Tag Archives: mental illness

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 .

“invisible driving”: a memoir of mania and depression

here, finally, is a review long promised, of alister mcharg’s extraordinary memoir, invisible driving. this book, says alistair,

reads with the urgency of a novel. my work delivers a wild and hilarious thrill ride through the misunderstood, phantasmagorical world of manic depression, providing both a visceral sense of the experience and a thoughtful context for understanding it. while other books have described the surrealistic circus, invisible driving takes readers along so they can smell the sawdust for themselves.

alistair mcharg spent his early years in edinburgh and amsterdam, moving to philadelphia with his father, ian, and mother, pauline, at age six. he attended germantown friends school, haverford college, and the university of louisville. the prestige of an M.A.. in creative writing enabled mcharg to secure employment with one of philadelphia’s least reputable cab companies, providing the background for his first novel, moonlit tours. other forays into dead-end employment have included deckhand on a norwegian tramp freighter, forest fire fighter in alaska, and guide at a canadian wilderness survival camp. alistair has been arranging words for a living since 1983. apart from invisible driving, he has written countless poems, hundreds of movie and book reviews, and an ever-growing catalog of cartoons. his second novel, washed up, was released last year.

what follows is a conversation we had last tuesday.

moritherapy: what do you like best about your book?

alistair mcharg: the writing itself, the way it puts readers inside the experience of mania. (and of course, the humor.)

moritherapy: have you found people who are/were interested in the literature aspect of your book? actually, that sounds a little strange – “literature aspect.” the way i read it, your book is literature, and it is about the topic of bipolar illness. thoughts?

alistair mcharg: i totally agree with your description. it is a memoir first. in essence it is a coming of age story about facing demons, battling them, and becoming a man – a human being – in the process. the landscape where that battle plays out is manic depression. the people that don’t get it are the ones who don’t realize that the manic narrative is there to put readers inside the experience of a manic episode – you have to surrender to it to get the true benefit. – i have indeed found many readers who appreciate it as literature – rather unorthodox literature.

moritherapy: there is a rhythm to your book that is clearly there but hard to pin down. it sure isn’t a simple little polka. in the beginning you seem to have a “crazy” chapter taking turns with a “normal” one; then the manic and the normal (if i may use that word) start to take turns within the chapters, then two or three chapters in a row are wild and woolly, etc. etc. can you say something about that? to what degree is that a stylistic device, and to what degree does it echo your experience? can the two be separated at all?

alistair mcharg: the manic chapters came first. then a literary agent said that there needed to be “depth” – a second voice that was sane, reliable, and recovered. i rewrote the entire book several times. i now see she was so right – the chapters in the recovered voice provide the background – the psychological architecture. the reader finds out why i was vulnerable – what the triggers were – and what was significant about how i acted out. yes the point/counterpoint is very deliberate. (you would think that the wild, manic chapters would have been hardest to write – but the sane ones were much harder – more soul searching of real things.)

moritherapy: actually, to me, imagining writing the book, it felt that the manic ones were the ones that were written with more ease. perhaps that is because i was frankly flabbergasted how much i could relate to a lot of what you wrote. i think that’s what first drew me in. i knew exactly what you were talking about, even though my bipolar experiences are extremely mild. i’m still astonished at that.

alistair mcharg: interesting. maybe the bipolar experience is essentially the same, and what varies is the degree. it is a very nice compliment that the writing registered with you. (when i gave the manuscript to my psychiatrist he said he had to put it down now and then because it was making him manic!) i can’t say that they were written in ease – recreating the pitch of mania, the quicksilver logic twisting and slipping, the bobbing and weaving, energy, raw creative force – when i was squarely back on earth – slightly depressed – took a tremendous amount of labor and craft – craft i didn’t know i had until i attempted it.

moritherapy: i was wondering about the mood you were in when you wrote those passages! the fact that it was indeed a re-creation speaks to your fantastic writing skills. were there moments when you wondered whether recreating this would take you back into the mania?

