Peace Corps and mental health (+ How the organization sees it)

This article will discuss how the Peace Corps views mental health. For that, it will explain what the Peace Corps is when it was created, and what are the benefits of applying to it. 

Along with that, the article will show if mental health can be something to disqualify you from the Peace Corps, and how the organization offers support to its volunteers that struggle with mental health.

What is the Peace Corps?

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The Peace Corps is an organization that was created in 1961 and was created to put more Americans acting on behalf of peace, development, and freedom. The organization receives volunteers that are willing to go to other countries and do volunteer work for two years.

Most of the countries you will volunteer to are located in Africa, some in Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. To go to those places, the volunteer will receive training on what will be done and the language of the country.

The work you will do will often be related to government projects, to improve the well-being of the population or even NGOs which you may offer to help assist the population that is cared for by those organizations.

Being a part of the Peace Corps can be a fulfilling experience, and not only that, by joining the Peace Corps you have many benefits. Let’s discuss what they are.

What are the benefits of applying to the Peace Corps?

Deciding to join the Peace Corps can imply you are willing to travel to other countries, meet new cultures, and be in touch with different realities. But not only that, there are other benefits to joining the Peace Corps. 

Freeing yourself of student loans 

Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the volunteers from the Peace Corps can receive that Forgiveness of their student loans. Aside from that, volunteers of the Peace Corps can be eligible for a partial cancellation of their Federal Perkins Loans. Which can be taken 15% of each year they volunteer, up to 70%.

Learning a new language 

When you join the Peace Corps, since you will go to another country that speaks a different language than yours, you will receive training for it. You will not only learn the language, but also many cultural aspects about the place you will live. This can be a great asset in the globalized world we live in.

Many learning opportunities 

By volunteering in the Peace Corps, you can apply for many master’s and MBA programs. In them, you may be eligible to have a scholarship, tuition reduction, and even assistance housing.

More career opportunities 

The fact that you have volunteered to the Peace Corps can make you more attractive to employers. It can show you have great problem-solving skills, that you are open to new opportunities and learning.

Pay and living expenses 

Since you are going to a whole new country, with a whole new culture, when you get there, the Peace Corps will give you housing and living stipends that will allow you to live like how the people in the country live.

Although that is a great benefit, you should always keep in mind that you will most likely be living in a less developed country, and the housing conditions will probably be different from the ones you experience back home.

Medical benefits 

While you are volunteering with the Peace Corps, you will have full coverage of dental and medical benefits. In each country where the organization works, there is a medical center directed to take care of the health of the volunteers.

Liberal vacation benefits 

During your time volunteering, you will earn two vacation days each month, which will amount to 48 days in 2 years. People usually use this time to travel around the country they are volunteering at.

Easing your way back

Once you complete your volunteer work, you will be paid 8 thousand dollars in cash to help you set back your life at home.

You can resign

If you feel like being a volunteer in the Peace Corps is something that is not working for you, you can resign at any time. When you do that, the organization has to send you back home within 72 hours.

How does the Peace Corps view mental health?

Having a mental health condition is something that causes people to be scared of how others may perceive them. It is commonly taboo, and many people can get scared of applying for the Peace Corps and be declined because of their mental health condition.

But what you need to know is that once you decide to be a part of the Peace Corps, you will have to go through a medical clearance. If you have a mental health condition, and you are being treated for it, you may be able to join the organization. 

Since the organization gives you full medical support, you might be able to continue your treatment even in the country where you are volunteering. What can happen is that the country you were being directed to is not capable of giving you the treatment you need, in that case, you will be relocated. 

In some countries, the volunteers of the Peace Corps have been working and following through with their treatment, let’s discuss how this has happened.

What is the form of support the Peace Corps offers to volunteers struggling with mental health?

In some countries, like Guinea, some volunteers struggled with mental health issues even before joining the Peace Corps. So a group was organized to support the volunteers.

They all say that even though they are in treatment, and feel good about their mental health at the moment, having this support allows them to keep caring for their mental health. They discuss how sometimes when they say they are feeling good, people may just assume they are cured.

But how mental health is something they need to pay attention to constantly. Having this sort of support keeps them connected to people that are experiencing similar things, and makes them not lose track of themselves and their treatment even though they are going through so many new experiences in their volunteer work.

If you have a mental health condition and are thinking of joining the Peace Corps, the first thing you should consider is how it would feel for you to be in a different culture, and far from everyone you know. This can have an impact on your mental health, so it is something you need to think about.

But if you are open to living in a different culture, and meeting new people, the Peace Corps can be a good chance for you. Get in touch with the doctor that is treating you, and keep active in your treatment. All of that will allow you to enjoy your Peace Corps experience to the fullest.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): How does the Peace Corps view mental health? 

Is it possible to visit your family during the Peace Corps?

When you are volunteering at the Peace Corps, you will have a vacation period that will add to 48 days in the 2 years of volunteering. During that time, you will be able to visit home, but you need to keep in mind that the Peace Corps won’t finance or aid you in getting that flight home and back.

Most people, during their Peace Corps vacation, will use this time to travel across the country they are volunteering in. This will allow them to see more of the country’s culture, and meet more of the local people.

Can I join the Peace Corps if I am pregnant?

When you join the Peace Corps, if you have any medical condition, be it physical, mental, or even pregnancy, you will be evaluated the same way. The Peace Corps will check if the country you are supposed to volunteer to has the means to take care of you when you are there.

And if there isn’t, they might offer to direct you to another country. But if by any chance none of the countries in which the Peace Corps work has the condition to offer you appropriate treatment, then they might have to refuse you to join the organization.

What are the age limits to join the Peace Corps?

There is no maximum age limit for you to join the Peace Corps. At any moment in your life, if you feel like it is something that can seem fulfilling for you, you can apply to be a part of the organization.

But, on the other hand, there is a minimum age limit to be a part of the Peace Corps. Someone can’t apply to it when they are younger than 18 years old. Most people usually apply after they end college, as a gap year experience, or even during their university years. 

Is it hard to join the Peace Corps?

Joining the Peace Corps is an inclusive opportunity. People are always encouraged to apply to it, but since it offers so many benefits, like quitting your student loans, and gives you so many benefits with employers, it can be a very competitive process.

If you see yourself as an adventurous person that is willing to help the world turn into a better place, this can be the spot for you, and you should try to apply for it.

Is the Peace Corps a form of military service?

No, the Peace Corps is not military service, but it has some similarities with the military. They are both volunteer services that are maintained by the government. They are also similar in the way that both of them put their volunteers in challenging environments around the world. 

Both of them take their participants away from their families and loved ones and put them in touch with a new culture and form of living. Doing those forms of work can also be something that changes how you see the world, and returning from it can have its benefits. 

In the same way, former volunteers have some benefits when they return home, veterans can also enjoy some perks from the time they have served.

Conclusion

This article showed how the Peace Corps views mental health. For that, it explained what the Peace Corps was when it was founded, and what are the benefits of volunteering to it. 

Aside from that, the article showed if a mental health condition is something that would disqualify me from being in the Peace Corps, and how the organization supports the volunteers that struggle with mental health.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the section below.

References

https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/health-and-safety/medical-information-applicants/

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