Wellness Blog

"Wellness is not the absence of illness but the presence of purpose in life; satisfying work and play, joyful relationships, a healthy body and environment— and happiness"

Garden bears fruit and lessons at Gage House

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Clients of Stairways Behavioral Health’s Gage House are learning how sowing healthy seeds yields a bountiful and healthy harvest.

In June, Gage House residents got their hands dirty by planting and nurturing a vegetable garden. Now they are seeing the fruits of their labor in the budding foliage emerging at the 1813 Holland St. site that provides treatment and support to persons struggling with both substance abuse and mental illness. Gage House is a partnership of Stairways and LECOM Health Systems, formerly Millcreek Community Hospital.

Utilizing the Stairways Client Wellness Fund to purchase seeds, equipment and tools needed to start a garden from scratch, Gage House residents planted tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers and carrots to consume and enjoy.

The Client Wellness Fund is an effort by Stairways to promote personal wellness among clients by providing them with sneakers, fitness memberships, nutrition services and other healthy living items.

The garden provides an opportunity for the residents to participate in nutrition learning, relaxation, leisure and sober recreation, Gage House Program Supervisor Sarah Parton said.

“The garden is something that we thought would be a peaceful activity that we could take pride in creating,” Parton said. “It is something I had heard about and wanted to do and I think has been a great experience for everyone here.”

In addition, the patch will also teach skills in time management, leadership and responsibility. But the garden’s crops that will be used in salads and snacks figure to be its most tangible and satisfying return, Parton said.

“It’s so exciting to watch the garden grow and produce delicious food that we can enjoy.”



Stairways staff experience 'Voices'

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

“You’re stupid; you’re going to screw it up!” “Look at you, you’re a mess!” “Don’t touch it!”

Imagine hearing these insults hurled at you while trying to carry out daily tasks or answer basic questions.

That was the experience a group of Stairways Behavioral Health employees had the opportunity to gain insight into during a recent auditory simulation workshop called Hearing Distressing Voices.

Hearing Distressing Voices is an innovative training program developed by psychologist and disability-rights activist Dr. Pat Deegan that helps people understand the challenges that face people with psychiatric disabilities.

During the training facilitated by Elena Caplea of Community Care Behavioral Health, participants listen to voices through headphones while completing a series of tasks such as taking a mental status exam, social interaction with the community and filling out word puzzles.

All Stairways employees who participated in the training reported having difficulty with concentration, memory and compliance with basic commands. Negative feelings, such as frustration and embarrassment were also the consensus among the group. Each member, however, said that the experience was illuminating and would cause them to be even more understanding.

Their experience was not uncommon for those who have taken part in the training.

On a June 2014 episode of his TV news show Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper hosted Deegan and took part in the simulation. When asked to complete tasks and answer basic questions, the usually astute broadcaster struggled, describing the simulation as “eye-opening,” “isolating” and “extremely unpleasant.”

In addition to listening to the voices, the workshop also includes a one-hour recorded lecture of Deegan, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, explaining the experience of hearing voices and how people can respond to it.

To view Cooper’s experience with Hearing Distressing Voices and his interview with Deegan, visit http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/09/anderson-takes-part-in-an-experiment-to-help-understand-how-people-live-with-mental-illness/?hpt=ac_bn5.

For more information on Hearing Distressing Voices, visit https://www.patdeegan.com/pat-deegan/training/hearing-voices-training.

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