The mental health benefits of mentoring

Posted on October 10, 2020

Poor mental health is an important public health challenge in Scotland and it’s well reported that early mental health interventions can have huge benefits for individuals.

Sometimes our thoughts and feelings can overwhelm us, especially during stressful life events. The coronavirus pandemic has caused exceptionally challenging and worrying times for each and every one of us.

At ProjectScotland, we quickly adapted our service in response to lockdown by extending our mentoring programme, making it available to all.

We have supported 71 mentoring relationships since the 1st April 2020.  All of the mentor/mentee matches were based on E-mentoring (remote mentoring) whereby communication was a mixture of calls, emails, text messages and video calls. 

Not only did we match mentors to the participants who could benefit from ProjectScotland’s wider support, but we also utilised social media to reach a wider audience.  We encouraged referral partners nationally to refer young people who were isolated at home and potentially struggling with their mental health, who could be matched to a mentor.  We recognised that young people in particular would benefit from this support to stay connected to others, enhance resilience and feel positive about the future and their prospects.  While there have been limitations on job, training and volunteering opportunities, there is still a huge benefit with working with a mentor to explore goals and the steps they can take just now.

Emma Hanlon, ProjectScotland Mentor Manager

Mick tells us about his experience as a ProjectScotland mentor, how lockdown impacted his mentee and the support he was able to offer remotely to improve the young person’s chances of avoiding any long lasting effects on their mental health once restrictions were lifted.

My experience of E-Mentoring during a pandemic by Mick, ProjectScotland Mentor

Why Mentoring?

I decided to become a mentor with ProjectScotland because I want to help people at a critical stage in their lives.  It took me a while to find my way in life and I believe I could have got there a lot quicker with the right guidance and mentoring.  I think a lot of times people need just one person to believe in them and that’s enough. This belief, will help them to believe in themselves and in turn build confidence in them.  I believe, everyone has their own unique talent and I hope by helping someone, I can help them find that talent; if they already have a talent they are aware of, I will hopefully give them the confidence and encouragement to enrich that talent in any way I can.

E-mentoring (remote mentoring)

I am enjoying the mentoring thus far, I haven’t even seen my mentee in the flesh yet due to the current situation.  We have had three meetings on the phone and the conversations seem to be flowing well enough.  It is hard in respect to helping my mentee with job interview prep etc. due to the current climate. However, he is into his fitness and so am I, so I have been giving him circuits to do at home, which I believe he appreciates.   I think it helps us both just having someone to chat to for an hour or so; I definitely believe it is helping me.  I would prefer to meet in person; however, you have to make the best of this situation.

After the lockdown I am looking forward to helping my mentee more and seeing him in the flesh.  However, what I’ve learned is that meetings don’t always have to be in a public place, face to face.  There may be times we can’t meet, therefore, we can just call or skype each other instead.  

Coping during a pandemic

It can be difficult managing your mental health in the current situation we are all in; however, I am thankful my family and I still have our health, that I am still getting a wage coming in and to be honest I’m kept busy with my family affairs. 

Routine is the best thing I can advise. 

  • Try and have a regular sleep pattern (don’t get in the habit of staying up late and get up late, actually set an alarm to get up in the morning),
  • Exercise regularly – I know there are limited times you can leave the house however, you can participate in online fitness classes and even print off circuits from online (that you can do at home with no equipment). 
  • I would also recommend a balanced diet, it is so easy just to sit about and eat for eating sake. 

This routine is really important for my mental health.  It is times like this that we need to look after our mental health the most due to the lack of social interaction.  I teach an online Krav-Maga (Self-Defence) class and it’s a life saver to be honest, even just talking to people helps me, never mind the fitness element. Finally, try and stay positive.  We need to acknowledge that nothing lasts forever and there is an end to this. By focusing on what you are thankful for helps also.

Accessing Support

If you would benefit from the support of a ProjectScotland mentor, please get in touch with Emma – emma.hanlon@projectscotland.co.uk

If, like Mick, you would like to volunteer as a ProjectScotland mentor, check out the mentoring section of our website for more info and details of how to apply.

Don’t wait! If you need to speak to someone now, pick up the phone and call Breathing Space. It is a confidential phoneline for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16, feeling low, anxious or depressed.

Our friends at charity SAMH can also support you, one step at a time, to improve your mental health or support the mental wellbeing of someone you love.