Occupational therapist and postdoctoral fellow Skye Barbic says our current understanding of mental health recovery on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is too narrow

To outsiders, it’s often referred to as the poorest postal code in Canada.

But to those selling on its streets and walking the halls of its single room occupancy hotels, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is home.

Over the years, hundreds of agencies and housing sites have sprung up to support residents living in the area — many of whom are poor, drug-addicted and face severe mental health challenges.

But until now, few have asked what recovery means to those living with severe mental illness in the area. And while securing a job, a home, and living drug-free may certainly be part of the equation, one UBC postdoctoral fellow says our current definition of recovery for this patient population is far too narrow.

“For many, recovery means living in the community, but when you dig a little deeper, and talk to the individuals living in the area, recovery means much more,” says Skye Barbic, who moved from Ontario to join UBC as a postdoctoral fellow last fall.

As an occupational therapist by trade, Dr. Barbic aims to bring a patient-centered approach to her work in mental health rehabilitation. Today, she’s one of a growing number of Canadian occupational therapists in the field of mental health.

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