VOLUNTEERS, whose generosity provides support to so many organisations, should be alert to the signs of "compassion fatigue".
Clinical psychotherapist Joanna Fortune revealed some volunteers can end up feeling the emotions and symptoms of the people they are caring for.
"Symptoms of compassion fatigue among volunteers are not uncommon. Compassion fatigue happens because of the enormous capacity for feeling and empathy a volunteer shows to the people they are engaged with.
"Volunteers are often at the receiving end of a lot of emotional projections from the people they help or care for, and can unconsciously take these emotions on themselves," she said.
Ms Fortune, who is director of Solamh, a parent-child relationship clinic in Dublin, was last night speaking at a seminar in Dublin organised by Make-a-Wish, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses to realise a dream.
The recession has led to more people who have lost their jobs getting involved in charity work.
"Symptoms of compassion fatigue include, among others, stress, lack of energy, depression, irritability, insomnia, headaches and relationship problems," said Ms Fortune.
"The good news is that the warning signs can be recognised and managed, therefore avoiding compassion fatigue and burnout," she said.
Make a Wish Ireland is asking for new volunteers to join up and help to cut down on the list of 250 children who are on their waiting list for granting wishes.
Chief executive Susan O'Dwyer said: "Volunteers are the lifeline of our organisation and we are totally committed to supporting our volunteers in remaining emotionally safe, motivated, engaged and passionate about the great work they do in granting wishes on our behalf."