alistair mcharg: thank you – it was writing this book (my first) that turned me into a real writer – it was transformational. — your question is pivotal. i began writing immediately after the episode described had ended. i was terrified, really shaken. i had suffered with the illness long enough to know that a trigger could send me off again – and i was pretty sure another episode would kill me. but i knew i couldn’t write the book unless mentally i went back in. (rock & hard place.) so i went deeply back into the middle of it. that decision is what made the experience transformational. i knew it might set me off on another high, i knew that might kill me – i did it anyway. i knew that i had to face this darn illness or be destroyed by it.

moritherapy: fascinating! i am really touched by what you say, can feel it in my gut. and what hits me is, again, this commingling, meeting of art, this thing called mental illness, and the healing of/from/with it. it reminds me of a poem i wrote many years ago when i was close to dying of typhoid fever. i wrote it in spanish so it’s a bit hazy in my memory but something about the need to climb the mountain of art, alone, naked, because there is no other choice. does that resonate?

alistair mcharg: resonate indeed. that is exactly what i had to do – and it was probably the single bravest thing i’ve ever done. as you say in your poem – i had to do it alone. i had been fed so many lies – i was very fear-based – i had to strip absolutely everything away until there was nothing left that wasn’t true. and then i rebuilt – i reinvented myself. – but what you say about comingling is deep – and many people do not understand. i say often that manic depression and alcoholism have given me more than they have taken. in manic depression i saw rare things – and was forced to evolve. alcoholism ultimately took me to a better way of life and a higher power. it has all been a spiritual journey and while mental “illness” has caused earthquakes in my life it has also produced angels. (typhoid fever!! yikes! thank goodness you’re okay.)

on my blog today is a poem called “rex” — you see, i was shy, i hid, i felt “less than” – but manic depression made it impossible for me to hide – and also – it forced me to admit my power.

moritherapy: more on the commingling … so there is the art, there is the “mental illness” (funny how i often feel i have to put it in quotation marks), there is the healing, there is the acknowledgment of power – and then there is humour. there’s a lot of humour in your book. page 218:

and how do these aristocrats of oddness settle down after a busy day of counting their fingers and slashing their wrists with plastics forks?

humour in these circumstances can be taken as disrespect sometimes. do you hear that sometimes? how do you react? (by commingling i mean that the humour seems to be part of it all.)

alistair mcharg: humor and music are in the very center of me. to me the best humor is never nasty, it doesn’t single out anybody and it is never there to make me feel better than you. real humor celebrates the absurdity of all life, human vanity, fatuous selfishness. you will notice that most of the humor in the book comes at my own expense. – that said, when i was manic every mean quality came out – the anger, the hurt, the fear – and, combined with an intellect caught on fire – all this hurt often found expression in really cruel humor. other times it was quite surrealistic and charming. even in my other books – both satiric novels – and my cartoons – even my poetry – you will find that i include myself – all of us – when aiming barbs. i disrespect parts of people, racism, jealousy, entitlement, xenophobia – but it is never about disrespecting people – it is about loving truth and loving what people could be but are afraid to be.

moritherapy: one last question for now: towards the beginning of the book you say, “the love of my daughter is my favourite thing about myself.” in therapy, there is often a dictum that people should change for themselves, not for others. as a father, would you agree with that?

alistair mcharg: this is a great question. the easy answer is yes! there is a saying in AA that is told to the uncertain: fake it till you make it. at first it doesn’t matter if you are in therapy – or recovery – for the wrong reasons – so long as you are there. (bring the body and the mind will follow.) but absolutely, there must come a time when you are doing it for yourself – otherwise you will never commit fully and you will never get the full benefit.

if you asked me that question today i would answer – my favourite thing about me is that i know what i have to offer and i am doing my best to put it to the service of others.

moritherapy: thank you, this was absolutely lovely!

