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Brighten Barb’s life this Christmas

Barb speaks to a friend on a bench in a park

There’s no place like home for the holidays, but for many this Christmas home is in the hospital.

In 1993, Barb Peters left everything – home, friends and family – and was admitted to hospital at age 24 to be treated for bipolar disorder, something she had been struggling with since adolescence but didn’t know it.

Barb came from a tight-knit family and was devastated to leave her loved ones, including her little brother who was only four at the time.

She recalls how supportive her family was during the five years she remained in hospital for her mental health care. Her grandmother would bring her fresh fruit and they would celebrate Christmas as best they could – but it was always difficult to say goodbye at the end of the day and watch her family leave for home. 

But with care, therapy and medication Barb travelled the long road to recovery to become the person she is today – a valued employee in the food service industry and an advocate for patients as the Chair of the Patient Council at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building. 

Barb’s engaging and pleasant demeanor is a great asset in her volunteer role at the Mental Health Care Building. She’s constantly greeted by staff and patients and takes the time to chat with each person, whether it’s about playing the guitar that evening at the drop-in-centre or more personal conversation about how they’re doing. 

Her compassion for those in hospital is felt especially at Christmas time and she’s on hand to give out hugs when they’re needed. “I can see that it’s a hard time for those with a mental illness to be in hospital during the holidays,” says Barb. “Many don’t have family or loved ones to come visit. It can be a very lonely time for them.” 

Barb realizes living with a mental illness is a lifelong journey and that everyone travels a different path to recovery. But she’s thankful for the care she’s received from the specialized team at the Mental Health Care Building and how they’ve helped her thrive back in the community and live a full life.

Season of Celebration, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation’s annual fundraiser, helps raise funds for programs and services that help people like Barb flourish – from speciality programs that explore healing through creative arts to wheelchairs, blanket warmers and speciality mattress that provide care and comfort at Christmas time and all year long. 

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