Western State Hospital

Western State Hospital is a state psychiatric hospital which is licensed and operated by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Volunteering - Frequently asked questions

Please read the questions and answers below to learn more about volunteering at Western State Hospital. For more information, please contact Volunteer Services Director Tina Kincaid at 540-332-8595 or tina.kincaid@dbhds.virginia.gov.

If someone has a mental illness, does this mean they are crazy and cannot be helped?

NO! Mental illness is just an illness and it can be treated. Many people use the word “crazy” because they don’t understand the illness.


Are the patients violent and unpredictable?

People with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illness are over 10 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime


Can volunteers really help someone with a mental illness?

YES, of course. While it’s true that volunteers can’t make them well, volunteers can help by being good friends – by understanding them instead of judging them, by showing them respect, by listening to them when they need someone to talk to, and by putting your arm around them when they need support.


How do I get selected to be a volunteer?

Applications are screened individually. We like to know what areas of the hospital you are interested in, what your motivation for volunteering is and what qualities you have that you think will benefit our patients.


When are volunteers needed?

Our greatest need for volunteers is during weekday evenings and anytime on the weekends. Weekday evenings and the weekends at the hospital are very quiet. It is when there is less staff working and no classes to attend. Some patients have few or no visitors. Because of this, the demand for weekday morning volunteers is not as great.


Can I choose the department to volunteer in?

There are a number of departments throughout the hospital with varying schedules to choose from. The volunteer office will work closely with you to help determine the best fit. Our goal is to match your interests, skills and time available with the needs of our hospital. Some of our departments include the: Open Leisure, Social Wellness, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Clothing Store.


Do you offer internships/externships?

Internships/externships are normally handled by through Rehabilitative Services Department which have established academic affiliation agreements.


Do you offer job shadowing?

Job shadowing is not considered a volunteer assignment. However, you must follow the same application process as a volunteer.


Are certain tests or immunizations required to volunteer?

Yes. Volunteers are required to have a TB test.


Where do I get a TB test?

The testing is provided by Western State Hospital at no cost.


How long does the interview/selection process take?

The interview/selection process is fairly easy and includes a face-to-face interview, criminal background check (fingerprinting); drug testing; general volunteer orientation; and obtaining a badge. From the time we receive your application, it can take up to three weeks to formalize your volunteer position.


What are the age requirements for volunteers?

Volunteers must be 16 years of age. Minors, under the age of eighteen (18), must have permission from their parents or legal guardians.


Why do you require a minimum commitment time requirement?

All volunteers are asked to make a minimum commitment to limit disruption in patients’ lives. However, we are flexible and will try to accommodate volunteer schedules. A routine helps establish normalize a person. Having a routine of volunteers will contribute to increased life satisfaction.


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