Need advice in dealing with a volunteer suffering from bouts of depression.
She is a lovely, intelligent, funny lady in her late 60s. She volunteers with a nonprofit group that she loves and we love and appreciate her. However, she has a volunteer job she will not give up, despite that bouts of severe depression that immobilize her and prevent her from being able to perform parts of it. Her husband, also a volunteer for this organization, has tried to dissuade her from continuing but cannot do so. The rest of us are heartbroken to see what happens to her and to the organization when she becomes dysfunctional. She has a post that is vital to the organization's mission.
Attempts by other volunteers to gently suggest that she share some of the duties of the job, while still remaining on the Board of Directors and being active, have been firmly rejected by her. We don't press her because we know she has a disability.
Any suggestions on how we can help this friend and co-volunteer?
1. If her impairment is having an impact on the organization's functioning,
you owe it to the organization and to your friend to speak to her very directly about that fact.
Your thoughtful and heartfelt post contains everything that needs to be said to her. She will know you all love her, and that you value her work, and that you are worried about her well- being as well as that of the organization.
It could be a good thing for her to hear clearly that her depression is having an impact beyond just the inside of her own head. It might wake her up a bit, perhaps bring her to the first steps toward getting help.
She's lucky to have such caring friends and colleagues.
3. I want to think that. Even her husband can't get thru, tho.
I have made an alternate suggestion to another Board member (I am not on the Board): try to find a volunteer to take a piece of her job that she dislikes most. In her case, this would be data entry, but it ESSENTIAL to her piece of the organization's work. I think she enjoys the other, more content-substantive parts (being head of her committee, conducting meetings, doing the intellectually stimulating design of this program). My suggestion was to try to get a volunteer (or even one that requires a stipend) just to do the data entry piece, perhaps the teenaged grandkid of one of our active members (we are all retired seniors). Taking that job off plate might be welcome to her. It is obvious that it is not only a pain the butt for her, it has some very detrimental consequences when she can't input the data properly.
Given that she firmly rejects all efforts to show her the light, she needs to be confronted by the group and made to understand that if she doesn't remove herself from her responsibilities, she will be removed. It should be made clear to her that she is still valued as a volunteer, but her depression interferes with her reliability and dependability (something she probably already knows better than anyone). The status quo is bad for both her and for the group.
At the same time, it's obviously important that she receives appropriate professional help for her depression. If she's already receiving therapy and/or meds, it's obvious that it's not working for her and whatever treatment she has needs to be adjusted. She can be encouraged to talk to her doctor/therapist about it, but lotsa luck with that, considering her resistance.
Just my opinion as someone who is not a mental health professional. Perhaps someone in the field can offer more helpful advice.
Sometimes I think we "love" people too much in one respect, and we aren't really helping her as I know from personal experience that she hates making these errors. A course that I had designed for a study group and worked very hard to pull together, requiring hours of research for a subject dear to my heart, has probably been wrecked due to her mis-entry in the course catalog, scheduling it for the wrong dates. But this was not the first episode, it was after several that I know about, leading to other volunteer's being upset and worried.
A similar experience of my husband's on a local Democratic Ward was pretty upsetting to the other Ward members a few years back. In that instance, the volunteer eventually had to go into the Special Care Unit in Assisted Living for elderly people with dementia, a very sad outcome...
5. You might try your idea, but if that doesn't work, it really is not fair to the rest of the group
to have your hard work undermined by this one person. I agree with pinboy that an intervention may be needed, so that the difficult encounter does not turn into a personal conflict between two individuals.
Presumably, eveybody is working on the project because they think it's something important to do. One person's mental state should not be allowed to take over everything that you are all trying to accomplish.
6. Yes, I"m beginning to see it that way. I told my dtr on the phone my idea about
breaking down pieces of the job, but she said other people have extra work heaped on them as a result of her problem and it wasn't fair to them. She also said that having another person help with it might just continue the problem.
I'm going to be seeing another member of the Board, a personal friend, next week and we'll chat then. She's been upset for some time because of earlier problems with this person...
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