Channeling the Past to Help Others
For many of us, family has a tremendous influence in shaping our lives. For Lana Lenzini, a Network Development Contractor in Orlando, it shaped her desire to help others.
When Lana was young, her mother was diagnosed with severe depression, and as Lana grew up, she watched her mom wrestle with the disease. After her mother’s diagnosis, she spent a lot of time with her grandparents while her mother was seeking treatment and had a special connection with her grandfather. When he was later placed in home hospice care due to cancer, Lana was with him when he passed away.
Both experiences sparked in her a passion for helping others with mental health struggles and grief.
“I always had a passion for mental health and wellness and the way that impacts families,” explained Lana. “I knew I wanted to connect with people. I didn’t always know what that meant or how that would happen.”
Putting in major hours
Lana put her passion in motion in 2014 when she began pursuing a master’s degree in mental health counseling. While pursuing a post-graduate degree is hard enough, Lana also found time to balance her full-time work at Florida Blue, her family of four, and still volunteer more than 100 hours last year, providing grief counseling to hospice families and patients. She estimates she’ll complete 340 hours by the time she graduates later this year.
“I don’t sleep a lot,” she joked. “I tend to consider it a calling. When there is something you really feel passionate about, you find ways to fit it into your life. I work all day then go to volunteer, but it’s only a couple of days a week. I may not get home until 10 or 11 p.m., but it’s a little amount to make a difference in even one person’s life.”
Providing emotional support
One of the ways Lana is needed most is when families found themselves alone in a home they once shared with the loved one who had passed away. It’s a time that is filled with many emotions, including depression and anger.
“I always try to think of it as companioning,” explained Lana. “I reassure them that I’m there for them. They are not alone. I tell them ‘It’s okay if you’re sad. It’s okay if you’re mad.’ Grief is messy. It’s not a simple path or process. People need someone to tell them it’s okay.”
While hospice work holds a special place in Lana’s heart, she recently began volunteering with the Salvation Army’s adult recovery center, specifically in their homeless and substance abuse program, and she’s looking forward to the opportunity to help.
“I hope others will realize they can make good choices and have the ability to change when they are faced with mental health issues in their own lives or the lives of their family members.”
Looking back on adolescent and teenage years, Lana recognizes how much her mother’s diagnosis and her grandfather’s death impacted her and her entire family.
“I really feel like my life could have gone in two significantly different directions. I ended up taking positive paths and making good choices, but I really felt like I could have made some really bad ones. Now, I want to help people understand mental health, how it shapes their personality and how it affects their families.”
With the hours she’s putting in, there’s no stopping her.
Christie Hyde DeNave is a Senior Media Relations Consultant for Florida Blue devoted to serving Central Florida, Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida. She has worked around the globe with local, national and international media for nearly 20 years representing organizations such as the U.S. Olympic Committee, NASCAR, AAA and the State of Florida. In her free time, you’ll spot Christie cheering on the Clemson Tigers and serving on the Clemson University Alumni Council.