Week 37: Volunteering dreams …

Project: iFred Proposal

Actual Time Taken: 45 minutes

This weekly volunteering project this year is officially taking over my brain. My proof? It has infiltrated my dreams.

I had a dream last night that I was volunteering at the Orlando Science Center with some new kittens and puppies (some were the size of worms. Dreams are weird, no?) When I came back the next day, I saw that they were all gone, they had slid out of the tupperware tub they were wrapped up in. I was distraught, and then embarked on an fevered investigation with my dad focusing on a local cult…. but that’s for another blog post.

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Master detectives, to be sure.

Point being, I was dreaming about volunteering.

This week, the work I put into this project was practically dreaming… I dreamed up a proposal to send to an organization that supports to people affected by depression.

After researching for this post in the wake of the loss of Robin Williams, I was left with the deep desire to do even more for the huge community of people affected by depression and anxiety, but I didn’t feel like I was mentally or emotionally prepared to help anyone. As someone who has struggled with both anxiety and depression in the past, I wondered what I could possibly offer to someone who was emotionally drowning in mental struggles.

So I thought to turn to one of these organizations that reach out to people affected by depression and suggest an idea.

What follows is this idea, and our correspondence.

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To the wonderful people of iFred:

 After exploring your website and learning about all the wonderful work your organization does for the community of people affected by depression and anxiety, I was struck with an idea. Now, before I present this idea, I want to preface this with the fact that I have little to no experience in the field of medicine, psychology, or psychiatry beyond my own personal experiences in therapy and my own battles with anxiety and depression. So really, it’s just an idea. But I hope it’s a helpful one.

 I recently wrote a blog post about how one could help out people affected with depression, and this idea presented itself to me, quite on it’s own. What if we created a digital information packet that could be distributed to people who would like to be more informed on how to be there for people affected by depression and anxiety in the most effective way possible? In this packet we could educate people about depression and anxiety, as well as teach them about how to talk to (or even just listen) to people who needed help. Also, the packet could include a sticker or icon to put on your Facebook or car window that would indicate that you are a willing, able, and confidential advocate for people in need; that you’re informed, caring, and willing to help out your friends in need in any way possible.

I thought I would pass along my relatively and self-admittedly uninformed thoughts to someone who could maybe bring this idea into reality. I love what your website promotes and provides for this community in need, and I am always looking for ways to help out. Please keep up the good work- I know you will!

All the best,
Selena Moshell

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A week later…. I actually got a response!

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Selena,
Thank you so much for sharing your vision and idea with us.  It sounds like a wonderful resource to provide and we will explore the concept further.
We appreciate your advocacy and support.  Keep up the great work you are doing!
Sincerely,
Penny
Penny Tate
Schools for Hope Project Manager

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I was so excited to hear that my idea may come to life someday, and either way, the people at iFred to awesome things all the time… so it felt so good to be heard by people who have committed their lives to making a difference!

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Turning our Grief into Good – In honor of Robin Williams

In the afternoon of August 11th, my Facebook feed exploded with collective grief. Quotes from “Hook,” pictures of a big, blue genie, and personal recollections of what Robin Williams and his work meant to my friends filled my entire feed.

As I was scrolling though the virtual memorial that suddenly populated the internet, I felt so disappointed that such a brilliant man passed away in such a tragic, and ultimately preventable way. I started researching suicide prevention, mental illness stigma in society, and was beginning to feel inspired enough to try and make a difference for this cause.

I thought about all of my friends on Facebook who seemed to share my sadness, and began to formulate the idea for an article about how we could all help people with mental illness or suicidal thoughts in our community. Research ensued, and as I was talking to one of my friends about it, he quipped that the people on Facebook didn’t actually care. “Did any of them know him personally? No. They aren’t really that broken up about it, so they probably aren’t going to do anything about it either.”

This struck me as a strange, and possibly true statement. Yet somehow, I was deeply affected by Robin Williams’ passing, and I have to say, I do believe that my friends posting status updates of the deep emotional connection they had to the movie “Toys” were deeply affected too.

So I say: let’s prove my friend wrong. I believe… no I KNOW that there are those out there that were affected enough by his unexpected death and inspired enough to take one, five, even twenty minutes to make a difference in honor of one of our favorite fallen stars.

Robin Williams’ legacy of comedic genius will always remain, but now we have a chance to create another legacy- a legacy of good for the mental illness community to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. In fact, his wife released a beautiful statement just today stating that “Robin spent so much of his life helping others… It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

So let’s honor the memory of this amazing man and do our part to make the world a little bit better. Let me know what you chose to do with your moment of good in the comments, and I’ll try to capture the look of shock on my friends’ face when I tell him how much good we all got done in Robin William’s honor.

Got just One Minute?

– Post something uplifting to your Facebook wall. You never know who is having a bad day (or worse) and the joy it may bring. Let your friends know that you are a safe place to come to if they are in need emotionally. (And if you aren’t, you know where to send them…)

– Send someone a quick, happy, loving text. Even if you haven’t spoken in years. (all the better!) Let them know they’re on your mind, that they’re special, that they smell good… whatever you think would spread some happiness. The more joy that is out there, the more good can be in the world as a whole.

Got Five Minutes? 

– Make a donation to one of the not-for-profit numerous charities that help people struggling with suicidal thoughts. Even a dollar makes a difference, and if you’re on a budget, I the good karma you get for your donation will help you live without your Starbucks fix for one day.

– Sign a pledge to stop stigmatizing mental disorders. Make a promise to yourself to help create a more open and inviting environment for people to come forward for the treatment of mental illnesses.

Got Twenty Minutes?

 Educate yourself about mental illness. Here’s a wonderful article on increasing the awareness of mental illness in the wake of this tragedy. The more you know and understand, the more you can help and stop ostracizing people (even unwittingly!) struggling with mental illness. (Cue shooting star with a rainbow tail to race above my head.)

– Gather supplies for a care package for the elderly. Depression among the elderly, especially in nursing homes, can be upwards of 50%. A Meals-on-Wheels chapter in San Diego combats this by collecting care packages for their clients’ birthdays and holidays. (Here’s some cool care package theme ideas!) You can send a small package to them, or find a local nursing home to drop off a sweet surprise. (Or better yet, go in and spend twenty minutes visiting! I promise the hilarious stories you will get in return will make it worth the visit!)

Got an Hour?

– Put up flyers around the neighborhood for iFred. This not-for-profit (whose full name is the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression.) is all about sharing a new, more positive perspective on depression to help eliminate the stigma associated with the disease.

– Garden for a Good Cause. Plant a sunflower, or an entire garden, and put up a sign in support of iFred. They use sunflowers as a symbol of a symbol of support for mental illness and depression, so plant your flower and signage in a nice, visible spot!

Ready to commit to the cause?

– Volunteer for a crisis center. This is not for the faint of heart or for the inconsistent. If you feel truly passionate about making a difference for the prevention of suicide, this is the most direct and immediate way to do so. There are so many places that are looking for volunteers, so find a center near you, and make a difference!

One small act really can make a difference, and no matter what you choose to do, let us know in the comments below so I can brag to my friend about how amazing our readers are!