—–

alister mcharg’s blog, america’s favorite manic depressive, is at http://alistairmcharg.blogspot.com/

the book’s web site is at http://www.invisibledriving.com

creativity and mental health – a twitter chat

today i had the honour of moderating the weekly mental health and social media chat (“#mhsm”) on twitter. these are always such interesting conversations! our topic today was “creativity and the arts”. here is a slightly abridged transcript:

moritherapy: welcome to the weekly #mhsm chat about #mentalhealth and social media. today’s topic: creativity and the arts #mhsm

moritherapy: Q1 how does “consuming” the arts (listening to music, watching movies, looking at paintings, etc.) help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

moritherapy: my father, who struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder all his life, always said “there’s nothing more soothing than music” #mhsm

KerisWithaK: Consuming and contributing to the arts is incredibly healing! #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1: Consumption of the arts, movies, theater, ballet, opera… are an escape for me from my #mentalillness #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Q1. Music is for most a highly effective means of clearing the mind, taking your emotions to a different place #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1 Music that is uplifting to me, helps boost my mood. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy We’re partially here great topic tonight! Arts are a healthy outlet when coping with the side affects of recovery #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1: Certain movies, or TV programs help me focus on other things besides negative things that might be going on. #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1:think that the consumption of arts helps to stimulate my brain outside of its regular zone,which is gr8 for helping #mentalillness #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm I love calming music for anxiety. Feels like it regulates my heartbeat somewhat.

MelissaMashburn: A1: I have always enjoyed art, especially painters from the impressionist era. Something about it is very soothing. #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto interesting – you call it “escape”. sometimes that word has a negative connotation. what do you think? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art and creativity has the power to heal, center & empower people out of hopelessness. #mhsm

mySahana: Q1: Dancing creates a total body experience instead of being limited to just the head and cerebral processes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: It certainly can replace the stuff in my head for a while, that is escape #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Does the same for L RT @MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana oh, i love what you say about dancing – incredibly healing, isn’t it? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @moritherapy @stephintoronto Escape from suicidal thoughts could never be negative. For players/listeners, music can also be grounding #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I am not sure if this counts as “art and creativity” but sometimes I like to look around for inspiring quotes to lift my mood #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: It provides an escape from an otherwise seemingly hopeless world at times #mhsm

johnalchin: A1. The arts have the ability to mood-alter. Appropriate music can take the edge off a hectic day or motivate when feeling flat #mhsm

stephintoronto: @moritherapy i agree that “escape”has a negitive feel,but so does feeling crappy w #bipolar & #mentalillness 🙂 #mhsm

mySahana: @moritherapy Oh absolutely! It just shifts your whole experience and emotions to a different, almost tangible place #mhsm

Kidsider: @MySahana I think the arts in all forms really works towards mindfullness by stimulating all the senses in such a positive way. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I also find writing very theraputic #mhsm

mySahana: @kidsider Definitely true! I personally have had most experience with dancing but you’re right. Music, dancing, drawing it’s profound. #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q2 do you consider yourself a “creative”? how does your own expression of creativity help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: For L writing music also gives him a chance express feelings he otherwise has trouble getting out #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: As a student of music, playing helps me deal w/ emotional + mental pain, puts things in perspective, gives access to accomplishment #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A2: I think I am very creative. In the past it took the form of fabric arts, now it is almost exclusively writing. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: Even if I do not write about stuff going on in my head, just the process of writing feels healing to me. #mhsm

mySahana: A2: I’m very creative too and use it mostly to choreograph dances, to write and to create new experiences for myself #mhsm

stephintoronto: A2: i don’t consider myself a “creative” but i have come to realize that I need artistic outlets to help deal w #mentalillness #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I think through blogging and SM I would call myself a “creative” we’re all being creative now in breaking stigma #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A1: I find nothing feeds my soul & makes me feel less alone than great art – especially music & poetry. #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Here is a video of him singing and playing one of his songs a few months ago http://www.youtube.com/user/OJTLBlog?feature=mhum #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art starts in the mind #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A2– I like to write for 2 reasons – advocacy (feel empowered and possibly educate) & 2 humor to lol when I’m struggling #mhsm

mySahana: I have also recently started singing classes which has been a fabulous way to find my voice and tap into new skills. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i think that many people dealing with #mentalillness and #mentalhealth issues,is that they are blessed with creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: i feel like i’m in some sort of creativity hub, just listening and talking to you #mhsm guys 🙂 #mhsm

