So how can you help? Here are a few possibilities:
- Work the phone. Many communities and clinics have 24-hour hotlines that can be called by those in crisis, or simply by those who are seeking referrals or other information related to mental health issues or care. There may be one "help desk" that services a wide range of needs, or the hotline may be specific to suicide prevention or other special needs. Volunteers typically undergo a training period during which they learn everything they need to know to help those who call the hotline.Not all phone volunteering deals with inbound calls. Many people dealing with mental health disorders receive outpatient care or are recovering at home after a period of hospitalization. Volunteer organizations and community social services often have needs for volunteers to make short, friendly phone calls on a weekly or even daily basis to people in need of someone to listen. Some organizations may have a "call center" in operation, but often these calls can be made from your home or cell phone.
- Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Nearly 800,000 children have been removed from their homes because of parental neglect, abuse or other dangerous domestic living situations. Many of these children deal with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Kids in these circumstances are bounced around the legal system and live in a succession of foster homes and group homes with little to no sense of stability in their lives.CASA is an organization seeking volunteers who will serve as advocates for individual children. CASA volunteers stay involved with a child no matter where he or she is in the system, report regularly to judges and social workers on the well-being of the youth assigned to them and often serve as the only continuous presence in the life of a troubled child. Volunteer training is provided by CASA programs throughout the nation, and almost a quarter-million abused and neglected children are helped each year by CASA volunteers [source: National CASA]. You don't need previous experience, a background in social work or educational achievements to volunteer, just a willingness to help make sure troubled kids receive the social care and mental health resources they need.
- Take the wheel. Many clinics need volunteer drivers to take clients on outings or transport them to and from different health care providers.
We've got some more ways to volunteer with mental health services on the next page.