South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust is using life history journals in their treatment of older people with mental health problems in Calderdale. A life history journal is a uses a compilation of text, pictures and memorabilia to tell a person’s life story. It has been found that the use of detailed life history journals can have a positive impact on the mood, confidence and responsiveness of people with illnesses such as dementia, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.
Support, Time and Recovery Worker, Mark Crowther has been using the journals in Calderdale and was nominated for an award to mark his outstanding contribution to mental health services.
After meeting a patient with dementia and hearing him talk about his life, Mark was inspired to start producing personalised journals as a way of engaging people with mental health problems and putting them back in touch with their past. The journals are designed to help them regain their identity and sense of self worth.
The life history journals are created via the use of using basic desktop publishing software, a scanner, a digital camera and a dictaphone. By meeting with service users and their families, information, photographs and memorabilia is gathered and put together in a creatively designed document.
Mark Crowther said, "Producing the journals is such a rewarding experience for me and my job satisfaction has gone through the roof. Seeing how positively they impact on service users makes all the hard work worthwhile. More than that, the journals are there for the benefit of friends and family members too and can be passed through the generations. When it comes to people with dementia, it is important to remember the person behind the illness. These journals allow them to become that person again."
Due to the success of his life history journals, Mark has begun sharing the initiative with other people working in the mental health field by producing training material and giving presentations to encourage them to help their service users in the same way.