Healthy mind

Oak Bluffs library offers mental and emotional support this season.


With March and April still ahead of us perhaps spring feels a long way off. With this in mind, Hannah Burbidge, adult programming coordinator at the Oak Bluffs library, has put together a plethora of opportunities for anyone who might be struggling emotionally or knows of others who are.

Burbidge shared that the origin of this wealth of programs began when a staff member applied for a traveling exhibition from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which also offers classes and resources for mental health information. As a result, “Care & Custody: Past Responses to Mental Health” will be coming to the library from March 13 to April 22. The exhibit looks at the history of people with mental conditions over the centuries, covering such issues as mental institutions and what are your rights. Burbidge says, “I thought we should do some mental health programming to go along with it. Also, it’s March, which isn’t necessarily a great time when everyone has had a long winter and can be at their wit’s end. So we wanted to provide some relief.”

Specifically, Burbidge wanted to create programs that provide tangible resources that people can use in their lives to help with either their own mental condition or those of loved ones. “For instance,” she says, “with our self-care kits, which are available while supplies last during March and April, I thought it would be wonderful to show that your library supports you. We care about how you’re feeling.” Kits will be filled with small items to encourage self-care and practicing mental wellness. We can look forward to receiving a small journal, stress ball, instructions for breathing exercises, book recommendations, along with other resources.

Burbidge also reached out to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), which came back with two helpful programs. On March 7, at 5:30 pm the “In Our Own Voices” event will be available. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions, learn more about mental health, and challenge misconceptions in the hopes of changing attitudes, assumptions, and stereotypes about people living with mental health conditions. This powerful event will be led by two trained presenters who have personal experience with mental health conditions. They will speak openly from their perspective and how they have found pathways to hope and healing. Three short video segments will accompany the talk covering the stories of eight additional individuals. Burbidge says, “I thought that this would be a tangible way for people to come away saying, ‘I’m feeling heard, I’m feeling seen, or I know what to do next.’”

The second NAMI offering will be on March 21, at 4 pm. “Sharing Our Stories” is delivered by two family members of people living with mental health conditions. They will share their experiences as caregivers or supporters and their personal journeys. Again, audience members will have the chance to ask questions and engage in discussion with the speakers.

On March 9 at 5 pm there will be a virtual presentation by the Family to Family Program here on the Vineyard about what they offer for free to on-island family members with loved ones suffering from mental illness. They will be speaking about their in-depth, multi-week class that covers everything from the chemistry of the brain to how to navigate resources. The following day, on March 10, from 4 to 5 pm, we can enjoy some calming, quality time with two therapy dogs at the library to experience first-hand their affection and unconditional acceptance.

At 1 pm on Saturday, March 18, and Saturday, April 22, Island photographer and educator Melissa Knowles will conduct a “Live Well” art workshop geared for seniors and children ages 10 and up, but open to all. Knowles’ approach focuses on opening others to a new way of seeing to make art a modality for healing. Burbidge explains, “Melissa came to me a couple of months ago with this idea and it was fortuitous right when I was planning the mental health programming.” During the workshops, intergenerational participants will experience their creativity with engaging activities that can easily be integrated into daily life. They will explore abstract photography and non-representational paintings inspired by artists influenced by nature and those who used their creativity to support healing.

Everyone will be able to experiment with cameras and media, including watercolor, ink, charcoal, and soft pastel, individually, in pairs, and as a group, using singing to encourage flow in their art. There is no need for any prior experience — just some enthusiasm to investigate how creativity might deepen your sense of well-being and vice versa.

Burbidge, who offers engaging hands-on workshops every month says, “I added on some crafting ideas that I thought would be soothing and inspirational.” On March 29 at 3:30 pm she will be conducting a “Kindness Rocks” craft workshop for all ages at which, she explains, “Together we will paint words of affirmation and calming scenes onto rocks. The intention is to cultivate community and inspire the importance of connection and kindness.” On April 18 at 4:30 pm, adults and teens will be able to make inspirational candles.

Finally, Joyce Salvo, a certified Master of holistic healing, intuitive and energetic healer, will be offering two guided meditation classes on April 11, from 3 to 4 pm, and on April 25, from 4 to 5 pm. The sessions are intended to create a flow of energy that helps to balance chakras and stored traumas that are present physically and emotionally and can be effective in addressing PTSD, anxiety, depression, pain, and relationship issues.

While winter might be far from over, Oak Bluffs library is offering us a lot of light.

For more information contact Hannah Burbidge via email at or call 508-693-9433.