.

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