More threads by Misha


I volunteer at an inner city drop-in centre, and when I was there yesterday one of the community members came in who I recognized from one of my hospitalizations at the provincial psychiatric hospital.

Another volunteer approached me as this community member came in, gesturing at his wrists and sharing with me that "that guy over there slashes himself and had to be locked up." Well, as it turned out, "that guy over there" was watching, and looked very, very hurt.

He kept watching me for the next little while, I think to discern my reaction. So I approached him, asked if he was ok. He said he didn't like that the other volunteer was spreading stories about him. I told him that I didn't like it either because I shared the same history. I told him that he was cool with me no matter what anybody ever said to me. I think that made him feel a lot better.

I was still feeling unsettled, though, so I approached the other volunteer and pulled him aside to speak to him. I explained to him that this community member has an illness that he is struggling with and that he deserves more respect as a human being than to be gossiped about just for walking into the building. Especially by the volunteers. And I shared that this was close to my heart because of my own history.

The volunteer looked at me for a moment, then responded, "Ok, I'll keep my mouth shut, and I'll never be talking to you again..." and he walked away, gesturing that I was crazy and saying the same.

It didn't even end there, I still had to calm the community member some more, report the situation to the staff, deal with the emotional hurt on my own end, and process exactly what to do about volunteering with this guy next friday.

Dealing with stigma about mental illness is nothing new to me, but experience doesn't make it any easier. I ask myself though, does judging the people who judge those with mental illness make anything better?

I ought not judge a negative reaction. It merely comes from another broken heart; another mind that lacks understanding, that lacks knowledge, that battles confusion about mental illness. My heart was broken yesterday for the judgement that was laid upon the community member for his mental illness, the volunteer for his lack of understanding of mental illness, and myself for the insult I endured.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Misha, in my opinion, the behavior of that volunteer was totally unacceptable on several levels.

I would strongly suggest that you bring this to the attention of the director or board of directors for this drop-in centre. If I had any sort of management role for the drop-in, I'd get rid of that volunteer without a second thought. If s/he is that insensitive and callous, s/he is going to do far more damage than good.

Think about it: How long would the volunteer be tolerated if s/he were making remarks about someone's physical appearance, physical disabilities, race, color, ethnic background, or sexual orientation? Why should it be any different for a mental health issue?


I know Doc, you are right, and I was really upset about it... I talked to the staff that was there, and I'm assuming it'll climb the ranks as necessary. I kept my emotion in while I was there but just broke down when I left. It really was a lot to take; a touch on the traumatic side. I just can't help but feel bad for the guy who caused the problem too. Maybe I'm just trying to care for everyone too much.


I agree wholeheartedly with David. This particular volunteer has no business doing what he's doing. He's not prepared to work at a drop-in center. He needs to learn more about mental illness before he puts himself in a position to be dealing with those who are suffering. Were I a part of the management of this organization, that volunteer wouldn't show his face in the establishment again unless, and until, he decided to get some education on the realities of mental illness. Right now, he's simply too ignorant of the situation to be of value, and is more likely to do real harm.

I'm sorry you and the other gentleman were hurt by this volunteers cruel ignorance. It's not really about judging the volunteer who said the hurtful things as much as it's about realizing that he doesn't fit the needs of the organization for which he's volunteering. Not everyone can do every job. That's not judgement. That's just reality.


Account Closed
Hi Misha,

I was reading this post and I know this kind of situation all too intimately. You definitely did the right thing.

For myself, I am a wheelchair user. I don't notice things because my disability is cultural to me as I have had it all my life. I have done things that have amazed people, like holding down a full time job for a while (like no one in who has a disability can't). But when my addiction took hold as I could no longer only self medicate the PTSD syptoms, the hard time I started having was almost expected by some of the people in my life, and my family.

Discrimination on any level about anything is just wrong.

It took courage to speak up and I am glad you did

Ladylore :parrot:
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