Vancouver Hospital Works with Patients to Develop Interactive Mental Health Website

Working with patients and families, a Vancouver hospital has created an innovative and interactive online resource about mental health.

St. Paul’s Hospital’s “Change the Labels” website seeks to re-write the narrative around mental health, while helping patients and families access the services they need.

“We were very involved in all aspects of the site, even in deciding what links and resources to include. As a parent of an adult child with a serious mental illness, I’ve learned that family members have a crucial role in a mental health support team,” said Gail Windsor, whose daughter received treatment at St. Paul’s Hospital. “I wanted the St. Paul’s Hospital Mental Health website to reflect the importance of inclusion of family members in the recovery of their loved ones.”

The website includes a guided virtual tour to help patients understand their journey through the hospital, as well as detailed information about mental health programs, research at St. Paul’s and stories about the people affected by mental illnesses. The hospital’s mental health program simultaneously launched a campaign called Change the Labels to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness and help patients and their families access the resources they need.

“People may talk about physical illnesses, but they are often reluctant to speak about mental illnesses. We want to change the labels for mental illness so that the community will see patients the way we do – as people, rather than as diagnoses” said Alice Chan, Clinical Nurse Specialist Mental Health at St. Paul’s Hospital. “We strongly believe that the site’s success required the active participation of patients and families to ensure their voice was heard.”

The site provides mental health and addictions information for the general public, showcases mental health services available at St. Paul’s Hospital and presents referral documents for health care providers. Patients also share their experiences in videos to help people see the person before the mental illness.

“When you’ve had the opportunity to share and contribute, you become invested,” said Jude Swanson, a former St. Paul’s Hospital patient. “The videos on the site are the real gems—it’s important to see real people who have struggled with mental illness who are not ashamed and are now doing well. For patients, knowing that you’re not alone is very important.”

Alice Chan, Gail Windsor, Jude Swanson, and Margo Robinson will be speaking about the website, and the partnership between patients, families, and staff, at the 6th International Conference on Patient and Family Centered Care happening August 6-8th at the Westin Bayshore in downtown Vancouver. The conference is organized by the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care and hosted by Providence Health Care and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement. Over 700 delegates from across North America and Europe have gathered for this conference that aims to bring together patients, families, and health care staff.

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