Local writers sending cards to every patient in state psychiatric hospitals - Ashland County MHRB

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Local writers sending cards to every patient in state psychiatric hospitals

Local writers sending cards to every patient in state psychiatric hospitals

For the hundreds of Ohioans in state psychiatric hospitals, recovery is challenging under normal circumstances.

But patients haven’t been allowed visitors for weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

That’s why local writers are teaming up with the Adult Advocacy Centers, a statewide nonprofit, to send handwritten cards to every patient in the six state psychiatric hospitals.

“Having been hospitalized myself, I know what it’s like to be scared and lonely up there and then without any visitors, it just adds to the despair,” said Susan Becker, one of the Ashland writers. “I’m hoping that the letters will give them some comfort ... and hopefully empower them to keep progressing, not to give up.”

Becker is a longtime member of the Ashland Pathways Peer Support Program and one of its writing groups, which has supplied many of the volunteers involved in this initiative. Pathways Peer Support is a community service program by Catholic Charities Ashland County for adults recovering from life challenges.

Next week, approximately 20 volunteers will begin writing to patients at the Heartland Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in Massillon.

Katherine Yoder, executive director of the Adult Advocacy Centers, said there are approximately 1,100 beds in the state’s six psychiatric hospitals and the note-writing campaign will continue until every patient receives at least one card.

Diana Spore, the facilitator of the Ashland Pathways Peer Support writing group, said the cards are a “simple, yet powerful act of kindness.”

Stacey Roberts, an Ashland writer, said she hopes her notes can be a “ray of sunshine” for the recipients.

“I thought it would be a great, great avenue to encourage somebody, to elicit hope and let them know that they’re not alone,” she said.

The campaign began when Yoder contacted Steve Stone, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County.

Stone helped put Yoder in touch with Spore. Soon they had a small team of volunteers, including members of the Ashland Mental Health and Recovery Board as well as writers in Ashland Pathways Peer Support Program, a program of Catholic Charities Ashland County.

Spore said she has put together templates and talked with volunteers about avoiding potential triggers in the notes. Every card also will have a short poem called “A Message of Hope” inside.

Yoder said she wants to keep the number of writers manageable and restricted to volunteers “knowledgeable about the nuances” of mental health and recovery.

“But there’s opportunity for expanding this; I think we may just keep sending the letters, period,” Yoder said. “A lot of these patients don’t really have anybody once they leave that hospital or anyone who would have come to visit them without restrictions.” 

This story is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Times-Gazette at https://www.times-gazette.com/subscribenow.  The article can be viewed on-line at the Times-Gazette here.

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