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A volunteer programme for patients in a provincial mental hospital : a review of organization and services contributed, based on some current developments at Essondale, B.C., 1954-58 Ross, Robert MacGregor

Abstract

The goal of hospital treatment is the return of its patients to their community in a healthy, happy condition. This can be a particularly difficult objective to achieve in the case of mental illness because of traditional hospital isolation, and fear and misconceptions about on the part of the public. More and more it is being realized that if there is to be effective rehabilitation of the mentally ill, there must be greater understanding and acceptance of mental illness by their communities. This study examines the recently-developed volunteer programme at the Provincial Mental Hospital, (Essondale, B.C.,) sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association. It describes the programme's organization, and its activities aimed at bringing the community to the patient, as well as interpreting hospital and patient needs to the community. The method used in the study began with a review of professional and other literature in order to learn what volunteer services were being offered in mental hospital settings elsewhere. A questionnaire was then completed and interviews with key people in the volunteer movement conducted, in order to compile details of its development, organization and acceptance by hospital management and staff as a "treatment extra". In order to illustrate volunteer activities and potentials in detail, the focus was then narrowed to the study of one particular ward (Chapter 3.) Types of patients were described experimentally as belonging to behavior groups observed on the ward, such as "attention seekers" and "rescue seekers." (The possibility of a ward classification according to the various categories of mental illness such as chronic brain syndromes, psychotic disorders, etc., was considered but discarded because the required information was not available.) Ways in which volunteers can help the patients in the various behavior groups when visiting and assisting in occupational therapy are discussed, using two case examples for illustration. The study confirmed the general thinking that the volunteer programme is contributing a very useful service to the hospital treatment programme. In the concluding chapter some suggestions are offered towards increasing the effectiveness of this growing volunteer service. These are related to a problem common to all volunteer work, namely, sustaining the interest of volunteers. In addition, suggestions are made as to some ways in which the volunteers could work with the Social Service Department in this hospital setting.

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