HCN News & Notes

MiraVista Announces Celina’s Legacy Library: Empowering Minds Through Books

HOLYOKE — When describing her motivation for her recent donation of six large boxes of books for the adolescents and adults receiving mental healthcare at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center, Celina Gunderman talked passionately about her love of books.

“Books, to me, are almost therapy in themselves,” she said. “They can uplift your mood and give you positive things to focus on. There is a Charles William Eliot quote I love about books being the most quiet and constant of friends, as well as the most accessible and wisest of counselors and most patient teachers.”

Gunderman’s gifted books range from the motivational to the fictional to the humorous.

“MiraVista offers inpatient treatment in separate units for adults and adolescents, and the donation, which includes books for all ages, we are calling ‘Celina’s Legacy Library: Empowering Minds Through Books’ in recognition of her generosity,” said Kimberley Lee, MiraVista’s chief of Creative Strategy and Development. “The book titles will be listed on a laminated flier for patients to select from and be distributed by staff. It is a nice way to engage patients, and we are very grateful for her donation.”

Gunderman said books were a “huge contributor to my mental health in working through my queer identity as a teenager.” She had no access to LGBTQ+-affirming care to help her understand, when she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, how a lack of identity acceptance can contribute to mental-health issues.

Gunderman said such supportive care combined with evidence-based treatment can contribute to better mental-health outcomes.

“When I was at MiraVista, I was diagnosed with some post-traumatic-stress-disorder issues, which has helped put me on the right track for further diagnosis and treatment with my care team in the community,” she said. “My recent treatment has also helped me to be more open in talking about my mental health as a way to help others know that it is important to talk about it and normalize it.”

She encourages individuals who are concerned that someone they care about is in mental distress to approach that person.

“You can tell that person you are there for them if they are struggling and want to open up. It can even be helpful to bring up your own mental-health issues so they become comfortable to talk about theirs and can relate,” she said. “It is important, too, to encourage someone to reach out to a therapist or professional.

“Mental health is just as important to treat as illnesses that are more visible and physical,” Gunderman continued. “It oftentimes requires therapy and medication, and that is so OK. It is just as valid a diagnosis as for any other illness, and when someone does reach out to a provider, there are often more people who are supportive than they would think.”

She said that she was in denial about her mental health for a period, with serious consequences. “I didn’t treat my own issues for a long time, but admitting to myself that I needed to and reaching out for professional help has really transformed my life. I am doing much, much better.”