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Celina’s Legacy Library: Empowering Minds Through Books

When describing her motivation for her recent donation of six large boxes of books for the adolescents and adults receiving mental health care at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center, Celina Gunderman talks passionately about her love of books.

“Books to me are almost therapy in themselves,” Gunderman said. “They can uplift your mood and give you positive things to focus on. There is a Charles William Eliot quote I love about books being the most quiet and constant of friends as well as the most accessible and wisest of counselors and most patient teachers.”

Gunderman’s gifted books range from the motivational to the fictional to the humorous.

“MiraVista offers inpatient treatment in separate units for adults and adolescents and the donation, which includes books for all ages, we are calling ‘Celina’s Legacy Library: Empowering Minds Through Books’ in recognition of her generosity,” said Kimberley Lee, MiraVista Chief of Creative Strategy and Development. “The book titles will be listed on a laminated flier for patients to select from and be distributed by staff. It is a nice way to engage patients and we are very grateful for her donation.”

Gunderman said books were a “huge contributor to my mental health in working through my queer identity as a teenager.” She had no access to LGBTQ+-affirming care to help understand when she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety how a lack of identity acceptance can contribute to mental health issues.

Gunderman said how such supportive care combined with evidence-based treatment can contribute to better mental health outcomes.

“When I was at MiraVista I was diagnosed with some post-traumatic-stress disorder issues which has helped put me on the right track for further diagnosis and treatment with my care team in the community,” Gunderman said. “My recent treatment has also helped me to be more open in talking about my mental health as a way to help others know that it is important to talk about it and normalize it.”

She encourages individuals who are concerned that someone they care about is in mental distress to approach that person.

“You can tell that person you are there for them if they are struggling and want to open up,” Gunderman said. “It can even be helpful to bring up your own mental health issues so they become comfortable to talk about theirs and can relate.”

She added, “It is important, too, to encourage someone to reach out to a therapist or professional.”

“Mental health is just as important to treat as illnesses that are more visible and physical,” Gunderman said. “It oftentimes requires therapy and medication and that is so OK. It is just as valid a diagnosis as for any other illness and when someone does reach out to a provider there are often more people who are supportive than they would think.”

She said that she was in denial about her mental health for a period with serious consequences.

“I didn’t treat my own issues for a long time, but admitting to myself that I needed to and reaching out for professional help has really transformed my life,” Gunderman said. “I am doing much, much better.”

MiraVista Behavioral Health Center opened in April of 2021 in Holyoke, Mass. MiraVista offers psychiatric care services for both adults and adolescents, as well as an array of recovery treatment programs including outpatient services such as substance use individual and group counseling, day and evening Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), court-ordered services, and outpatient Medication Supported Recovery and Massachusetts Impaired Driving programs.

MiraVista cares for thousands of individuals from across New England. MiraVista’s purpose is to provide effective, inspiring care for those challenged by mental health and substance use so they are empowered to lead fulfilling lives.