Tag Archives: british columbia

join us for a mental health breakfast!

Canadian Mental Health Association

Speaking Out for Recovery

Mental Health Voices 2010


Please join us at our

2010 Mental Health Voices

Breakfast Fundraiser

An Exactly 1 Hour Fundraising Event

With Complimentary Continental Breakfast

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

7:30am – 8:30am

Board Room of Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP

2900 – 550 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC

on Thursday, October 14th

This is an opportunity to learn more about the services of Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver/Burnaby Branch and to raise money to support our work.

More importantly, the event features inspiring stories from our clients and their families about how our programs have contributed to their recoveries from mental illness.

Marge Johnson is a mental health professional and mother of an individual with mental illness. She will share with us her experiences and her inspiring stories about recovery.

We are honoring media personality Shelagh Rogers with the 2010 Mental Health Voices Award via a video presentation.

The Mental Health Voices Award is given to an individual who has shown courage, raised awareness or encouraged acceptance and help for people with mental illness.

Generously sponsored by Fasken Martineau, Pacific Blue Cross and BC Life

why being canadian makes us sick

today was the annual general meeting of the canadian mental health association. our speaker was dr. paul kershaw.  from his intro:

kershaw is an academic, public speaker and media contributor. he is one of canada’s leading thinkers about care-giving and family policy, receiving two national prizes from the canadian political science association for his research.

dubbed by some an ‘evangelist professor’, kershaw uses research to be a cheer-leader and critic of canadians with the intention of inspiring substantial policy change across the country. to this end, kershaw devotes time to liaise with leaders in government, the business community, the not-for-profit sector, and the academy.

kershaw does not shy away from tough issues. on radio he has been labeled a “boomer-hater” because he speaks about intergenerational inequities between baby boomers and the generations that follow. as a proud feminist, he chides the personal and policy decisions by which many men evade their fair share of care-giving work, and fail to enjoy a fair share of the joys that come with caring. among the general public, he argues that ‘being canadian’ is making us sick, because the medical system in which we take national pride shows more of a disease fetish than an aspiration to promote health. at the university of british columbia, in the college for interdisciplinary studies, kershaw is the human early learning partnership (HELP) scholar of social care, citizenship and the determinants of health.

here are my notes from his talk:

how many children come to school ready to learn? 70%. that sounds like a good number. but what if you turn it around?

30% of children come to our schools vulnerable (don’t meet age appropriate benchmarks – e.g. not fully developed re fine and gross motor skills, playing with peers, following simple instructions, etc.)

why should that worry us?

we are most sensitive to our environments in the early years. what happens in the early years sets the tone for the rest of the life.

statistically speaking, those who are vulnerable in kindergarten tend to have more problems with teenage diabetes, mental health, coronary heart disease, elevated blood pressure, premature aging, etc.

what are the fundamental failings in canada when it comes to looking after our youngest citizens?


poverty 1: families are strapped for time – “i’ll compromise my time in the domestic area” work-life conflict – BC has the highest rate of work life tension
poverty 2 – service poverty (lack of social services)
poverty 3 – income poverty – we have the highest rates of poverty among children

5 reasons why we fail our next generations

1 – our perceptions don’t reflect reality
2 – lack of gender equality
3 – we have other policy priorities
4 – we have a disease fetish
5 – we are a boomer centric society

1 – misperceptions

  • canadian perceptions of reality are not reflective of actual reality
  • “do you knw what share of kids reach our school system vulnerable?” 82% of BCers underestimate how vulnerable we are
  • 86% thought we’re more generous to address these problems than we are

2 – lack of gender equality

  • we are at the bottom of OECD countries re family policy and gender equality
  • gender equality and family policy go together
  • we used to be #13, now #30
  • in 2001 we had a ministry for women’s quality, now we have no ministerial representation whatsoever
  • quebec is the only place with a good family policy because they want to breed more quebecois

3 – we have other priorities

  • 45% of our budget allocated to things medical
  • social service spending has contracted
  • health care is consuming an ever growing share of the budget, mostly because the budget overall has shrunk
  • social service spending used to be 18%, then 15% just before recession, now even less – 500 dollar less per person now

4 – we have a disease fetish

  • a mismatch between how we devote our public spending and how we spend on children
  • spending increases as we get older despite the fact that it would have the most impact if it was spent on children
  • this reflects that when someone gets sick we want to be there
  • we are lousy at prevention
  • but what do we owe ourselves in this society?
  • another example: we spend millions to save the lives of preterm babies but spend nothing on things like food for 5-year-olds
  • do we want to be dominated by disease or by health?

5 – we are baby boomer centric

  • this creates intergenerational tensions
  • politicians are baby boomers, they want to spend money on what concerns their age group
  • we can tackle children’s problems in a 5-year period (different from, say, environment, which takes much longer)
  • but baby boomers are aging so that’s what they pay attention to
  • we are also worried about pensions. but we are doing well with pensions and we’re not ranking well at all when it comes to children.

what do we need to do?

