12th April 2012
Many of us have done volunteer work, but fewer of us have attended volunteer training. We were both excited and nervous about how it was going to turn out.
The talk had already started as we found our seats. Compared to the boring lessons I experienced in secondary school, I was immensely attracted to the topic at hand, the interesting speaker and the passion emanating from fellow volunteers to do good.
The speaker, Ms Catherine Chua, is a Volunteer Programme Manager at the Institute of Mental Health. She first touched on the myths of mental illnesses and what struck me most was that mental illness can be cured and treated early, just like other illnesses. In addition, I was surprised to learn that a large majority of us will be prone to suffering some form of mental illness some point in our lives. This fact changed my perspective of the issue. I have always thought of mental illness as a chronic condition. However, akin to flu, early treatment will prevent the occurrence of more debilitating ailments.
As we zoomed into the different types of mental illnesses, we learnt several aspects including the percentage of our population that will be affected by them, as well as some common symptoms. To better appreciate the mental condition schizophrenia, we formed groups of threes and took turns playing the roles of the volunteer, the patient and the "voice in the head". It was both a hilarious and educating experience as we played our roles with enthusiasm; and gained greater knowledge of the communication process between patient and volunteer.
This training was more than just a one-way transfer of knowledge. Many of the participants were experienced volunteers and they raised interesting questions, such as the importance of risk management and taking time out from volunteer work. These were critical questions; as passion drives us to contribute, we often forget that it is important to protect ourselves too by receiving training on handling different situations.
Time passed quickly and the session ended. With great sadness and a heavy heart, I said my goodbyes to the new people I met. Each of us took back valuable knowledge from the session. And more importantly, many of us formed new friendships and found renewed hope to help those with special needs.
This article is contributed by volunteer writer Roger
Here are some comments from other participants, on how they see themselves using the knowledge gained from the session:
"(I hope) to help my loved ones in the future, be involved in special-needs related events and to spread my knowledge on this topic to my fellow volunteers."
~Ms Tiffany Liang Zhi Seen
"(I hope to create) Social awareness as well as personal awareness. To use the acquired information to help others and myself through early detection and proper diagnosis and proper medication."
~Ms Audrey Leong
“I see myself being more involved in volunteering for the Institute of Mental Health, as well as to share my experience with my family and friends in order to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”
~Ms Ho Pei Yu
If you would like to gain more knowledge about the ways volunteers can contribute, head over to our Publications section and download the chapter on "Volunteering with the Mentally Ill"!