A unique poetry booklet that collects the thoughts and memories of a group of older people with mental health problems such as dementia and depression, was launched at a special event at Dewsbury and District Hospital.
The booklet, called ‘Breathe in Deep!’ has been produced following a series of reminiscence sessions with a group from Ward 4 – an in-patient unit for older people with mental health problems. The project has been led by John Duffy, a bibliotherapist from Batley Library.
Using old photographs of parks in Dewsbury and Batley, supplied by Tolson Museum, John started a series of conversations about local parks. Both John and hospital staff wrote down as accurately as possible what people had said.
John said, "This group, by and large, does not get out and about so much, but parks played a part in their lives: they played there as children, did their courting there, found musical entertainment, and took their own children to play. I wanted that experience to be shared and celebrated. By following the rhythms of people’s speech, and breaking lines where it feels appropriate, you come up with a collective poem, celebrating vivid memories, and something of the warmth of the group.
"I use a slogan when doing reminiscence work, which I picked up at a conference: Today we remember yesterday to help us live tomorrow. This work is not simply an exercise in nostalgia, but by reliving and sharing memories, we become stronger and more confident. When I leave the hospital after a session, I step into a busy world: the people in the ward, the generations ahead of me, made that world, and I salute them. I hope that ‘Breathe In Deep!’ will spread appreciation of their lives."
Occupational therapist Katy Miller said, "John’s sessions really helped to bring people on the ward together and share their memories. It has been a really fabulous project, generating togetherness and contributing to the wellbeing of the patients. We hope we can do similar work in the future."
Group members, their carers and staff involved with the project got together to celebrate the launch of the ‘Breathe in Deep!’ with a special reading of the booklet and lunch. Copies of the booklet will be held on the ward and at Batley Library.