Category Archives: Occupational Therapy

Books and Health #YAShot Blog Tour

Today’s post is part of the blogtour for YA Shot which is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade festival taking place in Uxbridge on 28th October 2015.

With thanks to the wonderful Alexia Casale for letting me take part.

Books and Employability

As an Occupational Therapist (and previously a university lecturer) I was interested in looking at how bookish pursuits linked to future employability. I’ve since expanded the post slightly to not only consider how books link to health and social care careers, but also to how books impact on our health in general. I’m a writer and voracious reader so I should note my “potential” bias in raving abut how wonderful being involved with books is.

In Monday’s blog tour post by Rachel she talked about ‘doing books’ as a living. Of course, not all book lovers want to work with books, but, that doesn’t mean that we have to, or should leave books behind.

My job as an occupational therapist puts me into regular contact with people, and people come with their own stories. Being able to empathise (not sympathise) with someone else is a hugely important skill for health and social care professionals (doctors, social workers, physiotherapists, etc, etc) to develop.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Healthcare as a whole is revisiting Humanisation as a model for practice. It is acknowledged that sometimes viewing someone through a medical lens can make it easy to forget the person behind the body parts. In Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution Roman Krznaric shows how we can develop empathy through engagement with stories, and check out this article about learning about slavery through fiction.

I often encouraged students to read fiction and use stories to make connections to theories they were learning, and also to explore the meaning of disability and diversity. I also encouraged creative expression through writing and students who engaged in these pursuits really enhanced their skills in reflective practice which is essential (in my view) for their future learning and development in practice.

Medical Humanities is an emerging field of study – one which the scientific booky people amongst you might like to contribute in the future.

Healthcare subjects are degree level qualifications. Rachel mentioned transferable skills in her blog post. Reading could help you develop your comprehension and writing skills (and hopefully increase your knowledge of spelling and grammar), blogging about books can help you develop critical thinking skills and your ability to express yourself verbally. Taking part in drama can give you the confidence when doing presentations or speaking out in a ward round.

Books can make you happy (even when you’re sobbing at them)

And how can reading help you look after your own health and wellbeing? Again, as an occupational therapist, I have a particular view that if reading is a meaningful occupation for you then inherently taking part in it will be health sustaining. What makes it meaningful may vary between individuals, reading may be a form of relaxation, a way to work through emotions, a way to learn or it may take you into a state of occupational flow where time flies by without you noticing it. Talking about books might be a good way for someone to begin being able to connect with other people too. For me personally I have used reading in times of anxiety to take me out of living in the past or worrying about the future to being in that story. In fact, my PhD is exploring why writers are writers, and I suspect reading will come into that somewhere!

This article discusses research by neuroscientists that show that reading can enhance cognition, memory and compassion as well as reducing stress and helping sleep http://www.stylist.co.uk/books/unexpected-health-benefits-of-reading-fiction-books-reading-survey-stress-brain-agility.

And supposedly Harry Potter readers are ‘better humans’ http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/science-says-kids-who-read-harry-potter-are-just-better-human-beings-in-general/691225/. As a ginormous Harry Potter fan and member of the The Harry Potter Alliance – http://thehpalliance.org/ my bias may be showing again. But I’ve seen the HPA use the themes from Harry’s story to connect to real life and inspire social action.

Science and art are not mutually exclusive subjects so even if you want to do maths as a living still read – it’ll make all the numbers come alive.

If you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime:

Kirsty

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#TimetoTalk – Feb 6th 2014

Every year in my unit I use a fun creative activity to explore the concept of task analysis, activity analysis and occupational mapping. I call it the monster mash. This year I incorporated #TimetoTalk and we made monsters that either represented how mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety feel, or monsters that might help chase those feelings away.

Here is my monster which represents how depression can feel like a fog around you. The red cheeks are the embarrassment you can feel when sharing experiences of mental ill health and the purple buttons the concept of feeling stared at or observed warily. I briefly shared my own experiences with depression.
On the positive side the purple gems represent the glimmers of hope that we can cling to. Finally the geek badge is shining through the fog because it is no longer something that contributes to depressive feelings. I’m proud of my geek status and taking part in geeky activities helps my mood.

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Did you have Time to Talk about mental health today?

Losing my marbled leaves (the environment of dementia)

Losing my marbled leaves
(the environment of dementia)

(Kirsty Stanley)

Another mottled, marbled leaf
detached, dropped and traced
its own vain veins in mud.

Mud squelches,
formed from leaves that fell before.
Mushy mud mind you.

Each tiny stem of the
booming, no
blooming, no
blossoming, no. Yes…blossoming
tree creates it.
Each lost leaf nurtures on, but,
there remains a leaf lost.

What causes the leaves to fall?
Age and time weaken the bough.
Ravage winds cause hidden splits,
once, landed a heavy bird,
a heavy load to bear.

Then sometimes it snaps;
Sudden and severe.
Silence in the forest,
as the tree is felled.

More often it floats away,
flying like the sycamore
on the breeze.
You see it fleeing toward
the horizon, watching it, knowing it
will disappear…

you can’t catch it
on the tip of your tongue.
Instead you poke it out and
down sinks a freezing, frosted
flake of snow that ices
the core.

The rings tell its age;
at 55 felled too soon.
It started with one
measly, mottled, marbled leaf.

This was previously shared in a more hidden way on this blog here.

Inspired to share this poem on the theme of Dementia after talking to @tommyNtour on Twitter.
Will be sharing this blog post of his with students tomorrow.
Also found out, again via Twitter (thanks @HISCfresno) about this film I’d like to see.

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