April combines both National Volunteer Appreciation Month, and National Volunteer Week from April 11-16. Austin State Hospital has many dedicated and compassionate volunteers, and to celebrate, we thought we'd introduce some of them. Whether they've been volunteering for five years or five months, we asked them to share their unique experiences during their time at ASH.  

Shelley picMeet Shelley:

Education Rehabilitation (Ed-Rehab) Volunteer How long have you been volunteering? S: Two years If you could pick three words to describe yourself, what would those be? S: Probably caring, outgoing, and dedicated. What kinds of things do you do as a volunteer? S: I’ve done a lot of different things during my time at ASH. Early on, I helped to make posters and teach some of the coping skills classes and art classes. I also helped assist with open recreation; eventually, I even got to teach a few social dance classes for the patients on Friday afternoons! What's one of your favorite memories during your time at ASH? S: One of my favorite memories was actually helping organize the Easter egg hunt for the pediatric patients. Even though it was a little chaotic, everyone had a fantastic time. Getting to hide the eggs and seeing the kids wildly hunting them down was so much fun! Why did you decide to volunteer at ASH? S: I really wanted to get more involved with the mental healthcare process when I got to college, and I always liked volunteering. I thought there would be no better place to volunteer than at ASH. I loved the fact that I was able to work with Ed/Rehab, integrating my skills in art and dance with direct patient interaction. What is one thing you have learned about mental illness or mental health since you starting volunteering? S: Mental illness can affect anyone, and the stigma associated with it can be crippling. I feel like I can now better understand how big of a struggle it is for those living with mental disorders. What do you want people to know about mental illness? S: Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not show weakness of character or mind. Instead, it takes great courage to seek help. The biggest disservice you can do to someone with mental illness is dismiss their illness as a personal weakness rather than a true medical disease.