Health & Wellness

The Future of Mental Healthcare

Beliefs and ideas around mental health have become more progressive, but while more people are open to discussing honestly how they are feeling there is still a need for further discussion about the importance of seeking help when we’re feeling low.
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Early this Spring, people gathered at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art for a very unique art show – one that featured art created by ordinary Bermudians.

The show, Re-Telling Our Stories, in collaboration Solstice, encouraged people from all backgrounds to take part in a community-based “narrative therapy” using the Tree of Life workshops created by Zimbabwean psychologist Ncazelo Ncube, and a practice utilized with clients at Solstice.

Participants were encouraged to create their own trees with the use of provided mediums from magazine collage to drawing, with the added support and prompts from Solstice therapists.

“You map out your tree as an individual and then we bring all of those trees together as a forest. We not only need a way to stand strong ourselves so that we can face life’s challenges, but we also become a strong community together,” says Dr Jade Templer, a senior clinical and liberation psychologist at Solstice, who introduced the Tree of Life therapy to the wellness centre. “At the end, these trees all came together on the wall in the gallery and identified strengths in ourselves and each other. It was so powerful to see everybody come together. Everyone seemed to really enjoy that community connection.”

Over 200 people took part in the month-long show, which was sponsored by the Centennial Foundation, and the positive responses speak to the great impact narrative therapy has on the community. For many, the show was the first time receiving any therapeutic support or services, with 50 percent saying this was their first time, according to Jordan Loving, a clinical psychology assistant at Solstice, and one of the show’s facilitators.

“The Tree of Life workshops introduced people to Narrative Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy, showing participants how art, images, words, and the art-making process can be used to tell our stories,” added Reilly Smith, another of the workshop’s facilitators and an art therapist at Solstice. “It allowed people to express themselves in a more creative way and showed that there are options other than the traditional talk therapy such as art therapy, play therapy, drama therapy, dance therapy, music therapy etc.”

Some of the responses from participants included the chance to reflect on experiences and having a safe space in which to do so. One participant said, “I never really have time…taking the time was lovely.”

Having the workshops facilitated by the trained therapists allowed people to dig deeper into the meaning of how different parts of their lives have affected them as they created their trees. The process of creating was an important element and something that many weren’t expecting to enjoy, says Mrs Smith.

“This creative process allowed people to express themselves. It allowed people to get out of their heads a bit and into their hearts,” says Dr Templer. “There is something really empowering about getting to re-tell your life through stories of who you are through the lens of positivity and strengths. This experience gave people a chance to sit and think ‘well, what is my story?’.”

After the show, the main themes that participants described feeling in the feedback forms were “grounded, connected, supported, strong and creative,” says Mrs Smith, who added how grateful the team were to Masterworks for their collaboration on the show.

Community events like Re-telling Our Stories help bring awareness of the importance and need for available resources for people to safely express how they feel.

While the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic are still being felt through the community, people’s heightened awareness around how they are feeling has been one positive aspect, says  Dr Anna Nielson-Williams, chief of psychiatry at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI).

“It has begun to shift the dial a bit that we are opening up to others and not seeing our feelings as a vulnerability,” she says.

Reducing the stigma of seeking care for our mental health is at the forefront of the current Directorate Plan, as the associations the psychiatric hospital has on a small island take time to dispel, explains Dr Nielson-Williams.

“Attitudes do take time to shake,” she says.

Currently, the MWI team have created integrated healthcare clinics at the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Clinic and the Victoria Street Clinic, with hopes of replicating these patient-centred clinics in the West.

“These clinics allow for more efficient care closer to home with an integration thinking that those who need access to one of our sister providers for co-morbidities such as diabetes or asthma at the same time can receive that care in a much more peaceful environment. It also helps lessen the stigma because people don’t have to know why you’re going there,” explains Dr Nielson-Williams.

Keeping the conversation about mental health honest and open and getting ahead of issues before it gets worse is part of the need to continue to bring awareness to the importance of taking care of our mental health.

While it can feel hard to prioritize – slowing down and being more present in the moment are key, she says.

“We live in an absolutely amazing country and we can use the resources that we have to help with our mental health and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money,” Dr Nielson-Williams explains. “It’s important that we be gentler with ourselves and remember that we are still going through extraordinary times and Bermuda is in a challenging space economically that people are not used to.”

Events such as Re-Telling Our Stories, and recognising ways in which we can open up more about ourselves through the lens of positivity and strength, can help to manage the everyday stresses we all face.

“Going forward, we’d like to take this narrative even further and acknowledge that even the strongest of trees have storms or challenges, which is a metaphor for troubles like mental health problems or other difficult situations that we face. We want to think about how we can weather these storms together as a community,” concluded Dr Templer.

If you or someone you know are facing a mental health crisis, the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line is 239-1111. For all other queries about MWI services, call 236-3770.

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