Make your experience count.
Tara's Patient-led Bibliotherapy Project
I first became a patient when I was a year old. I was diagnosed with severe asthma and I spent a full year in a respiratory unit in Toronto. I even went to school there during the day. It was a difficult experience for me. I was homesick and missed my family tremendously. The nurses were very kind and took good care of me. Instead of doing everything for me, they educated me on how to care for my illness myself and by the age of five, when I returned home, I knew how to mix my own masks and prepare my medication.
Fast forward to a several years later and, due to a compound of stress and life circumstances, I found myself admitted to hospital once again, this time for a life threatening eating disorder. I spent the next fifteen years bouncing in and out of both medical and psychiatric units, as well as private residential facilities in the US. I was most successful when the staff and doctors empowered me to be my own change agent versus imposing their ideal of wellness. I felt empowered when I worked with the health care professionals versus simply being prescribed medication without any real dialogue about what I felt I needed to maintain recovery.
Feeling in control of my health and future bolstered my self-confidence and enabled me to take on a leadership role in the mental health community. Because of over a decade of accumulated experience, other patients viewed me as a go-to person they could rely on to connect them to resources both in the hospital and in the community. I have since become a consumer advisor to the Vancouver Health Authority’s Advisory Committee and I act as a co-facilitator for the community meetings on the unit and for a creative writing group at Capital Mental Health’s day-patient program.
One of the most healing activities for me when in distress is reading. When I was inpatient, I noticed a visible lack of literature on the units. In response to this deficit, I developed a mobile library program, called “Bibliotherapy”, whereby I plan to utilize a book cart to service the mental health units with good books and provide patients with “reading buddies”. I also intend to find some office space to transform into a patient library where patients can come and read, access information about outpatient resources in the community, or just sit and chat to an empathic ear. My goal is to form connections and help people build positive and supportive relationships. Feeling engaged in my community and involved in activities that I feel passionate about have been crucial to my recovery.
My dream one day is to be speaking at a podium one day, educating health care professionals and health administration on what works to further patient-centered health care and to inform them on how they can meaningfully involved their clients in their own treatment.
Check out Tara's Bibliotherapy Project here.
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