Category Archives: news and events

the non-mental health camp recap: community support

well, as you can see, i haven’t done much with this blog lately. i am busy with other things right now but at some point i will come back to write more (and at some point i will also find a way to oust the viagra people who keep trying to hijack my blog! it’s pretty embarrassing to have that show up in the google searches). maybe this point has arrived already? stay tuned …

as you can see from one of the previous posts, we had to cancel mental health camp. both raul and i were just too deeply involved with our family lives. unfortunately, we both had some deaths. the support from people around this was, as usual, amazing! between raul and myself, we received over 70 comments on our facebook pages when we announced our decision. every single one of them was supportive.  just some examples:

kudos for you not to extend yourself so much.

unfortunate news, but the announcement embodies what the event is about (including finding out via facebook! 🙂 ). my best to you both.

good for you that you are putting your own mental health first. It’s a great example for others to follow. wishing you healing and support.

i’m glad to hear you’re taking active steps in protecting and caring for your own mental health

take care of yourself, and yes, congratulations on knowing when to say No to responsibilities you put on yourself. the community AND you will be better served by you both coming back when you are in a better place.

sounds like the right decision. way to go. an inspiration for all women 😉 ♥

here was my reply

thanks again to all of you. right now it’s a bit hard to fight the little voice inside (i call it my “german general”) that says that i’m a lazy, whining sissy – surely, if i can go on facebook, i can also organize mental health camp! hah! but i’m outing it. the german general does not like to see his words repeated unless they have gone through his press corps 🙂 i guess what’s good about this is that i have always felt very strongly about being up-front about one’s mental health, and here i get an opportunity to live this value – very much because of you and your support!

later …

but of course we’re not turning away from mental health camp, and definitely not from the idea behind it. the idea happens every day.

and later still:

this whole way in which i/we feel supported is starting to feel like an impromptu mental health camp in itself. maybe THIS is what was meant to happen. what can we learn from this? how can we take this further … ?

and then raul said, in his infinite wisdom:

isabella – don’t try to “take this further, or try to learn from this”. just enjoy the support, period. don’t make it more work for yourself! I’m just grateful that people understand that we are overwhelmed and over-committed as it stands.

all of this was two months ago. it is bittersweet – but more than that, truly wonderful to relive all this fabulous support. THIS is what we can do for each other! isn’t that mindbogglingly marvelous?!

next time i might just tell you about the workshop on recovering beauty that i ended up doing at gallery gachet anyways … 🙂

call for speakers for mental health camp vancouver 2011

the 3rd edition of MentalHealthCamp vancouver is happening soon!  on july 23rd, precisely.  the conference is about the intersection between social media and mental health.

is this a topic you’re interested in?  would you like to talk about it, or lead a workshop? 

here’s your chance – our call for speakers.

we are looking for session leaders who speak from personal or professional experience with mental health or mental illness. please note that this is unpaid – we are entirely volunteer-run.

we will have approximately 10 45-minute slots, with 6 slots for prearranged speakers (e.g. approved by the selection committee), and 4 slots for “mental moose” – a continuation of the unconference tradition of moosecamp at northern voice.  during “mental moose”, participants who are interested in leading a session can pitch them on saturday morning with a quick 30-second talk.  everyone will then vote on which sessions will be presented, and the winning sessions will be scheduled.

the theme for this year’s MentalHealthCamp is

DIVERSITY

diversity of opinions
diversity of religion
diversity of ideas on how to deal with mental health
diversity of sexual orientation
diversity in age
diversity in ethnic backgrounds
diversity in socioeconomic status
diversity of ability
and … ? (please feel free to add!)

each one of these topics contains vast, interesting fields in and of themselves. just think of the topic of mental health among british columbia’s south asian population; the diverse/diverging of the radical psychology group (here with another diversity topic: gender and bodily difference); or mental health and christian churches. we could even look at diversity from yet another point of view – adding the topic/twist of mental health to existing bodies of research, such as the growing area of research into tourism and mental health.

since MentalHealthCamp is about the intersection between mental health and social media, speakers and participants will discuss issues that touch on both topics, in whatever weird and wonderful and different ways. also, this will continue to be a grassroots-based event. as long as a speaker has something interesting and constructive to contribute, it is of no consequence whether she or he has a PhD in psychiatry or is a master in the art of living a life touched by mental illness. come one, come all! it is, after all, about diversity. on the other hand, MentalHealthCamp is not an ideal venue for very general talks on stress reduction, time management or the like.

once again, we might also have a virtual session.  if you’re unable to attend the conference in person but have the technical know-how, let’s talk about using technology to bring you right into our conference here in vancouver.

if you’re interested in presenting, please send us a short (100 words or less) description of the proposal, together with a short (50 words or less) bio about yourself by june 16.  please send it to moritherapy at shaw dot ca.

the conference will happen on july 23, 2011, from 8:30am  to 5:00 pm, at vancouver’s gallery gachet http://gachet.org/ at 88 east cordova street .

oh! it’s poetry month!

