Three months ago, I mentioned in passing at the office that I was working on getting my little brother into a better school. My brother is from the Big Brother Big Sister program. I mentioned this without any expectations that my coworkers would spend time and effort helping me. This was unrelated to the work we did for LSIS. Their response exemplifies the character of the people I work with.


For a considerable amount of time over the next week, my coworkers brainstormed ways of helping my brother. I was overwhelmed with websites, phone numbers, organizations, and names of people that could help. We discussed this endlessly. I recognize this is not the typical workplace response to this sort of personal undertaking. This is typical here though, in a workplace full of tireless, selfless mental health workers.


This selfless attitude is expressed through work ethic. Their effort extends beyond the job description. Our prevention coordinators are responsible for working with schools to schedule and deliver our presentations. I have sat in on many of these presentations and learned that they require a substantial amount of patience, energy, and effort. The attitude has never been to get ‘through’ the class period. Teresa, Olga, and Yslorne are relentless when delivering a presentation. They vigorously approach each resistant student. This is not always a comfortable and pleasant experience. They embrace obnoxious and sarcastic questions by strategically bombarding the students with thoughtful questions, challenges, and scientific information. Prevention is worth this exhausting effort to them.


The effort in delivering these presentations is just the tip of the iceberg. After our various presentations, students often approach to inform us that they are severely struggling. We have been the first people that a student informed of his suicidal thoughts. Students approach to disclose that they feel helplessly addicted to vaping or other drugs. Watching the chain reaction of efforts in the office after these disclosers is inspiring.


The office seems to know exactly what needs to be done. They easily establish trust with the students and take the time to sit with them and learn the necessary information and assess their risk. These students often open up so completely that they are willing to consent to us disclosing this information to a school counselor and a trusted adult. In most schools we return for multiple presentations, allowing for someone here to check in and become a trusted adult to these kids. The discussions in the office have taught me the kind of person that is capable of caring for each child this way.


It is a level of compassion that isn’t easy or comfortable. Working a job on the firing lines of life is emotionally exhausting. To remain optimistic while helping children in the throes of substance abuse and mental health struggles often seems impossible. To continue, and even increase the effort, when the energy and optimism dwindle takes a special kind of person. There are some people who are unable to look away when they see suffering and wrongdoing. They continue to fight regardless of how many horror stories they see people, families, and children go through. The experiences of those I work with are unbelievable. These are people who’ve spent years in developing countries working with NGOs on psychosocial education; people who’ve worked at state-run substance abuse facilities desperate for passionate employees and technicians, who volunteer with youth in their neighborhoods, collaborate with schools to help children with trauma, and so much more.


The selfless attitude of the employees at LSIS, from the top down, is the heart of the work we do. It is an essential piece of the prevention message. We don’t just tell students not to do drugs or provide them with information. We take time and effort to connect with the children, and to connect them with adults who can help them. We take time and effort to work with school counselors to better understand the children. There is always a substantial amount of work to be done in the office, and yet I routinely watch our employees turn their day upside down trying to reach a school to ensure they provide support to a student we’ve spoken to. My supervisors at LSIS are not simply hopeful, they are determined.


Working with those committed to tireless selfless effort for those in need is a life-changing experience. I don’t come to the office and leave the rest of my life at home. My development, my well-being, and my happiness are treated as important here. When I mention a dilemma, even in passing, it becomes their mission. This doesn’t just help me and the children they work for – it Is a contagious attitude. It inspires me to continue to take on others’ issues and to persist even if I watch them fail or suffer. When you’ve been helped by those who serve their community no matter what, it is only natural to pay it forward.

By: Danny Z

Danny is a in house LSIS Prevention Speaker.