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Reading for resilience

Toronto, December 12, 2016

By Evelyne Jhung

Sanda Kazazic and Samuel Gruszecki discuss the week’s readings with Dave Nolting
Peer support workers Sanda Kazazic (left) and Samuel Gruszecki discuss the week’s readings with program participant Dave Nolting (centre). (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Having “lost everything” in B.C. after a particularly devastating manic episode, Dave Nolting found his way back to Ontario and to the STAR Learning Centre, a program that helps people transition from homelessness to housing in as smooth a manner as possible by allowing them to discover or rediscover activities that are meaningful to them.

One of the programs is Reading for Resilience.

“This is a highly beneficial program to be around because there are other people who’ve gone through similar adversities as you,” said Nolting.

Each week, participants in the Reading for Resilience program listen to and discuss selected readings – which range from short essays to haiku – based on that week’s theme. Themes include compassion, courage, loneliness, love and hope.

Spearheaded by Sandy Iverson, manager of the Scotiabank Health Sciences Library, the bibliotherapy program started its second session with the STAR program and St. Michael’s Hospital’s inpatient Mental Health Unit in September. It doesn’t require any literacy level nor are participants obliged to do the readings in advance.

“People find it calming to be read to – that in itself is therapeutic,” said Iverson. “Reading what other people have written, about loneliness or despair for example, and then discussing it helps participants recognize that they’re not the only ones going through this. People share their thoughts and interpretations, but also their own experiences.”

   
“The common denominator among all of us is this idea of resilience. What is it and how can we build it to help us on our journey?”
- Sanda Kazazic, peer support worker, STAR

The program is six weeks long and each session is limited to six to eight participants to allow for comfortable discussion. Iverson and another librarian co-facilitate the sessions and peer support workers from STAR and the inpatient Mental Health Unit attend.

“It rehashes for me that you’re not alone in these thoughts of bleakness or feeling downtrodden,” said Nolting. “They’re fairly widespread, feelings even people who have jobs [as poets or writers] experience. It reaffirms in my mind that I’m not alone in this journey.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.