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"As a psychiatric rehabilitation specialist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, one major area of my job is integrating patients back into the community so that they can recover some of the roles (such as being a contributing member of society) and functions (such as socializing or relationship-building) they may have lost because of their symptoms. Some of these patients are working, mainstreamed members of our society — who are just having difficulty and need treatment for depression or addiction. Others experience even more persistent diseases and disabling symptoms such as severe lack of motivation or hearing voices.
"So when I heard Sharp had organized group projects through Sharp Lends a Hand, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
"I extended an invitation to members of the Sharp Sluggers — Sharp Mesa Vista’s outpatient and alumni softball team to participate in the beach clean-up. The event was important for two reasons. One, it offered these patients a chance to give back to their community. And two, it was one more step toward breaking stigma attached to and experienced by our behavioral health patients. Instead of arriving as the Sharp Sluggers, this dedicated group was part of something bigger — and were accepted and valued for their contributions just as everyone else was.
"They performed with determination, teamed up in pairs and scoured the beach with their fellow volunteers. One patient in particular touched my heart that day. He told me, 'I grew up on the Jersey shore, but since moving to San Diego years ago, I’ve never come and seen the Pacific Ocean.' The beach clean-up offered him his first opportunity to see the West Coast — so he took off his shoes and got his feet wet. He even arranged with another patient to ride a bus together to come back one day in the future. Something like this shows you how isolated the life of a behavioral health patient can be — and how events like Sharp Lends a Hand creates opportunities the likes of which the organizers could never have even dreamed!
"The Sharp Sluggers were so inspired by their work at the beach, they decided to create their own volunteer group open to all the outpatients. Calling themselves the Sharp Mesa Vista VIPs (Volunteers Inspiring Possibilities), the group mobilizes to donate their time once a month to St. Vincent de Paul, feeding homeless individuals and families, among several other ventures. Some participate with their children or spouses, and are very proud to be a part of it all.
"Sharp Lends a Hand inspired something beautiful in these patients, and has brought us that much closer to the community acceptance that we all deserve."
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