DSC_3219abrakadabra
into this evening, this evening of mist and
silvery-grey clouds
abrakadabra
flies the crow, the big, big, crow,
can you see it – ?
no you can’t, it’s made of stuff you can’t touch
but it’s there, can you feel it – ?
aaah, yes, abrakadabra
the evening crow with its big wings, and on its back
the large mage of night,
with those coat-wings that touch your dreams and you wake up
abrakadabra
knowing, KNOWING it was true, and you shiver and fall back asleep
abrakadabra
and when your eyes open again, you wonder
was that a shiver of dread, of wonder, delight?
can you hear it – ?
was THAT the bird that just flew by, shadowing clouds
that still bear a feather of pink?

mental health camp YVR ’11: diversity

okay, after great breakfast meeting with raul this morning, we’re starting to roll with this year’s mental health camp! the theme this year is

diversity!

maybe even with the exclamation mark 🙂

it was through great conversations with jay peachy and steven schwartz that we came up with the idea. diversity is about

diversity of opinions
diversity of religion
diversity of ideas on how to deal with mental health
diversity of sexual orientation
diversity in age
diversity in ethnic backgrounds
diversity in socioeconomic status
diversity of ability
and … ? (please feel free to add!)

each one of these topics contains vast, interesting fields in and of themselves. just think of the topic of mental health among british columbia’s south asian population; the diverse/diverging of the radical psychology group (here with another diversity topic: gender and bodily difference); or mental health and christian churches. we could even look at diversity from yet another point of view – adding the topic/twist of mental health to existing bodies of research, such as the growing area of research into tourism and mental health.

as always, mental health camp will be about the intersection between mental health and social media. that is, speakers and participants will discuss issues that touch on both topics, in whatever weird and wonderful and different ways. also, this will continue to be a grassroots-based event. as long as a speaker has something interesting and constructive to contribute, it is of no consequence whether she or he has a PhD in psychiatry or is a master in the art of living a life touched by mental illness. come one, come all! it is, after all, about diversity.

the event will take place on july 23. this time our location will be gallery gachet, who are graciously donating their space to this event. mental health camp YVR ’11 will be an all day face-to-face conference, with a significant social media aspect (e.g. hopefully we will have social media stewards again who will tweet and facebook about the event). we will probably have around 10 sessions.

everyone’s input is welcome! and let us know if you’d like to volunteer.

at hycroft

i am here at hycroft, the lovely, lovely 100-year-old home of the university women’s club of vancouver. my friend MJ ankenmann had invited some vancouver bloggers to join her in the unveiling of a painting in honour of the many 100-year events that will happen here in 2011.

just now i interviewed donalda falconer, who leads the club’s choir, the hycroft singer. they present a wide repertoire, from early music to broadway to jazz. they sing in many different venues and configurations. “we always have a good time and are good friends,” says donalda. recently at the last “christmas at hycroft” (a venerable vancouver christmas event), the choir did a flashmob. the public was milling about, with the choir mixed in and suddenly they erupted into in dulce jubilo. it was a lot of fun!

on friday march 18 there will be a festival of choirs, a women’s choir festival in the ballroom. so far three choirs are scheduled to sing, the hycroft singers, the lyric singers, and higher ground from north vancouver. doors open at 7, refreshments are available, the music starts at 7:30. tickets are $15 for members, $20 for the public – phone the office! there is limited space. the number is 604 731 4661.

i asked donalda to tell me why i should join the club. “there is such a variety of people and things going on. the interest groups are amazing. you can get really serious or not, you can do a little bit or a lot of it, the camaraderie is wonderful. when i first joined, i loved the variety of the members. a variety of age and interest. and that’s one of the big points of this club.”

another person i interviewed was kathy barford, a fountain of knowledge about hycroft. “there is something very enduring about this house,” she says. there is an effort to continuously make it closer to what it might have been when it was first built and lived in (and partied in! the ballroom and bar downstairs are huge!). during WWII, the house was converted to a veteran’s hospital. the beautiful, very large formal living room in which we are sitting right now was hospital green during the war and the floor battleship linoleum. afterwards, when the place was restored to its old splendour, the members couldn’t get any men to strip the linoleum, so they did it themselves. just imagine all these well-educated women way back in the 60s and 70s on their knees, stripping the floor!