stephintoronto: creativity comes out for me in writing, painting, ballet, arts and crafts, poetry, photography, write comics…. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: @stephintoronto I have found that fact very interesting. Makes me wonder if the rest of the world needs to catch up with us #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana i love the idea of singing to find your voice – so important in #mentalhealth #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @unxpctdblessing Writing & graphic arts are my go to things when Im stressed/upset. #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write poetry as a means of expressing those moods & anxieties that won’t otherwise be spoken. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy i’m glad I have a few minutes this week to be creative with everyone too #mhsm

stephintoronto: feel blessed that so many of you are creative and i get to be the recipiant of it everyday. #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm Love to act in plays. It’s a real escape and you learn empathy for people through understanding your characters.

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write fiction too, but I don’t find the same kind of effect from it. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I can’t sing but loving putting sign language to music!! It’s a great way for me to”show” emotions #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn I wonder if strong creativity it is our brains compensating for the part of it that is not firing on all cillinders. #mhsm

johnalchin: For me creativity comes by singing, playing guitar, web design and building, enjoying musical theatre, photography #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: There are so many ways to be creative: music, theater, written and spoken word,… #mhsm

KerisWithaK: ASL is a great way to overcome what is known as ‘flat affect’. I had to learn how to overcome flat affect. ASL & theatre were the cure #mhsm

johnalchin: A2. I too have had a love of poetry since I was a young boy. I have written poetry in the past & iit s a great way to get out my angst #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q3 what do you think of the (controversial) idea that people with #mentalillness are particularly creative? #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn i have wondered if it is a bit like ppl who lose there sight and their sense of smell improves to compensate. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @stephintoronto @moritherapy at some level, I think all “artists” thrive on conversation (with others, self and their subjects). #mhsm

stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: L tends to be most creative (and at times almost frantic about it) when he isn’t doing well (especially when manic) #mhsm

unxpctdblessing: A3: I recently looked back through my poetry from college when I was supremely depressed/ lost in grief. Intense amazing stuff. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Its unfortunate that some artists are foremost identified with MH illness, inspiration/genius do not always have an obvious source #mhsm

mySahana: A3: I think sometimes it’s true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: RT @stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

moritherapy: there are some studies on the mental health-creativity connection but they seem to go back and forth #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy PTSD victims often gain a state of hyper vigilance making them more aware of surroundings, possible creativity boost? #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: A3: i’ve worked w 100’s of acutely ill ppl w #mentalillness + 1000’s w other illnesses-rec therapist. Have not seen or read evidence #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: RT @mySahana: A3: I think sometimes its true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: The schizoaffective family member I care for is the creative one in our family. She’s a brill singer, great fashion sense when well. #mhsm

moritherapy: example of study: creativity, schizophrenia and bipolar have similar dopamine system http://bit.ly/b3F8jE #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A3: For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a correlation between creativity & mental illness in friends & acquaintances. #mhsm

moritherapy: @Kidsider wow, never thought about the connection between creativity and vigilance, very interesting idea #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A3- I worry abt generalizations. As a person of color ppl assume I can do things ascribed to my race. Many times I can’t. #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: a1: con’d I have not seen or heard sufficient evidence about the people w mental illness -creativity correlation. #mhsm

stephintoronto: “Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001061055.htm #mhsm

johnalchin: Wondering if there is a link between somatisation and the arts. Creativity as outlet for felt pain/grief/psychosis, etc? Anyone know? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Art can be a more effective way of explaining complex concepts and emotions than speech, symbols alone #mhsm

mySahana: @stephintoronto Great article! I wonder how this plays into effect considering creativity changes between childhood and adulthood. #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q4 creatives & people with #mentalillness live with feeling “different”. when there’s both, does it all get a bit too much? #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I dont think its matter of apmlifying the negative issues but a symbiotic aide in the struggle of mental health #mhsm

mySahana: @johnalchin I think body centered therapy addresses the issue of holding mental illness/stress/pain etc in your bdy #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A4: I’ve dealt with far more of a feeling of difference from MI than from creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @KerisWithaK “different” is perceived as negative. Leads to a hard, lonely life until difference is embraced positively. #mhsm

