Value of Consumer Involvement: Volunteers are Priceless! by Diane L. Boulais

There are many reasons that people volunteer.  Some people want to feel needed or to share a skill that they have. Some want to get to know a group of people or to show a commitment to a cause or belief.  Many people need to volunteer to repay a debt or to earn credit in school. Then there are people who volunteer for fun, to keep busy, to make new friends, or because there is no one else to do it.  In short, there are many reasons that people use to offer their time for free.

Most people will find themselves in need at some point in their lives. So, one day you may be the person with the ability to help and another day you may be the person who needs the help of a volunteer. That’s how it works.  Adding your effort to the lives of others makes everyone’s life better.

Let’s look at how consumer involvement can make your life better. You will begin to feel better about yourself and possibly have less fear about decisions you make. You might have a new reason to get up each day, knowing that you are contributing to the community around you. Having something to look forward to also affects your health. Physically and emotionally, things may begin to improve as you are filled with energy to get out and have fun, meet new people and do something you enjoy.  Meeting new people as you become involved will give you the confidence to make new friends and improve your life in other areas. If you are looking for a job, volunteering may give you some skills that can be used in future employment.

Most importantly, you will get the satisfaction of seeing how your thoughts, opinions and insights are important in creating change and sharing in the common good of the mental health and developmentally disabled community as a whole.

What you think and do matters. You are important!

There is a quote I like by S. R. Gibbons, “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”

How do you become involved?

There are many ways that consumers have been involved at your local CMH.

  • You can start being involved just by taking surveys as they come to you during your care.
  • Providing helpful information to your Customer Service Representatives or Consumer Advocacy Council/Panel members is another way you can begin your involvement. (Or seek out other committees where you can serve.)
  • Writing letters to the editor of your local paper or to your state senator and representative can be helpful.
  • Join your local NAMI chapter (National Alliance on Mental Illness) or your local Consumer Advisory Council/Panel when an opening is advertised.
  • Take part in the annual trip to Lansing to attend the Walk a Mile in My Shoes Rally and don’t just hang out, seek out your senator and representative and tell them what issues are important to people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.

By taking part in any of the above, you will begin to participate in the political processes and learn how democratic steps are taken. Your voice will be heard.

“Volunteers are seldom paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are PRICELESS!”   (Author unknown)

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that.  Then I realized I was somebody. (Lily Tomlin)

Written and shared with permission by Diane L. Boulais. Diane shared this information at a recent Northwest CMH Affiliation training on consumer involvement, called “Make A Difference.”

Diane is a member of the West Michigan CMH System Consumer Advisory Panel (CAP).  She also serves on their PIOC (Performance Improvement Oversight Committee), their Anti-Stigma Committee, the Recipient’s Rights Committee, the West Michigan CMH System Board, and the Northwest CMH Affiliation Quality Oversight Committee (QOC).

Thank you, Diane, for sharing your thoughts on volunteerism! We think volunteers are priceless, too!