cathy took art history in university, and loves hycroft because “it is just overall beautifully designed, the proportions, the scale of it, it’s all so well done, all the way through. sadly, this is a rare thing.” thomas hooper was the architect. his older brother became provincial architect in manitoba (hm, i wonder what a provincial architect is?) thomas hooper came here in 1886, just as vancouver was founded. he built many schools and churches in vancouver and victoria, e.g. the vancouver public library, the addition to the vancouver art gallery, and the winch building. he also did the provincial court houses in vernon and revelstoke. mccarter, who built the marine building, trained with him.

cathy looks after the volunteers at hycroft. right now she is putting together a lecture series about the history, heritage and antiques at hycroft. she is also part of the house committee, which replaces all the work a butler or major-domo would have usually done. “really,” she says, “we have a cooperative between members and staff.”

so, why should i join this club? “it’s interesting and there is fellowship and a beautiful house, advocacy on behalf of women’s issues and a great place to hang out.”

finally, i asked MJ a few questions. when MJ lived in toronto, there was a university women’s club but she never got around to joining it. when she got here, she saw the building and thought this would be an interesting place to belong to. when she first visited, she was immediately drawn to it. there are women of all ages. “one of my best friends is 87.” she doesn’t have that sort of multigenerational family connection here. it’s a real sisterhood, an older version of the sorority but without the politics. “we do some good work with advocacy. right now we’re working on a paper about prostitution. we are against legalisation and are involved with the canadian federation of university women; this way we are able to put forth a position. we do take a stand on things.”

why should i join? it’s a great place to meet and be surrounded by women who have ideas, who are creative who want to enjoy life. there is a wide variety of things to do, educational and fun, “we play poker and drink wine, and play bridge and drink tea.” there is also a connection to history, one because of the house and vancouver’s history, and we’re preserving some of this. there is also the history of the club in the house. when we bought it in 1962, women were not allowed to legally hold a mortgage on their own. they had to raise the money and buy the house outright. and they did that. rather than having a man co-sign it, they said, we’re going to do this. there are members from all over the world. it’s a great place to come to meet people.

south asian mental health conference

first live blogging in a long time!

sitting here with 12 others to discuss putting together a mental health conference with a focus on the south asian community in british columbia. for those of you not familiar with the term “south asian” – it refers to people of mostly indian background, e.g. people with ethnic backgrounds in india, fiji, pakistan, etc. the idea for this conference started quite a while ago, shortly after we had our first mental health camp.

the topics that have come up already are stigma (“everyone wants you to hide it”), the lack of services, and the lack of involvement on the part of the community.

the idea so far is to create a one-day educational forum on mental health for the south asian community. the intention is to have workshops, perhaps meet with professionals, etc. the overarching goal is to reduce stigma and create acceptance. obviously you can’t do that with just one event but it might just be a start. it’s also important to give the community a voice – important to hear personal stories and anecdotes. there is a broken link between the people who require help and those who offer help.

there is an idea to have high school students volunteering. this would allow them to openly attend without immediately having a stigma attached to them (“why are YOU going to this???”)

let’s have some depression screening and ADHD screening there!

there should be some way of reaching seniors whose english is not very good.

let’s make it fun and interactive! “wow, i didn’t think about mental health in this way!” maybe adding some art into the forum would help with that. let’s have something that people can laugh at!

we could also look into “what is mental health?”

we want to work with people who have a balanced view of mental health; inviting pharma to be significant sponsors probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

an aside: it’s interesting to live blog something like this. so far i have only live blogged big events; this is a smallish gathering. it’s intimate and it feels a bit intrusive to try and live blog it. good learning!

one of the biggest challenges will be to assist the south asian community to make it easier to talk about mental health in general and to talk about mental health to each other. an interesting comment by someone: “when i went to my first event with my community, i thought, ‘oh god, they know everything about me!'” this is a very close-knit community, with all the pros and cons that come with it.

psychology dailies

a few months ago, some people in switzerland came up with paper.li, a program that organizes links shared on twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. newspapers can be created for any twitter user, list or #tag. (there is a fun little wordplay to the name: the “li” at the end, a sort of diminuitive, is a hallmark of switzerdeutsch, the swiss version of german.)

i think this is a neat idea. here are some examples:

the psychology daily
the mental health bloggers daily
and one i put together: the world changers daily

st john of the cross

a few days ago, i went to a fabulous workshop with rob des cotes of the imago dei community about st. john of the cross. i’d like to share my notes with you.