  • we need to think about health promotion differently. we need to address time, service and income poverty. improve parental leave system. why 40-45 hours a week for both parents? typical canadian works 300 more hours than the typical dutch person; netherlands and scandinavians do much more for children
  • need to increase welfare by 50%, and need to think about tax policies for the working poor
  • service poverty – need access to monthly parenting support and health check in. too spotty right now.
  • after kids are 18 months, needearly learning and care services. THAT is a major health promotion policy.

this is not inexpensive, a good 3 billion dollars a year. where to find the money?

1 – we HAVE found an extra bunch of money before, for increased health services
2 – if you’re patient, prevention early on has HUGE economic payback once they hit the labour market. we can predict the quality of our labour supply. with increased child health, we can increase economic growth by 25% – enough to pay down entire debt before these kids reach retirement

mad pride: salmon insanity at gallery gachet

salmon art

are you in vancouver and looking for something to do on saturday? how about going to salmon insanity, run by gallery gachet apropos their mad pride events. gallery gachet is a collective of vancouver artists who have been affected by mental illness. i like how they make the connection between mental health and ecological health.

here’s their invite:

are you a salmon-lover or would like to be one?? local bands converge with run-of-river activist groups to network, update and rock the salmon as our precious “backbone of the west coast.”

bring a blank t-shirt for the free “salmon are sacred” and “gateway sucks” DIY screen-printing station!

express your love for salmon through creativity at our art table, including body painting and tattoos.

our featured musical talent includes

rick buckman coe

ranj singh and the discriminators


image by naturemandala

how many suicides are ok, mr. minister?

last week, the british columbia government (the one that pumps millions and millions of dollars into the 2-week olympics next year) made cuts “changes” to the budgets of about 90 (ninety!) health agencies in the vancouver coastal health region alone. the changes cuts will mean no harm to services, says minister kevin falcon.

it’s hard not to think of the fox that walks into the chicken coop, smiling sweetly, “oh don’t worry, i mean you no harm.”

the cuts, falcon says, are only administrative. apart from the fact that i have it on good authority that they are not just administrative, the question remains how an organization is supposed to run without administration, especially since just about all health service agencies i know are already running on razor-thin administration, and since the government keeps asking for more and more paper (=administrative) work.

let’s look at this.

burnaby is canada’s best run city. can you imagine it without a receptionist?

4refuel in langley won a best small business award in 2006. how do you think they’d do without a bookkeeper?

the cactus club is one of the best companies to work for. are they doing that without administrative assistants?

as you know, my concern is mostly with agencies that provide services in the mental health sector, a sector that is already seriously underfunded.

let’s look at one example – suicide prevention. saving lives is not such a bad idea, is it? how much does it cost?

* $5,000 will make possible one 60 hour hotline training class for 25 volunteers.
* $1,850 will make possible one 24 hour period of crisis hotline service for the region.
* $1,000 will cover the cost of suicide prevention and intervention to save 20 lives.
* $500 will train 20 youth, parents, or teachers on suicide prevention.
* $250 will sponsor training for one hotline volunteer, who can answer 450 calls a year.
* $100 will cover 1 week of CareRing calls to a vulnerable senior.
* $75 will make possible 1 hour of crisis hotline service for the region.

now think about it. someone had to gather this information. someone had to type it up. someone had to get it on the web. someone had to put the web site together, someone needs to maintain it. who do you think is doing this? guess what, it’s someone in an administrative function.

ask any struggling social service agency what their major funding problems are, and they will invariably have “core funding” on the very top of their list – the money needed to pay for the invisible but highly necessary costs, without which the services have absolutely no infrastructure to rest on. if you’re a crisis line and don’t have a bookkeeper taking care of the payables, who will send that cheque to the telephone company, without which there won’t be any crisis line?

so how many suicides would you like to prevent, mr. falcon? 20, or, say, 10% less because the lives of those other two people aren’t that important?

MentalHealthCamp – the power of social media

here are my opening notes to MentalHealthCamp yesterday; they followed raul’s great introduction to the workings of social media.  we decided that he would be the social media guy and i’d be the mental health gal.  (how well raul and i worked together deserves a whole post by itself).

i managed to present most of what’s in the notes; the rest of it got substituted by slightly teary-eyed stumbled-over words about suicide.

here we go:

· 20% of canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. that’s about 3 times the people that live in greater vancouver.
· in the US, it is estimated that every hour, three people take their own lives.
· almost 50% of those who suffer from depression or anxiety never see a health professional. for bc alone, that’s equivalent to the population of all of burnaby, all suffering in silence
· the economic cost of mental illnesses in canada is $15 billion. that is $1 more than the british columbia government is planning on spending on 88,000 jobs to stimulate the economy
· the british columbia government just cut psychiatric and mental health beds and mental health treatment programs. staff in the adult mental health division will be cut by 70 percent and the mental health advocate position was eliminated.

okay, enough of this statistical gloominess. most of us know it already anyway. we can lament it – or we can do something about it.

one of the reasons why i love cyberspace and have been fascinated with it for almost 25 years now is that it transcends. it transcends geographical boundaries, that we all know. but it transcends way more boundaries than that.

