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Mental Health America seeks volunteers before the holidays [Volunteer column] | Together

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We have entered the time of year that I recently saw referenced on a meme as “Hallowthanksmas.” But the chill in the air, the excitement of the coming holidays, and the prospect of giving and receiving gifts don’t resonate positively with everyone. The cooler temperatures are an ominous sign of future hardships for people who are living outdoors or in vehicles. Family gatherings may refresh childhood memories of heated arguments, drunken brawls or painful neglect. The additional costs that holidays tend to bring may burden someone on a fixed income to the point of making unhealthy decisions.

COVID-19 has provided a stark reminder that we, as a species, do not fare well in isolation. As you consider your holiday plans and how you’re spending your time, please take a moment to think of those who have been living a “COVID existence” of isolation prior to 2020, primarily seniors and people living with mental illness. Without family, trusted friends or advocates, it can be difficult to live successfully in the community and maintain mental wellness.

Mental Health America is always accepting applications for caring persons to provide a one-to-one friendship to a person who is recovering from mental illness and receiving mental health treatment. The volunteer is not expected to be a therapist, social worker or counselor, but simply a friend. Matching is done on the basis of location, personal preference and shared interests and hobbies, and all friendships matches are of the same gender. Compeer volunteers are individuals of all ages, walks of life, races and religions who enjoy companionship and helping people. If you have four extra hours per month over the course of one year, please consider becoming a “friend.” Don’t have an extra hour? Consider Compeer Calling. A single, 15-minute telephone call once a week can make an extraordinary difference in someone’s life. Compeer provides free training, enrichment and support to volunteers. More info:mhalancaster.org/friends-volunteers/ or call 717-397-7461.

If you know someone who is struggling, there are a variety of resources that can help them on the journey back to mental wellness:

Lancaster Crisis Intervention: 717-394-2631

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

Free Crisis Text Line: Text “MHA” to 717-741-1234

Contact Helpline: 717-299-4855

Contact Teenline: 717-394-2000

To find other opportunities, visit uwlanc.org/volunteer. Volunteer coordinators, please send current and upcoming needs to volunteer@uwlanc.org

Cindi Moses is executive vice president of United Way of Lancaster County.



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