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Issue: 2017-02-15, PHOTO: Betty Davidson
Norma Tindall and Sandra St-Laurent
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Issue: 2017-02-15, PHOTO: Dan Davidson
The Light Therapy station at the Dawson City Community Library
Since last November the Dawson City Community Library and the Whitehorse Public Library have been helping to shine a little light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and possibly other mental health problems.
About a year ago, the staff at the Francophone Health Network (Partenariat communauté en santé) were working their strategic plan, with a specific focus on mental health services.
“We realized,” said director Sandra St-Laurent, “that we were doing a lot to improve access to the services, but then we were thinking that we’d really like to have something prior to treatment.
“We found out that Luminothérapie, you know, Light Therapy, could be used for treatment for some people. Seventy percent of people with SAD respond specifically to the light therapy, so we decided to give it a try.”
They consulted with Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s Chief Medical Health Officer, and he thought it was a worthwhile experiment.
The next question was where to put the devices so that they could be used by the most people and at times when people might need them the most.
Libraries seemed like a good idea, and St-Laurent found references to it having been tried that way in Edmonton and Winnipeg.
“Lots of people go to the library. To get light therapy to work you have to sit there for 20 minutes and have the light, not in your eyes, but across your face.”
In a library you could do that while reading a book or magazine, so it seemed a good fit. There’s no fee to enter a library, and the hours are a bit different that daytime working hours.
Going to a library means the people are getting out of their solitary ruts, seeing other people, asking to use the light, and finding out what is going on in town from all the posters and advertisements that are on display.
Whitehorse Public Library saw the point and agreed right away.
The Dawson City Community Library – a combined public and school facility – is governed by a joint library board composed of the public and some school staff, so St-Laurent made a trip to the Klondike in November and was delighted to find that the board was enthusiastic.
At the Whitehorse Public Library the experiment started out with two lamps and was apparently so popular that someone took one of them home. The library is hoping it will be returned, and the folks at the Francophone Health Network are thinking about replacing it. The Carex SunLite costs about $150.
At the Dawson City Community Library, public librarian Dan Dowhal says the light station on the second floor mezzanine is getting a good deal of use. It’s off to one side of the landing by the stairs, outfitted with a comfortable chair, pamphlets explaining how to use the lamp and even a book on SAD.
It has also made a trip or two into school classrooms.
During this first year of the project, no one has been keeping any statistics or gathering comments, so St-Laurent doesn’t have anything definite to report about how it’s working out. Next year they will try to keep track and perhaps find other places where this therapy might work.
This project will run until the end of February, after which the real sun takes over.