but just a bit of an intro. maybe this post could be prefaced with another preface, written by r. kirkham at amazon about another christian mystic book, the cloud of unkowing

it seems only proper to begin a review of this book with the warning given by the anonymous author in his/her prologue. my paraphrase of that warning goes something like this, “in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit, and in the bond of love i beg you not to read, copy, or look at this book unless you are ready. furthermore i beg you not to copy it, loan it out, or give it to anyone else to read unless they, too, are ready for this depth of spiritual growth, lest they misunderstand the things written herein and fall into error.”

what follows is of course not nearly as important as what was written in the cloud of unknowing; however, what i want to get across is that this experience was in the spirit of mysticism, which means that the words and ideas expressed need to be seen from a point of view of that is curious, open, wondering; and at the same time, it needs to be infused with wisdom. so when there is talk of surrender, for example, it should not be seen as the oppressive surrender that, for example, the highly politicized catholic church of the 16th century wanted to see in its believers in order to use them better as pawns in their machinations. rather, i invite you to see it as the strange, awe-ful, incomprehensible surrender that accompanies the moments of first falling in love …

here are my notes.

st ignatius asks: what’s god’s job, what’s mine?

st john of the cross: passive purification – letting god do the job. there’s nothing for me to do but accept god. it’s god’s initiative. i make myself as nothing, and present myself to god. god gives us freedom – and invites us to submit. let myself be created. jesus says, “your job is to remain in my love”

we cannot “do” contemplative prayer. st john: “contemplation is none other than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion of god, which if the soul allows it to happen, enflames it in the spirit of love”. the best way to start praying: lord, show me how to pray. the illusion is: “when i don’t pray, prayer isn’t happening.” in truth, god prays us.

“the dark night of the soul” – the darkness an owl experiences as she flies into the light. darkness is good. darkness is faith: you don’t need to second guess. in moses, there is talk of “the thick darkness where god is”

embrace the poverty of spirit. very different from the idea of enriching our spirit that is practiced today. we strive to become less so that god can fill us up. take me back to my emptiness.

most of us have a spiritual sweet tooth. we like the hymns, the icons, the lovely feeling of relaxation in meditation. then we mistake the sweetness for god. are we following god or the warm fuzzies? our sense of god can eclipse our relationship with god. “i’ve lost god” can mean “i’ve lost the feeling (the warm fuzzies) for god”. similar with art. art can be the garment of the spirit. just don’t confuse the garment with the spirit. in the end, even st john is just a garment.

the life i live is not my own, it is god’s life. i want to be possessed by god, commingled: “i in you, you in me”. if i give myself to god, i will lose myself and at the same time gain myself, just like the trinity is simultaneously unified and distinct

withdrawal into god as a martial arts move: rather than fighting, i step aside and “let god”. go blind to our attachments, don’t react to them. the dark night of the senses – sometimes when our appetites http://www.ocd.or.at/ics/john/dichos.htm get too big, god quenches them by taking them away. the dark night is a good thing. it lets us fall into god’s abyss. trying to grasp it causes us to lose it. go deep, descend into god.

we have access to our senses, we don’t have access to our soul. according to scripture, the soul is (approximately) the place where i reflect god (in a clean window, the light and the window appear as one)

“if i just get angry enough with myself, my relationship with god will get better” – no. better a blind faith that is not defined by how we feel. how much energy are we spending editing ourselves? why are we striving? why are we tiring ourselves out?. rest in the trust. no need to immediately snap into problem solving mode. just trust. just allow it to play out. we take a good thing and add too much to it. let it die. if it’s meant to be, god will resurrect it. god makes us restless until we rest in him. give god free rein to be god. let’s get to the point where god’s actions prevail. “shouldn’t i be doing more?” <– leave that alone. how does the apple ripen? it just sits in the sun.

the seeking for god is love for god. it is god who gives me the desire for god; i can pray for the desire.

single and simple minded: cultivate the beginners mind, over and over again.

the ticket: the recognition that we need to be saved. saved – salvation: making whole. we come to god to have him set us right.

the new covenant eclipses the 10 commandments.

my thoughts after all this:

christ and hekate ARE one. julian of norwich and majaraj-ji ARE one. iaveh and lugh ARE one. bill w. and st john of the cross ARE one. meister eckhart and eckart tolle ARE one. robert mugabe and i ARE one.

curious how this very christian workshop strengthened my conviction that god IS one.

and

the stream that brought me here,
strong,
gushed me out at the mouth of your river,
the mouth that opens
wide
to your sea.
your stream, your river, your sea.
me, a loose bag of
drops,
spending myself
into your stream, your river, your sea.