By ALFREDO ALVARADO
Dr. Ilana Breslau, a Senior Psychologist at North Central Bronx Hospital, works with patients dealing with mental health issues. She also leads groups that meet weekly to discuss women’s and substance abuse issues.
During her eight years on the job, the Psychologists Local 1189 member has always tried to look for new ways to connect with her patients, sometimes even trying things not suggested in the textbooks she studied while earning her Ph.D. at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
An avid reader since she was a child and a member of several book clubs, Breslau decided to start a book club for the patients at the Bronx hospital and last year launched the Outpatient Book Club.
Through discussion of the characters and themes in the books, Breslau hoped the participants would relate to shared experiences and feel less isolated.
“Reading about universal themes such as loss and transformation allow for a shared experience that can help patients feel less alone,” Breslau said.
The club has ten members and meets four times a year. Together with hospital staff, the members decide what to choose and pick books that speak to issues they deal with on a daily basis.
Breslau’s club has been a big hit with the patients. “The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive,” Breslau said.
So far, the club’s reading list has included “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo, “Orphan Train” by Christina Bake Kline and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison’s bestselling memoir, “An Unquiet Mind.” Jamison is one of foremost authorities on bi-polar disorder and has suffered from the illness as well.
Breslau has not only taken the initiative to start the book club, but she has also reached out to several organizations and written grants soliciting funds to purchase more books and keep the club going. Barnes & Noble and the Friends of North Central Bronx Auxiliary responded to her efforts and provided one-time grants for the club.
“Our patients would like to see the club continue and if we get the support we need, we will,” Breslau said.