stephintoronto: wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all embrace our creative sides and say screw you to the #mentalillness side? #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @johnalchin @moritherapy A4: I frequently feel overwhelmed. But am learning to deal with it. #mentalillness #mhsm

moritherapy: @bentsinister there’s stigma re #mentalillness but the creative #stigma is less, or not so visible? #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I love it when people see people for people. Acknowledging and celebrating all that IS that person. #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer @johnalchin yeah, i think the word “overwhelm” is well placed here #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy I guess the only times I’ve experienced stigma re: creativity is when I got too “out there” for most people’s standards. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i’d be ok with being the creative artsy lady that lives in “there”,but somehow that always comes w the “crazy” label as well #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q5 can you recommend any social media sites or web sites about the topic of creativity and/or how the arts help with mental health? #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy When that happened, though, I was probably hypomanic, now that I think about it. #mhsm

johnalchin: @storiesofsommer @moritherapy I *HATE* feeling overwhelmed. I wan’t to have sense of control at all times. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A4 We R all different. I think much pain comes feeling that we have to be so much like others to be loved+respected #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto yeah, the whole “crazy” connection is kinda interesting. #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @moritherapy No, but it is actually something I have been thinking about starting for quite a while now #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy So I think that any stigma over creativity might be less, at least in my experience. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: My mom used to say I had multiple directions- couldn’t see “one way”. Now that’s called lateral thinkers! The new leaders! #mhsm

moritherapy do you guys know about the ikarus project re mental health and creativity?http://bit.ly/12nHkM #mhsm

storiesofsommer: Unfortunately, here in the states, I think we’re way behind on mental health resources. I’ve seen more progress in european countries #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer yes, it does look like particularly the UK are making great strides in the area #mhsm

moritherapy: another great resource: @soundtherapyrad does internet radio shows about creativity and mental health #mhsm

johnalchin: @KerisWithaK Yes, I say that my abstract random learning style means my mind is a lot like the world wide web. #mhsm

moritherapy: there’s the creativity and conflict people http://bit.ly/9zqShT #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Oof! Im getting all shaky from the excitement/vibes in tonight (and a small amount of coffee). Can you feel it?! #mhsm

storiesofsommer: This may have been asked already but which comes b4: the creativity or the mental health issue? #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: as we’re closing, please let us know your blogs and websites so that we can support each other as a resource #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @storiesofsommerhttp://www.storiesofsommer.com; life questions and how my depression/bipolar plays a part plus other random bits #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com#mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: http://ReachOut.com – a place 4 teens, young adults to share stories on tough times in their lives & how they got through, MH expert vetted #mhsm

johnalchin: I’ve just added a Mental Health section to my website at http://johnalchin.info which I will be adding to over summer (in Oz) #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: http://www.our-journey-through-life.com Been slacking lately but really want to get back to blogging #mhsm

mySahana: Thank you for an amazing discussion! Please see our site http://www.mysahana.org addressing mental health issues in the South Asian community #mhsm

stephintoronto: i write about #mentalhealth #migraines #bipolar disorder…. when i feel up to it…http://princessrantsandraves.blogspot.com/ #mhsm

moritherapy: thanks all for participating in the #mentalhealth and social media chat. please come again, same place same time next week! #mhsm

join us for a mental health breakfast!

Canadian Mental Health Association

Speaking Out for Recovery

Mental Health Voices 2010

CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION – VANCOUVER-BURNABY BRANCH

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

tweeting against suicide

in preparation for world suicide prevention today, i listened to some tweets. and then I listened to my heart’s response and wrote it down:

spread the word, save lives, get people talking!

yes, let’s TALK about it! who can YOU talk to about this today? and not just on world suicide prevention day.

today is world suicide prevention day. make sure everyone knows you’ll listen and that they’re important.

in a way, people kill themselves because they feel their lives have lost value, or sadder even, never had value. who can we tell today that it matters to us that they are alive?

suicide has affected our family, zero words to explain the pain. it never goes away. they shall be loved and remembered always.

who can we bless today, in silence even, who has lost a loved one? because words – words may just not do the job.

