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Bellevue patients to benefit from reading project


PATIENTS at the Bellevue Hospital in Kingston are to benefit from an initiative by the institution to further improve their mental well-being through a reading project on every ward.

“You know how hospitals are and you have some patients who are here for a long period of time. I think something like this could benefit them to keep their minds engaged, and to help them de-stress,” social worker at the Bellevue Hospital, Dahlia Stewart, told JIS News.

Stewart is conceptualiser of the project, which should improve the Book Corner programme currently in place at the nation’s mental health hospital.

The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) was among the first to donate reading material for the cause, and the handover was made on last Tuesday at the hospital.

JIS reporter Ainsworth Morris was encouraged to spearhead the agency’s response to the call.

“The JIS Editorial Department chose to partner with JIS Research and Publications, and Special Projects departments to donate these items to the Bellevue Hospital, because we are supportive of this concept, which encourages the patients to read. We believe that with the pandemic, having physical material for patients to read while at the hospital is essential,” Morris said.

The books donated were written and published by the JIS and provide historical and cultural information about Jamaica.

Amid plans in place for an official start of the project later this month, Stewart is making an appeal for more partners to assist in making the project successful. If the project gets off the ground as scheduled, it will commence ahead of Read Across Jamaica Day and Mental Awareness Week, both of which are observed in the month of May.

“We have persons who read at all levels. If it’s children’s books, we appreciate them because we have patients who read at the primary level. We also have persons who would have gone on to college, or are professionals who happened to have developed a mental illness. It really doesn’t matter, once it’s printed material that is appropriate, in any subject area, fiction or non-fiction, we will accept every donation,” Stewart said.

Explaining the need to improve the current programme, she said that the current restrictions, due to the coronavirus pandemic have caused further restrictions on patients, based on their mental challenges. Book corners would have a positive impact on them and help in their healing process, she added.

Currently, there are book corners on some wards; however, under the expanded programme, patients will be able to read in a designated area, “where they can go to sit or lie down and read a book, flip through a magazine and just relax with cushions and chairs, or even on the ground,” Stewart explained.

Book donations are accepted from companies and organisations, as well as the general public. For those interested in giving, you may contact the Bellevue Hospital’s Social Work Department at 876-928-1380, or drop off the donations at the book bin or lobby area at 16½ Windward Road, Kingston 2.

The Bellevue Hospital is Jamaica’s only hospital that caters solely to mental health patients. Since its establishment in 1861, first as the Jamaica Lunatic Asylum, and then changed to the Jamaica Mental Hospital in 1938, the current name was adopted in 1946.

Since then, the hospital has grown and developed and now has more than 20 wards, each catering to approximately 30 patients. The hospital treats patients from age 18 years upwards. Clients who are under 18 are usually treated at the University Hospital of the West Indies, at Ward 21.

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