A Vision for All: Mental Health Program Benefits from Accessible Resources

The Need for More Inclusive Programming

The number of people needing mental health care is on the rise, which means the array of needs requiring accommodation has also increased. Every day, we are looking for opportunities to improve the quality of a patient's stay and advance healthcare at Victoria Hospital. Over the past few months, new resources have been introduced that support our healthcare workers trying to effectively connect with as many patients as possible. These patients include individuals with mental health challenges, literacy issues, physical limitations and different learning styles. These resources were made possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters and their gifts to Victoria Hospital Foundation. The use of these resources, in the form of reading materials, expands and enhances the scope of care by increasing accessibility and helps provide comprehensible information in an equitable way. Patients have shown that they relate to the material and it helps them better understand their diagnosis which provides many benefits, including improved mood during their stay. 

“Some of the smallest things that we have to offer for patients, where we are able to go the extra mile, where you can see that it helps, you can’t ask for anything better.” - Ashley Dercach, Recreation Coordinator, Adult Psychiatry, Victoria Hospital

Taking Initiative to Build Bridges

Ashley Dercach is a Recreation Coordinator at Victoria Hospital and helped pave the path for these new materials. She made use of a grant from Victoria Hospital Foundation, which connects gifts from our supporters to projects in our community, in order to provide the best possible care for her patients. When asked about her motivation behind the initiative, Dercach shared, “The more you have a connection with somebody, the more likely you can understand each other. I think when people feel understood, they are more likely to explain what's going on with them. With the better relationship, you can understand what needs aren’t being met and you can meet them where they’re at.”

Her unit endorsed the introduction of physical books, MP3 players, audiobooks, e-books and workbooks to bridge the gap between key information and the accessibility needs of patients. The medium of the resources allows them to be available around the clock and makes information accessible on evenings and weekends and outside of regular programming. The resources can act as a starting point and after learning more about the different types of treatment options, encourage patients to make the choice to engage with cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques as parts of their treatment plans. 

“If patients feel safe in talking about some of the challenges they have and then we have an alternate to that, that’s going to build a connection.” - Ashley Dercach, Recreation Coordinator, Adult Psychiatry, Victoria Hospital

Changing Lives - The Impact of Additional Support

These resources guide individuals to develop healthy coping skills by encouraging individuals to practice mindfulness, understand their diagnosis, increases mood, and aid them in learning new skills. Additionally, the MP3 players have meditations to help patients put what they’ve learned into practice. The care provided with the learning materials is partially personalized to the patient's diagnosis and needs. While physical limitations are greatly accommodated, ultimately, patients must choose to engage with the materials and convey their learning styles. These resources also accommodate those individuals who may be lower income or do not have access to their phones and personal electronic devices. The resources are reusable and visual learners can choose to highlight and write notes or listen to e-books. They are incredibly advantageous as they can also be used by those who are legally blind or individuals with visual impairments and those who are auditory learners. 

Patients have found them to be a fabulous source of support to improve mood and deal with feelings of distress, frustration and ease other symptoms of hallucinations in mental health care. The resources also positively impact staff and they gravitate towards this resource because of its benefits for patients with all types of needs. These resources greatly encourage a better connection between healthcare professionals and patients as the healthcare professionals have been conducive to getting resources for their patients that they otherwise could not access them. This provides an alternative to allow patients to better understand things while taking their accessibility needs into consideration and provides them with a healthy way to occupy their time. 

Next Steps - Advancing Healthcare and Changing Lives

Further steps that can be taken to improve this resource have already begun. Music is being used on MP3 players for patients with auditory hallucinations. Additionally, while the resources were intended to be used mainly in the psychiatry unit, individuals with other accessibility needs are also making use of them. Dercach mentioned that,
“As technology advances there are obviously things we could expand into as well.”
Your gifts make a difference at Victoria Hospital and our community, every single day. By providing the funds for resources like these, you are initiating a long-lasting impact in the lives of those who need it most. Your ongoing support continues to make a positive impact for our community.