we have the power to change and reduce the stigma of suicide and mental illness, and we need people to talk about it without judgment or fear

power – i mean the power that rises strongly from within, often from a place we didn’t know could be a source. that strong, good power inside – what can you do today to nurture it?

you know what pisses me off? suicide. i am so fucking angry right now. two friends last year, and a close friend’s friend this week.

if we pretend the anger doesn’t exist, if we’re just meek and sad and ignore the fury that can come with surviving someone else’s suicide – that’s not going to help. how can we help this anger be healthy and productive?

today is world #suicide prevention day – get to know the signs, how you can help and how you can give help!

what do you know about signs of suicide?

today is world suicide prevention day. so everybody out there, before you do anything rash, just remember : somebody loves you.

somebody loves you. somebody loves you. somebody loves you. keep saying it. maybe right now you don’t believe it’s true. keep saying it anyway. hear the words. taste them. write them down and look at them. a mantra: somebody lives you. somebody loves you.

today is world suicide prevention day! please hold hands n spread the message……….let us save LIFE!!!!!

hold hands! whose hand can you hold today? who can you get just a tad closer to today?

u guys shld write the word love on ur arm because this week is suicide prevention week 🙂

love on my arm. so i don’t forget it. it’s so easy to forget. love. love. love. somebody loves me.

out of the darkness! take part, get the word out bout suicide. don’t wait to lose a best friend like i did to realize it is real.

don’t wait! death moves so fast. who have you been afraid to tell that you love them? is it time today to finally say it?

everyone wear something yellow tomorrow please! spread the word; suicide prevention <3

imagine – we all wear the clothes of life.

top parental worries: kidnapping, school snipers & terrorists. actual highest childhood risks: car accidents, homicide, abuse & suicide.

just imagine: knowledge can prevent lives. what are the assumptions and illusions that keep us away from life today?

light a candle near a window at 8pm on world suicide prevention day sept 10th

a candle in the window: you are important to me. i’ll wait for you. see the light? we’re waiting for you, to come home, to come back into the warm embrace

gay & transgender youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide then their straight peers.

the fear and shame and loneliness of “being other” kills. who can i call my brother today?

schizophrenia, involuntary admission and family members

the following is a press release from vancouver’s north shore schizophrenia society.  since no-one seems to have picked it up yet, i’m publishing it here.  it addresses the important question of when involuntary admission for serious mental illness is applicable, and the involvement of family members.

vancouver coastal, in a review of the death by suicide of marek kwapiszewski, has ducked the leading question they needed to answer: why is “dangerousness” still considered a requirement for involuntary admission rather than “to prevent the person’s… substantial mental or physical deterioration,” as spelled out in the mental health act?

what was promised by CEO david ostrow to have been an “independent” review, moreover, turned out to be not so independent after all, with senior managers under question in the review taking part in drawing up its recommendations.

kwapiszewski, 54, of vancouver, who suffered from schizophrenia, jumped off the granville street bridge to his death june 29, 2008. his sister, halina haboosheh, together with her lawyer, had made 16 different attempts to get him the treatment he needed – treatment which required involuntary admission since kwapiszewski, like many suffering from schizophrenia, did not have insight into his own condition.

instead of dealing with the factors leading to kwapiszewski’s death, the review came up with three brief items in a so-called action plan, which involved no changes or improvements in practice, nor was any fault determined although it was an obvious case of clinical failure.

“the ‘action plan’ should have been called an ‘inaction plan,’” NSSS president herschel hardin commented. “it was as if a review had not taken place.”

the so-called action plan was presented to haboosheh and the north shore schizophrenia society, which made the original submission in the case, at a meeting july 26, in vancouver coastal’s boardroom.

the first item, to facilitate a discussion to consider development of an operating definition of “deterioration,” makes no commitment to ultimately do anything, and is highly questionable to begin with in any case. nor does it apply to the kwapiszewski case, where the deterioration was quite clear and substantial.

the second and third of the three items were bureaucratic filler, not representing anything new and showing no grasp of what the problem was.

the review also completely missed two other crucial factors in the case: the failure of vancouver coastal staff to involve the sister, halina haboosheh, as an integral member of the treatment team, following best practices, and the concomitant failure to share clinical information with her. if that had been done, marek kwapiszewski might well be alive today.

