Volunteers Enhance Care at Ontario Shores

September 21, 2009

As Barb waits for one of her biweekly visits from her favourite volunteer, Stephanie, her healthcare team comments on Barb’s remarkable improvement since participating in the one-on-one patient program with the Volunteer Association at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores).

Stephanie visits with Barb, a patient on the Seniors Mental Health Unit twice a week, a visit Barb anticipates with great excitement.  Their time is spent going for walks, playing cards, going to the cafeteria and sharing stories.

Barb’s multidisciplinary healthcare team has noticed a significant progression in Barb’s recovery.  Her anxiety has decreased, which enables her to enjoy the activities she participates in and the people she is with.

More importantly, Barb smiles and laughs more often.  Her care team attributes this success to the time she spends with the volunteer.  She has developed a meaningful relationship with Stephanie and this relationship has helped Barb to relax and enjoy spending time with someone in a non-clinical setting.

Barb says Stephanie is a great lady.  “She treats me very well and gives me company.  I like spending time with her and gave her a plant to show my gratitude.”    

Volunteers at Ontario Shores play an important role in the patients’ journey of recovery.  Most volunteers have a personal connection to mental illness and/or the hospital and donate many hours of their time to enhance patient programs and support patients.

Stephanie is embarking upon a second career in social services and was looking for the right place to begin her volunteer work.  Stephanie, a friend and her father have experienced a mental illness and this inspired her to join the Volunteer program at Ontario Shores.

“My experience with depression and the stigma associated with mental illness made me painfully aware of people’s misunderstanding about mental health.”

Stephanie believes she has a lot of empathy, care and understanding to share with patients and wanted to work with someone in helping them feel safe, cared for and valued for who they are.

Stephanie says the most fulfilling part of her time with Barb is when Barb’s face lights up when she is happy.  “It makes you feel so good knowing you are making a positive difference in someone’s life.”

Through her volunteer work and career goal of becoming a counsellor, she shares Ontario Shores’ vision for a stigma-free society through raising awareness and educating the public.

“I want to do what I can to make an impact on getting rid of the stigma associated with mental illness and educate people about mental health and what we can all do to help.”  

In addition to the one-on-one patient program, Ontario Shores’ Volunteer Program provides a drop in centre, clothing and gift shop, tutoring services, computer skills training, jewelry and gardening programs, pet therapy and patient activity cart.  There are also a number of volunteers actively involved in the Research and Knowledge Translation Department.  For more information about the Volunteer Association, please visit ontarioshores.ca.

About Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences:
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is a leader in mental health care, providing a spectrum of specialized assessment and treatment services for people living with complex mental illness. Patients benefit from a recovery-oriented environment of care, built on compassion, inspiration and hope. Ontario Shores engages in research, education and advocacy initiatives to advance the mental health care system. 

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact:
Communications and Public Affairs
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
905-430-4055 ext. 4001