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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Safewards at CAMH: our clients share messages of hope

TORONTO, January 31, 2017 - ​“Kind words can lift a heavy heart.”

It’s a message that Maria, a CAMH inpatient client, left for her fellow clients in Complex Care and Recovery when she was transferred to another CAMH program recently.

Maria posted her message on a new “Tree of Hope” – a colourful, whimsical and artistic rendering of a tree, painted on a wall in Tower 3 at CAMH’s Queen Street site by clients recently.

Part of the Safewards program introduced at CAMH last year, the Tree of Hope helps clients support each other during their transitions between programs, both within CAMH and between CAMH and the community.

Heather Perketa and Travis ColemanCAMH Manager Heather Perketa (right) with Occupational Therapist Travis Coleman.  Their client, Maria, was transitioning to another program at CAMH. Her message about kind words lifting a heavy heart became a new leaf on the tree; the trunk of the tree gives the message “Love all with all your heart.” 

CAMH and Safewards pay close attention to client transitions, as this may be a time of stress, confusion, or hopelessness, says CAMH Occupational Therapist Travis Coleman. He coordinated the Tree of Hope initiative for his team and clients, working with Behavior Therapist Catherine Lau and Registered Nurse Julia Duzdevic. “It’s about empowering our clients to support each other, to help each other in tough times, to share their messages of hope.”

When clients are transitioned from their program to another CAMH unit or the community, they have the option to leave a message on the tree. Since the tree was created recently, many clients have taken the time to share messages. Each message becomes a new leaf.

“I found this saying in a spiritual book I am reading,” says Maria, pointing to her leaf on the Tree of Hope. After six weeks in an assessment and triage program, she was getting ready to move that day to an inpatient bed.

“I am happy because I will have more privileges to have a pass to visit my home,” she says. “But I will also miss the staff here and my friends who are patients here. I wanted to leave this thought for them.”

Maria's message of hopeMaria’s message, above, to her fellow clients. Another client wrote: “Love without limit, without hate or selfishness.”

Manager Heather Perketa notes that her team is one of several CAMH inpatient programs to implement the Transition Tree concept under Safewards. “It’s especially important for our clients as they are typically in a holding pattern for assessment after involvement with the law, before they move to a longer-term treatment program that is right for them.”

New clients can be shown messages on the tree for reassurance and to increase feelings of hope during a stressful time. The tree may evolve to also include messages from staff to clients, she says.

Registered Nurse Julia Duzdevic was involved in the Tree of Hope and played a lead role in the CAMH Safewards implementation.

“We had such a fun time painting the tree,” recalls Julia. “We had a Bob Marley CD playing, and we could let our hair down and come together as people. One of our clients was inspired to write “Universal Love” as his message” after hearing the Marley classic “One Love.”

Julia is reminded of a recent blog by Catherine Zahn. The CAMH President and CEO focused on artwork recently installed at the Queen site Community Centre and its inspirational message: “I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day.” The new artwork, and the new transition trees, “remind us of our purpose to give and share hope,” says Julia.

A global open-source approach to safe care for mental health clients, Safewards was introduced in several of CAMH’s Complex Care and Recover programs last fall as part of CAMH’s Safe and Well approach. Safewards focuses on engagement rather than containment, enhancing relationships between staff and patients to reduce risk of aggression and injury.

Safe&Well CAMH logo
Aileen Sprott, Julia Duzdevic and Remar MangaoilPositive Words: Project Manager Aileen Sprott, Registered Nurse Julia Duzdevic and Advanced Practice Nurse Remar Mangaoil. Last fall they delivered training that included a “getting to know you exercise” focused on understanding patients. It also covered mutual help, reassurance, bad news mitigation and de-escalation or “calm down” methods.

The Safewards global model, based on more than 1,000 studies, connects key patient and staff factors in conflict and containment, looking at flashpoints to aggression and where these may originate. The CAMH implementation also involves representation from the Empowerment Council to ensure the client voice is heard throughout.

Kind words and supportive messages on the new Tree of Hope are playing a key role.

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