it was also learned that the items were not the independent work of the external lawyer and psychiatric consultant hired to undertake the review, but were a consensus arrived at with senior community mental health managers and, possibly, vancouver coastal’s risk management officer. in effect, they had a veto over what would be presented.

as well as forfeiting the review’s independence, this meant that a major shake-up of senior mental health management, called for in NSSS’s 2009 submission, could not even be addressed. instead, the primary subjects of the review, as NSSS considered them, were parties to the review’s outcome.

in response to vancouver coastal’s items, NSSS has presented four recommendations of its own to vancouver coastal and has asked ostrow and his board for leave to speak directly to the recommendations at a board meeting.

for more information, please go to the NSSS media center.

mental health, addiction and self medication

on tuesday i had the honour of hosting the #mhsm (mental health and social media) chat. that’s a weekly one-hour conversation about mental health on twitter. the topic we discussed was mental health and addictions. it was very lively, and perhaps the biggest topic was self medication, a topic that sprung up within the first few seconds and just kept coming back. here are some of the things that were said. the categories i chose are not mutually exclusive – they just make it a bit easies to see some of the patterns.

self medication to deal with life’s stressors
1:02 am floridlymad: [addiction is a] coping mechanism to life’s stressors gone wrong…
1:03 am floridlymad: @JoyFull_deb YES. a girl i know w/crack addiction once told me it’s her only joy left in life…
1:04 am GermanInAlabama: From my uneducated view I would say oftentimes attempt at self-‘medicating’ and means of forgetting about probloems
1:48 am twitertwotter: If addicts r using drugs 2 self-medicate we need to find out why and help them learn to cope with it and move forward from past trauma
1:06 am NAMIMass: Sometimes people don’t want to take prescribed medications but think it’s ok to drink or take illicit drugs to feel better
1:18 am twitertwotter: I think an important thing that gets missed in addiction is in many cases the underlying trauma

self medication to deal with mental health issues
1:02 am JoyFull_deb: Yes !! Addiction (whatever kind) can be used to self medicate mental illness.
1:04 am petequily: @moritherapy society often doesn’t take mental health seriously & pays the cost in self medication / addictions & other MH conditions
1:05 am EatsShootsEdits: I used to self medicate before I came to understand my illness and get stable on meds
1:08 am hollymclennan: @moritherapy i see the conx btwn mental health + addiction when ppl don’t get the help they need + self-medicate.
1:08 am floridlymad: addiction to certain substances can trigger (or worsen preexisting) psychosis, which may or may not persist even after *quitting*.
1:17 am perthtones: We now know cannabis is effective on a range of depressive disorders, ketamine being trialled for bipolar – legal/illegal is abritrary
1:47 am icantican: My hx of drinking problem w/ alcohol was directly related to self medicating my symptoms of depression, blips of mania, anxiety, ADHD
1:08 am EatsShootsEdits: at lot of people self medicate long before they know they have a mental illness. our minds seek comfort sometimes it is drugs first
1:23 am twitertwotter: Many addicts use marijuana and other drugs to medicate their hyperarousal, that can be a result of PTSD or overactive flight/fight

self soothing
1:26 am twitertwotter: Treatment definitely needs to address mental health issues, coping mechanisms, affect regulation and self-soothing techniques
1:51 am twitertwotter: People who drugs to feel better, or to forget, or to escape. That is self-medication. They do not know how to self-soothe.
1:53 am NAMIMass: @twitertwotter Not all addiction is about self soothing. We’ve talked about self-medicating substance abuse for #mentalhealth issues
1:46 am moritherapy: if addiction is about self soothing, then it doesn’t matter that much what the substance/behaviour is
1:57 am NAMIMass: @moritherapy I’m not sure I do agree. I’m not thinking of them at same level. I think of self soothing as less than self medicating
1:54 am moritherapy: @NAMIMass self soothing and self medicating very similar, wouldn’t you say?
1:56 am moritherapy: @NAMIMass but if you talk to health care ppl, self soothing/medication will NOT be #1 for them

