This is another guest post from Julie Cresswell, one of our ex BCU mental health nursing students who is now a qualified staff nurse. (This is Julie’s second guest post – see her earlier post here)
Following a comment from a member of staff regarding the lack of reading material on our acute ward, I decided to raise funds by running the Birmingham half marathon in 2008. We raised around £200 in sponsorship and also held a ‘Reading for Recovery’ party where friends were asked to ‘bring a book’ to donate to the ward. 100 books of all genres from classic novels to biographies were donated. I also approached celebrities who have some connection to mental health awareness and received around a dozen donations.
A local blind gentleman who heard about the initiative donated a large amount of talking books for client’s who had difficulties reading or concentrating on the written word. We were also able to purchase books to be used with clients to encourage them to share their experience of mental illness and material to further staff’s personal development and broaden their knowledge of areas such as substance abuse, managing diabetes and cognitive behavioural therapy.
We now have an in-patient Reading Group. The aim of this group is to hold regular sessions where the written word (sometimes short stories, sometimes poetry) provides service users with the opportunity to read aloud, listen to others, interpret themes and more often than not, participate in lively debate! I have found that the groups can be cathartic for some clients, tears are not uncommon and can reignite an interest in reading or the discovery of their own talents in story-telling or creative writing.
Clients often make special requests for further sessions to explore a particular poet/poem or writer. I have also learnt so much in researching such information and the lively debate that it often invokes..…one that comes to mind is the theory that Shakespeare’s sonnets were focussed around a man, rather than a woman. This session raised issues of sexuality, religion and how words can be interpreted at one point in history and reinterpreted in today’s world. A contemporary story by Michael Faber about a ‘safe haven’ where the people that stayed there had their life histories printed on their shirts, prompted a lively debate about stereotyping. The most popular books that client’s read away from the group are autobiographies and special interest books such as militaria or sport.
Research tells us that service users are not satisfied with the level of interaction with staff on acute wards. In addition, boredom is often cited as a primary concern. Our Reading group tackles both issues. The Group has read texts as diverse as Chekov, Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth to Benjamin Zephaniah. My hope is that the service users who enjoy the group benefit in some way, whether they are empowered by the words they read, distracted for a short time from their difficulties, comforted or indeed grow in their confidence when mixing with others.
Images from Flickr creative commons
1. Books by Faryan
2. Leamos/ Let’s read by annais
3. Benjamin Zephaniah by jessallen823