Meet our guiding lights

It’s not hard for any of us to talk about our physical health – things like blood sugar, or a broken bone. But bring up mental illness, and suddenly we go silent for fear of stigma.

As a psychiatrist in St. Boniface Hospital’s Mental Health Program for nearly 20 years, I’m part of a very strong, talented, and skilled team of therapists and medical professionals who help people break their silence and guide them on their journeys of recovery. It’s a rewarding line of work.

Paola Dubiel, a psychiatric nurse therapist at St. Boniface Hospital, chose to work in the mental health field because she always wanted to help people.

“I work with each person on what they would like to achieve. Most desire a better quality of life, and to be able to dream for the future,” said Paola. “Whether that be through medication, symptom control, goal-setting, meaningful activities, safe housing, addressing issues of addiction, and working or going to school.”

“It’s so rewarding to see people succeed, to see them have their symptoms under control, and to see them cope. Or simply to learn to live with an illness, but not let it be the definition of who they are,” she said.

“The illness is something they have and can live with, and if a person is able to separate themselves from the symptoms and be able to see their own self-worth? That’s wonderful.”

Rhonda Cornish, another psychiatric nurse therapist on our team, believes people need to be heard. They need a voice, she insists. I agree with her, in that many people don’t know how to advocate for their mental health.

“When a patient comes to me, regardless of their diagnosis, that is a whole person sitting in front of me who is made up of many different parts. And you must make sure all the parts fit together,” said Rhonda. “It’s more than just stabilizing people on medications; it’s about helping people live well and accept that they have a medical condition, but it doesn’t define them.”

“I try to look at my role here as more of a guiding light. I guide, but they must tell me where they’d like to go – then together we’ll create our map. I don’t give advice; I might suggest different options and work with the patient to reach a solution…we negotiate, we collaborate, but I don’t tell people what to do,” she said. “I love helping people.”

I learn more from my patients than they could ever probably learn from me.

“It’s a gift, to be allowed to be a part of their journey.” The reward is seeing them get better, seeing them excel, seeing them ready to live and accept that they have a chronic illness.

“I don’t think my patients ever realize what gifts they are to me. It really does humble me, and I learn a lot from them,” said Rhonda. “We all want to see more people succeed, but it can’t happen without your help.”

Your financial gift can be used, and used well, in the McEwen Building at St. Boniface Hospital, where mental health services are offered. Sadly, there are still many unmet needs in mental health. Your next donation will benefit so many people. Be our guiding light!

As a donor through St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, you are an important member of our team – we need you. Donate now.