Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dealing with depression while volunteering abroad

"Every human being is important and all human beings owe something to their fellow inhabitants of this planet." -- Wallace Campbell. While doing volunteer work in the host countries, there are times when volunteers get depressed, or have a down day, they get into funk or just have one of those days. Everything could be fine in the volunteer life, accommodation, food, work and country could be great. In spite of all that the volunteer might start feeling down and sad. It’s more pronounced with volunteers who have problems dealing with depression. Depression is defined as a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. It is a serious disease and sometimes it is misdiagnosed. The symptoms are that the volunteers may feel like they are sad, anxious, a feeling of emptiness, feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experiences overeating or loss of appetite, or problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions; and may contemplate or attempt suicide. During one of those days there are a couple of things the volunteers could do to change the way they are feeling.


There are various pills that are available to the volunteers to help them battle depression. Most of the pills are prescribed by a doctor and can’t be gotten over the counter. Every person is different, so the treatment will be tailored to the volunteers ‘needs. Some of the antidepressants out there are Abilify IM, Abilify Oral, Celexa Oral, Lithium Carbonate Oral, Paxil CR Oral and Prozac Oral. When the volunteer is feeling really down s/he should go to a doctor to get the medication. Once the volunteer has been diagnosed with depression, your doctor may prescribe a specific drug regimen. If the volunteer is going to travel for a long period of time s/he should inform their general practitioner and they will be given enough prescription to last the period.


Talking is one the best ways to handle depression. Talking to someone, could help the volunteer overcome depression. They could talk to a counselor, priest or anyone who has counseling experience. If the volunteer is with other foreigners, s/he could talk with them. As they are also foreigners they are in a better place to understand the volunteers’ feelings. They will give advice and support the volunteer in their time of need. If the volunteer is in a country where there are no other foreigners, or in a country where they don’t speak the volunteers’ language then s/he should call home or their friends back home.

Doing something Different

When the volunteers feel they are stuck in a rut, they could try and do something new. When their lives become monotonous they could try and break the routine. They could try to “throw a spanner in to the mix” by going to new place, doing something different. They can try to take a break from what they normally do. They could travel to a new place, eat something different anything that will bring spice back to their lives. Other than doing something different, the volunteer could take a break from the work they do. They could take a day or two off so that they can handle their emotions. On these days they could go to a hotel, spa, or somewhere they can be pampered and make them feel very comfortable. Going to such luxury places will help take the volunteers’ mind off their problems.


Laughter is the best medicine. If there is an opportunity for the volunteers to go to place where they can have fun, then they should not hesitate to take such opportunities, or if there is someone around the volunteer who makes them laugh and happy, the volunteers should hang out with these guys often. Hanging out with cheerful guys will lift the mood of the volunteers. This is the fastest way to get over depression. The volunteers could watch movies that will lift their mood. If its music that will make the volunteer happy they should listen to it.

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