Starlight Programs Reducing Stress and Boost Children's Mental Wellbeing

Contributions by Jennifer Beckjord, PsyD – UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, Megan Ice, Ph.D - Cambridge Health Alliance, and Ruchi Patel, PsyD, MPH – Banner Children’s Specialty 

For kids entering the hospital, stress and anxiety start at the door. From having to remove their own clothes and put on a hospital gown to being isolated from family and friends, hospital stays can be one of the most stressful experiences for a sick child.  

“Stress is an inevitable part of our lives and it’s important to help children develop a balanced view of it,” says Dr. Beckjord of UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “Stress is not necessarily bad, and as with most things, stress in moderation can be beneficial – it can be motivating, and confronting stressful situations can lead to growth and learning!” 

That’s why Starlight exists.

Blog-Image Starlight-programs-Reducing-Stress

Kids can jump and dash through obstacles and problem-solve their way to victory when they play video games on the Starlight Nintendo Switch Gaming Station. The fun and familiarity of beloved video games helps kids relax, mitigating stress and improving mental health and wellbeing. Once stress and anxiety fade, recovery speeds up as kids are more often motivated to comply with their treatments and procedures. 

“Starlight programs have been used in a variety of ways to support our pediatric community. They have served as incentives and rewards when children meet their therapeutic goals and have supported my patients by increasing motivation and improving their sense of self and overall positive functioning." - Dr. Patel, Banner Children’s Specialty 

When kids venture to faraway worlds using a Starlight Virtual Reality Headset, they gain a sense of control over their hospital experience. Playing in the hospital through a program like Starlight Toy Deliveries ensures they have an outlet to process and express their emotions, such as stress. 

“Starlight programs allow our patients a chance to be a kid again and have fun for a bit, which then helps them to better connect with our staff, manage their feelings, and reintegrate back into the community.” - Dr. Ice, Cambridge Health Alliance 

While navigating the challenges of hospitalization, constant stress is another layer that makes hospitalization more difficult for a child. 

It’s estimated that 5 million children are hospitalized each year. Starlight aims to ensure every child experiences the happiness a Starlight program can bring, that’s why Starlight programs are donor-funded and offered to hospitals free of cost. 

Reduce stress in hospitalized kids by donating towards a Starlight program
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