self medication and ADHD
1:08 am petequily: Smallest # of addicts with #ADHD in clinical journals I’ve seen is 20%. But only 5% of pop. has ADHD http://bit.ly/7cXP8
1:10 am petequily: Study 35% of Cocaine Abusers had #ADHD http://bit.ly/4vRuoi #selfmedicate #mentalhealth
1:25 am petequily: I know of people who had undiagnosed #ADHD & self medicated w/ one addiction, stopped it & started & stopped multiple other addictions
1:44 am petequily: Study 33% of Alcoholics had #ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had ADHD http://bit.ly/b4EwqG #addiction
1:47 am petequily: @unxpctdblessing well by telling other people about how he self medicated his #ADHD w/ pot you may save others from same exp.
1:54 am asdquefty: With ADHD or depression, substance abuse can be obtaining artificial motivation.

stories of self medication
1:03 am JoyFull_deb: I watched my sister “self medicate” for many, many years….
1:16 am MelissaMashburn: my brother is a vet and almost lost his license because he was self medicating with xanex and writing his own scrips.
1:39 am MelissaMashburn: I used internet games to self medicate
1:40 am unxpctdblessing: @petequily I agree. He had been self medicating since he was 14 years old. I knew he used when I met him but had no idea the extent.
1:44 am MelissaMashburn: For me the addiction to an internet browser game, was away for me to self isolate, and self medicate

chat tomorrow: mental health and addiction

tomorrow night at 6pm PST I will be hosting the weekly #mhsm chat on twitter. #mhsm stands for mental health and social media. #mhsm was started by amy kiel, an ardent mental health activist.

the topic of the chat will be mental health and addiction. #mhsm typically uses between 5 and 8 questions to stimulate conversation. here are a few i’ve come up with – any more suggestions?

  • where do you see the connection between mental health and addiction?
  • how do you define addiction?
  • how do you see the two are different? are they?
  • some say that addiction is a form of self medication for mental health issues. what are your thoughts on this?
  • what are your thoughts on addiction to prescription medication?
  • the term “recovery” is used in mental health as well as in addiction circles. do you see a similarity between the meaning in both contexts? is it different?
  • what is your experience with treatment specifically aimed at concurrent disorders?
  • do mental health and addiction stigmatize each other? is it “better” or “worse” to have one or the other?

please let me know what you would like to discuss in the chat – whether the questions above or anything else!

to join us in the chat, sign in or sign up with twitter and then go to http://tweetchat.com/room/mhsm.

to show you what you can expect in such a chat, here is an excerpt from last week:

12:59 am mhsmchat: welcome to tonight’s chat!

1:01 am mhsmchat: tonight we will discuss our passion for #mentalhealth issues.

1:02 am mhsmchat: can join in the chat here: http://tweetchat.com/room/mhsm =)

1:04 am mhsmchat: q1: how did you get involved with #mentalhealth activism, professional roles, or discussing #mentalhealth topics? what drives you?

1:05 am icantican: q1 my interest started as a curiosity when i was a teenager and a bigger mess than i am now and my mother had schizophrenia.

1:05 am partimefabulous: @mhsmchat after dealing with my own challenges with #depression, i decided to try and understand it better by creating a truthful film

1:06 am namimass: @mhsmchat i’m involved because i care about mental health. i’m a family member with a sibling with mental health issues.

1:07 am partimefabulous: #mentalhealth issues are so poorly represented in today’s media and entertainment. it’s time that the stigma is unveiled.

1:07 am perthtones: @icantican helped mum study 4 psych nurse exams at 14 advocated 4 decades, then hit by ptsd 10 yrs ago. now an even beter advocate 😉

1:08 am icantican: vulnerability of the human mind, resilence, and adversity due to mental illness or causing it is interesting to me.

1:09 am mhsmchat: i became involved because of my own personal mental health issues predominantly.

1:10 am voiceinrecovery: q1 advocacy was a natural progression in my recovery from ed & alcohol abuse. felt i had a story 2 share 2 help others feel less alone

1:10 am perthtones: totally agreed on #stigma – the biggest barrier to proper treatment, media coverage & positive community awareness