Personality types and mental health experiences of those who volunteer for helplines

Hanah Patterson, Renate Reniers, Birgit Völlm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Telephone helplines have long been recognised to provide an effective way to reach individuals in crisis and several advantages of this anonymous form of intervention have been described. Most helplines use volunteers to respond to calls, including those specifically set up for students. Our study investigates differences in the personality traits neuroticism, extroversion, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness, empathy as measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and mental health experiences between 54 volunteers and 52 non-volunteer students for a student delivered telephone helpline. Volunteers showed higher scores on the perspective taking and empathetic concern subscales of the IRI and scored higher on agreeableness. We could not identify any differences in mental health experiences between the two groups. Our findings suggest that volunteering for helplines may not be driven by volunteers’ own experiences but rather by their personality characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-471
JournalBritish Journal of Guidance and Counselling
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • helpline
  • students
  • empathy
  • personality
  • mental health


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