Former Patient To Volunteer: Dina’s Story
This week, we are celebrating National Volunteer Week! Our volunteers at the Foundation and the Hospital are vast and diverse and we couldn’t be more grateful to have them. They continuously bring their heart, enthusiasm and spirit to the Hospital and have had a major impact on our community.
Today, we’re shining a light on Dina, a Private Caregiver who dedicated her extra time volunteering at the Hospital. She is a former mental health patient who became a volunteer in Humber’s Day Treatment Program for two years prior to the pandemic.
Dina’s Challenge With Mental Illness
As a young adult, Dina suffered from mild depression. Over time it got worse, to the point where Dina felt like she was running on empty. She eventually quit her job and her religious routine – two things that were very important to her sense of self worth. Dina’s mother, who she lived with and who eventually became her only contact, got more and more anxious as Dina’s depression worsened. Eventually Dina started hearing voices and picked up scents that weren’t real. At her lowest point, Dina contemplated taking her own life.
“My family wanted me to get help but I thought I could figure it out on my own. I really was convinced that I could get better without medication, but I ended up falling into deeper episodes of depression,” Dina said.
Dina remembers the day she was taken to hospital. She was alone in her basement apartment of her mother’s house when something triggered a severe tantrum. She was very loud and destructive. Her mother heard everything from upstairs and when Dina was calm, her mother insisted she get medical help. Dina refused. Her mother contacted Dina’s older sister, Gen, and together, the two went to the Justice of The Peace to explain the concern over Dina’s safety. The Judge signed a form titled, “Order For Examination,” which they took to the Police Station.
Day Treatment Program – Journey of Care
That same day, Dina was brought to Humber River Hospital’s Apotex Emergency Department by two Police officers. She was admitted to the Adult Mental Health Inpatient Unit, where she stayed for one month. During her time at Humber, Dina was offered a spot in the Day Treatment Program, an outpatient mental health rehabilitation program that helps patients successfully transition back into the community. When Dina was well enough to be discharged from the Inpatient Unit, she stayed on with the Day Treatment Program for several months.
“That was a big moment of light in my life because it was group support on a regular basis and that’s what I needed. I’m a very social person, so the group setting really helped. Also, with the support of the caring staff and doctors, I started to thrive again. I received life skills and emotional rehabilitation and it made such a difference for me,” Dina said.
Nam-An, a Registered Nurse in the Adult Outpatient Mental Health Program, worked with Dina throughout her time in the Day Treatment Program.
“Whenever someone starts the program, everything is focused on goal setting. We work with patients to develop short-term and long-term goals,” Nam-An said. “We encourage patients to start by considering volunteer opportunities. Over time, we discuss employment goals, with the hope that when patients leave our program, they’re well enough to seek out part-time or even full-time employment.”
Because of her experience in the Day Treatment Program, along with encouragement from Barbara, a nurse who worked in the Day Treatment Program at the time, Dina decided that she wanted to become a volunteer at Humber.
From Patient to Volunteer
Once Dina had left the Day Treatment Program, she admits that she wasn’t ready to volunteer right away. Instead, she kept it as a goal for the future while she focused on her recovery. In the summer of 2017, she was finally ready and spoke with Nam-An about the online volunteer application process.
“I officially started volunteering with the Day Treatment Program in January 2018,” Dina said. “Everyone that I worked with in the program was very dedicated and I really felt valued by the whole team. They always made me feel welcome and appreciated.”
She adds that being a volunteer was fulfilling, rewarding and a meaningful experience. Dina recalls how two patients in the program told her they were inspired and encouraged by her journey. In working with Dina, they saw a path to their own recovery.
“They felt really motivated to do more for themselves and to reach for their goals, and that just warmed my heart,” Dina said.
Although Dina is no longer able to dedicate her time as a volunteer in the Day Treatment Program, her goal is to return in the future.