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Volunteer Appreciation

Amanda Labuza

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Amanda Labuza

I was given a wonderful reminder last week why it is important to volunteer. I went as a representative for our outreach group to a volunteer appreciation luncheon. We were celebrating all of the people who have worked with the residential psychiatric patients at a local center. Looking around the room and seeing how many people had helped in so many ways, I was honored to be among them.

Our group started playing BINGO with these patients six years ago. I remember the first group that went. I helped set up the fundraiser so we could give donations as prizes to the patients. And now we have continued to work with them for six years. I am so happy we have established such a wonderful way for our students to give back to the community. And I was humbled to be sitting among groups that had been doing this for decades.

During the keynote address a local politician reminded us that these are people “society has turned a blind eye to.” How often have we heard people refer to an obviously, severely mentally ill person as “crazy” while they cross to the other side of the street? We don’t often help these mentally ill. We point and laugh. But this was a chance to remember we are serving those who can’t serve themselves. Some of these patients don’t know what year it is, how to take care of themselves, or even who they can trust. It may be a small act to play BINGO with them, but the true gift is treating them with respect and dignity.

If you have been considering volunteering with mentally ill patients, I strongly encourage you to. As our keynote speaker said “It isn’t always medication and treatment that changes patients lives.” I applaud all the members of SfN for working to develop medication and treatment for patients. But I want to take the time to thank all of you who have reached out to patients in person. Thank you for giving them respect, dignity, and joy. A moment of kindness can sometimes be just as powerful as a pill. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered before, your efforts are not wasted.

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