the internet is the nervous system of this planet, says the hippy internet manifesto. if that’s the case, then of course it transcends everything because it is everything. there’s no places the nervous system won’t go.

consequently, there are no places we here won’t go because we are the internet. raul and sandra and terra everyone here, we are the internet. it’s quite heady when you think of it. you know how they always say, we are the nation? well, in cyberspace that’s true in a strangely real way.

so – if we are the internet, and if we are the people who transcend, what does that mean for mental health and mental illness?

it means that the stigma that traditionally comes with mental illness does not need to be a scarlet letter anymore; we can declare this stigma a mistake that arose out of misunderstanding, and we’re amply equipped to fix it.

it means you, and most importantly i, can get the message out that depression and anxiety can often be cured, and can always be managed.

why do i say, “most importantly, i”? it’s not because i am a terribly important person in the internet but it’s because of what a famous rabbi said hundreds of years ago, “if not i, who?” i’m the most important person because i need to take responsibility.

we are all taking responsibility today. we’re ready to deal with the mistake of stigma.

we’re ready to say out loud that it’s crazy – yes, crazy – that six million canadians feel afraid of discussing an illness that’s even more common than asthma. yes, as many canadians are dealing with lung disease as are with mental illness. it’s totally ok for your daughter to bring her inhaler to school. but when your 11-year-old son wants to bring his teddy bear when anxiety hits him, people laugh.

that’s not okay!

i brought my stuffy, by the way. her name is sarah. everyone, meet sarah (that’s her in the picture above). when i feel confused or panicked in the middle of the night. i hug her.

okay … what else are we responsible for? we are, clearly, not responsible for people taking their own lives. this tragic decision is very personal and is always, always, the sole decision of the person in question.

however, most people who take their own lives are unimaginably lonely. we can bring community to people. we can be available. we can be inclusive. that’s the power of social media.

as for the ridiculous lack of financial support for people with mental illness, that’s – well, ridiculous.

the internet gives us power to speak. we can talk to the government, we can lobby – we have the power to do that. i’m not saying it’s easy, but we do have power. the rise of obama showed how the internet changed election coverage and therefore influenced election outcomes. we have this power in our hands. we can lobby and influence.

but there’s another side to it, too, and that brings me back to this conference. there’s a sense in which we don’t need the government.

remember, we are the central nervous system.

when we feel so inclined, let’s go lobby the government.

but that’s not what we’re doing right now.

i believe that what we’re doing right here is more powerful than trying to change the mind of a slow-moving government.

it took us two months, pretty much to the day, to dream up this conference and to bring you here, to this event that i’d like to humbly submit is groundbreaking, definitely the first of its kind. we didn’t need a government, we didn’t need money, we just said let’s do it and here we are.

that is the power of social media. let’s use it.

canada day: 26 reasons why i’ll never leave

a ravine in oakville, ontarioat the end of july, it’ll be 26 years that i arrived here in canada. it was just supposed to be a visit, but literally within hours, i was smitten. the beautiful town of oakville was what did me in, or rather its hills, little rivers, abandoned orchards and most of all its ravines – the ones made world-famous by the annual PGA tournament at glenn abbey.

tomorrow is canada day. let me sing the praises of this lovely land – 26 random reasons why i’ll never leave:

  1. the colours of the leaves in the fall in ontario; if you’ve never been to that area of north america (the north middle east? is there a name for it?) you won’t believe it; i never did, i thought for sure those photographs were enhanced
  2. the same with the colour of the sky along this stretch of the pacific coast some days – in the fall and winter, when the sun shines just right over the clouds and fog, it’s all silvery-pastel
  3. bannock
  4. the rolling hills of eastern ontario, right around bancroft
  5. speckled trout from some obscure little backcountry lake
  6. the satisfaction of pulling out the morning glories that threaten to take over my garden here in vancouver (a fabulous way of getting rid of aggression)
  7. the terraces of a hidden winery along lake okanagan
  8. canadian writers like michel tremblay, margaret atwood, robertson davies, matt cohen
  9. maple syrup
  10. CBC radio (with a special nod to vicki gabereau and peter gzowski)
  11. oscar peterson
  12. glenn gould
  13. my glenn
  14. pierre trudeau
  15. the hot springs in ainsworth and around whistler
  16. the long long long long long long long wide wide wide wide wide wide stretch of the prairies
  17. and driving along those prairies, thinking of nothing, humming along and BANG, all of a sudden you’re staring at a huge hole in the ground: the alberta badlands where the dinosaurs used to roam
  18. the fantastic, casual, a bit arrogant, rainy and absolute stunning beauty of vancouver
  19. the victoria art gallery
  20. the surf at sombrio beach
  21. the trees in east vancouver island, so high they seem to never end
  22. the overwhelming greenery – ferns, blackberries, blueberries, salal, moss, moss, moss – along the west coast
  23. brown bears everywhere
  24. the memory of the first time i saw a sign that read, “72 kilometres to the next gas station”
  25. its multiculturalism and diversity and relative freedom from racism
  26. the fact that if you’re gay, you can get married here

i have a feeling that i will keep adding to the list …

what about you? what do you like about canada?

(image by lone primate)