Backpack Healthcare is a telehealth company led by founder and innovator Hafeezah Muhammad. The company provides therapy and psychiatry services to children and adolescents in the state of Maryland. Hafeezah is relentless with rethinking and reinventing interventions for children and adolescents to address the need for more personal, more accessible, and more inclusive mental health care. One area includes expanding digital healthcare solutions with bibliotherapy tools for children and adolescents. You might wonder what bibliotherapy is, the importance of this modality of intervention with children and adolescents, and how Backpack Healthcare is reinventing the use of bibliotherapy! These questions are essential for understanding the impact of Backpack Healthcare’s bibliotherapy initiative!
What is Bibliotherapy?
Bibliotherapy is simply defined as “the use of selected reading materials as therapeutic adjuvants in medicine and psychiatry; also the guidance in the solution of personal problems through direct reading” (AHIL Quarterly, Summer 1966, p. 18.). These materials can be used during therapy sessions, as well as, between therapy sessions and even in the self-help arena to solve one’s own challenges. Books are readily available that assist with building knowledge on mental health and are often recommended by therapists for their clients between sessions.
Why is Mental Health Education Important for Children and Adolescents?
Psychoeducation has been an integral part of mental health treatment since 1980. This modality is focused on mental health professionals teaching patients about what the characteristics and treatment methods of mental health disorders are to allow them to better work towards their therapy goals (NCBI). It empowers the patient to understand their needs and take control of their mental health journey. Bibliotherapy combines psychoeducation with cognitive behavioral therapy methods to educate and teach new skills to the reader. A majority of this education has gone to adults; more recently it has been discovered that the prevalence of mental health disorders in children has risen and Backpack has identified that more should be done in the digital arena for children to have tools to take charge of their mental health.
Children understanding mental health and having access to material to guide their understanding in age appropriate and interesting ways is essential for increased identification and knowledge about their body, mental health concerns, and overall health.
Mental health interventions have been identified as an extremely important part of children’s wellbeing and efforts have been made to train school personnel for early intervention with children. While progress has been made on this front with the implementation of 92 state laws to support school-based mental health intervention services between March 2020 and December 2021, only 13 states have laws to support education and resources being provided directly to students about their mental health (NASHP). This is significant because of the gap of education this provides to children and the lack of age-appropriate and accessible resources for this education to be provided.
What is Backpack doing to reinvent the use of bibliotherapy?
Backpack Healthcare is an advocate for expanding treatment for mental and behavioral health disorders for all children. We also believe knowledge is power and children should have a better understanding of their mental health. Youme identified the need for easy to access, attention-grabbing, age-appropriate, and interactive bibliotherapy materials for youth ranging from toddlers up through young adults.
In order to address this need, Backpack Healthcare is creating interactive bibliotherapy materials where the materials are personalized, age-appropriate, and engaging. Oftentimes, materials underrepresent minorities, may be challenging to access, and may not provide education about mental health by mental health professionals. The goal is to create an inclusive, narrative story for all children to relate to, while building understanding of mental health challenges, and even being able to learn and practice new skills to cope with the mental health challenges! Youme is capitalizing on the ability for digital health that allows for the stories to be accessible online, words to be read out loud, and characters designed by the reader that are representative to the reader, working to mental health outcomes for children and adolescents!
This article was written by: Jenny Ryan
Learn more about Backpack Healthcare here!