Advocating for Mental Health Care is a "Labor of Love" for Caregivers

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Mary Kirkland and Lynn ShusterActing as a partner, friend, or caregiver for someone with depression or another mental health disorder is hard work. But advocating for individuals with mental illness is being hailed as a “labor of love”—one that shouldn’t go unrecognized.

Mental illness advocates Lynne Shuster and Mary Kirkland have long strived to provide mental health care resources for families across Western New York. According to a news article on, the two women, who have led their local branch of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) for almost three decades, are stepping down from their roles at the end of July, but don’t regret a day of their work.

“It's been a long slog,” Shuster said, “but it has certainly had its rewards.”

Shuster, now 72, helped found the Buffalo chapter of NAMI, and Kirkland, now 82, has served as the president for more than 20 years. Both women had personal experiences with mental illness that started their involvement in the group. Shuster’s adopted son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 17, and committed suicide at age 27. Kirkland joined the group soon after it started when her youngest daughter, Kathleen, was diagnosed with a mental illness. Kirkland said of her involvement “[it] made me do things I would never have dreamed I'd do.”

Lynne Shuster and Mary Kirkland are just two examples of how inspirational volunteers can be and how much of a difference volunteers can make in so many lives.

Do you have a great story about volunteering, care giving, or a volunteer or caregiver who has changed your life? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter, or send us an email. If you would like to get involved and become one of our volunteers, visit the Families for Depression Awareness volunteer page. 

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