Karim Mamdani

Ontario Shores

Sanaz Riahi

RT @OntarioShores: Are you an RN or RPN looking for a new opportunity? We are hiring in a variety of our mental health programs. Ontario S…

Sanaz Riahi, PhD Sanaz Riahi, PhD

#NVW2021 - Volunteering Has Helped with Grief Over Lost Son

My journey with Ontario Shores began eight years ago when my son was admitted after struggling with mental health problems.

Shane took his own life just one year later.

I was searching for ways to show my compassion for others dealing with mental illness. I decided that the only way to move forward in memory of my son is to bring a positive impact to someone else’s life.

This is when I became a volunteer at Ontario Shores. The stigma around mental illness is something that hit close to home so I wanted to help break down the barriers preventing people from getting the help they need. There will always be stereotypes but it’s important to remember these are everyday people who need support and empathy - not judgement.

We need to treat mental health the same way we treat physical health.

I volunteered in various areas of the hospital and it was always such a meaningful experience. It was so fulfilling to see our events bring happiness, laughter and excitement to the patients. Whether it was ice cream day, the Christmas dance or the live music, the patients always looked forward to and enjoyed the activities we put together for them.

Over the last several years I have been involved with Volunteer Services, Family Council and founded “Shane’s Shore Run” to raise funds for Ontario Shores’ adolescent program.

Then COVID-19 restricted us from putting together the special events and we once looked forward to.

In light of this, I was happy to help out with gathering Christmas donations for the units in the hospital. Myself and the other volunteers were provided a list of what the patients required as well as items on their Christmas wishlists. This was a special activity to put together since they were unable to leave the hospital to go home during the holiday season and spend time with loved ones.

I received an overwhelming response of generous donations from different organizations and members in the community to make up 30 gift bags that included hygiene items, chocolate, candy, toques, gloves, fleece blankets and more.  I also reached out to my church, family members and friends to help knit handmade blankets for the geriatric units.It was such an incredible experience that brought so much joy to the patients despite the ongoing social restrictions they faced. It was also a special gesture for the patients to know that they are thought about and cared for.

Volunteering at Ontario Shores is especially important to me because I feel like I am giving back, making a difference and brightening the lives of the patients in the hospital. There will always be someone who wants to listen to them and hear their story. I feel privileged to be a part of someone else’s journey to recovery.