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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

It’s time we started to talk about burnout in the third sector


Dr Mhairi Crawford: "please take this Christmas to take time for yourself"

The charity sector is full of a whole host of incredible people, all of whom give their all to look after the rest of the country, but far too often we forget about ourselves in the process. 

Our work is challenging, I’ve seen first-hand the difficulties colleagues face fighting for not only the rights of others, but rights that directly impact their lives giving them little to no rest. 

As CEO of LGBT Youth Scotland, I recognise that creating a positive work culture, while crucial, is not the only step needed to address employee wellbeing.

We must also acknowledge the emotional toll that providing social services takes on our staff, bringing awareness to this issue feels imperative at a time of polarising opinions on human rights.

I feel a heightened responsibility at this time of year as the holidays often increase hardships faced by those who need us and, in turn, the demand for our services rises.

My duty feels greater than ever to ensure we have the capacity and well-being to serve our community during an isolating, stressful season – when all of us here face amplified pressures.

There’s something special about working in the third sector and getting to witness the dedication and commitment of so many individuals to serve a cause.

I see this day in and day out with the staff and volunteer team at LGBT Youth Scotland who show such commitment and dedication.

In Scotland, there has been some great progress made for LGBTQ+ rights and it is heartening to see that the Scottish Government is looking to continue with this through the Human Rights Bill and the Ending Conversion Practices Bill.  

However, this isn’t a consistent picture across the four nations, and we have seen delays to key pieces of legislation in Westminster for the LGBTQ+ community.

One young person, Kayleigh who engaged in our Unseen Unheard social archiving project said: “The people you see getting their rights taken away, they’re the same as you at the end of the day. 

“They want the same things as you, they need the same things as you, and if you can understand that, then you can understand that if their rights get taken away, maybe yours are next. 

“So, you know, it has been getting better, but we can’t let the fact that it’s been getting better ignore the fact that maybe it’s not staying better”.

This has stuck with me when thinking about LGBT Youth Scotland and may ring true for other community-specific charities.

Our staff face significant emotional challenges when supporting youth who contact us in distress over troubling media coverage. In those moments, our staff bravely need to put on hold how they feel, so that they can reassure those who get in touch with us.

The work is demanding, and it can offer little to no respite as the work many of my colleagues undertake also impacts the rest of their lives.

As a sector, we give our all to support people from all backgrounds across the country every day of the year. But we need to ask how we can take better care of ourselves as we end 2023.

So, if this sounds like something you’ve been needing to ask yourself, please take this Christmas to take time for yourself.

I will be raising a glass not only to my phenomenal colleagues but to our fantastic sector which is giving its all to make the world a better place.

Dr Mhairi Crawford is chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland.

This article appears in this month's edition of TFN Magazine - you can read the magazine here



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