I am an occupational therapist working with patients with mental health problems in a psychiatric nursing home.. One of the main problems that the people I work with face is their poor cognition. Their ability to reason in a coherent manner, short term memory, reasoning ability and the ability to learn new task is affected due to their condition of schizophrenia, low IQ, among other diagnosis.
Their cognitive deficits also affect their psychosocial aspects as well. Because they are achieving much less than others, issues such as self esteem, self concept, self efficacy are also a problem. They may see themselves as being unable to achieve anything except whatever to take whatever handouts that the healthcare providers or volunteers give. They say something is too difficult even before they try because they lack the confidence to even try.
After analyzing these problems, I decided to work with them to build a rocking chair. I thought that building a rocking chair would let them see themselves as achievers. Inspiration for the design was gathered from the Maloof Rocking chair and that of the Shaker rocking chair. I did not have a clear design on paper to work with. Instead what I did was to make a plywood model of the rocking chair, test it for comfort, before I sketch the curves on the plywood. After one side is done, my friendly router bit did the work of shaping the other side, using the first side as a template.
My patients did the sanding, lots of it. One or two of them help to drive in the screws during assembly. All of them felt that they contributed to the making of the chair in some way and they were all smiles when they sat on the chair and started rocking. One of them was heard exclaiming, “we succeeded, we succeeded!”
While the material cost of the rocking chair is really cheap (S$65), the amount of self esteem it brings to the patients is through the roof. Woodworking is indeed a good activity for patients with mental health issues.