How to Volunteer with Mental Health Patients

More Ways to Volunteer with Mental Health Patients

Don't underestimate how useful your skills can be.
Don't underestimate how useful your skills can be.

Not much of a phone person? That's OK, here are some other ways to get involved that might suit you:

  • Help raise awareness about mental health. Volunteers who don't have prior experience with mental health care can help out by organizing in or participating in letter-writing campaigns to newspapers and politicians. Volunteers who do have some experience in the mental health field can keep community leaders and members informed on mental health programs, issues and needs that are relevant to the community. Volunteers are also needed to make presentations, host informational sessions and serve as ambassadors to the community at large.
  • Put your skills to work. No matter if you're a computer whiz, a cubicle-dweller in your company's human resources department or an electrician, your skills can likely be put to good use. Mental health care facilities and clinics require maintenance and upkeep, whether it's painting, structural refurbishment or computer networking. Phone systems need rewiring, leaky faucets need fixing and administrative tasks like scheduling and payroll need to be performed in order to keep the ship afloat.
  • Put away the golf clubs and go executive. If you have skills in the corporate world, you can apply your talents by joining a board of directors to help govern and manage the finances of a nonprofit mental health care provider. You could also join an advisory council, that promotes the goals and vision of the care-providing agency by providing guidance and new ideas about outreach, education and management.
  • Build bridges with your language skills. If you're fluent in two or more languages, you can help organizations and clinics reach out to communities that might otherwise be out of reach, as well as help non-English-speaking patients and family members communicate with administrative and clinical staff members.
  • Raise much-needed funds. Help nonprofits and mental health organizations supplement (or even wholly subsidize) their budget through a variety of fundraisers, such as auctions, dinner events and golf tournaments.
  • Clerical assistance. Fliers need printing, brochures need bundling and letters need mailing.

These are just some of the ways you can volunteer your time and skills to mental health patients. To find out how you can help, contact a mental health care provider near you, or start by contacting a national organization that can put you in touch with a nearby volunteering opportunity. And don't forget to see the next page for lots more information on volunteering.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "FastStats: Mental Health." May 15, 2009. (July 1, 2009)
  • Kane, Andrea M. "Little progress, many holes in kids' mental health system." CNN. Dec. 9, 2008.
  • Mayo Clinic. "Volunteer: It's Good For You." Jan. 15, 2009.
  • Mental Health America.
  • Mental Health America of Arizona.
  • Mental Health America of Greater Dallas. "Volunteer." (July 1, 2009)
  • Mental Health Association of Frederick County. "Volunteer Opportunities." July 1, 2009.
  • Mental Health Association of Minnesota.
  • Mental Health Association of Minnesota. "Volunteer Handbook." (July 1, 2009)
  • Mental Health Association in North Carolina, Inc.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. "Statistics." March 31, 2009. (June 30, 2009)
  • National Institute of Mental Health. "The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America." 2008. (June 29, 2009)
  • Smith, Carol. "A 'gravely disabled' mental health care system." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Sept. 23, 2008.
  • South Carolina Department of Mental Health. "Volunteer Services." (July 1, 2009)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "The Prevalence and Correlates of Serious Mental Illness (SMI) in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R)." The National Comorbidity Survey Replication. 2004.