Sunday, February 24, 2013

Seeing Pink

Two Canadian boys, David Shepherd and Travis Price, stood up for a Grade 9 boy who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt.  They bought 50 pink tank tops and encouraged their male classmates to wear them as a protest to bullying. 
Wednesday Feb 27th  is .  The site reports that a child is bullied every seven seconds in Canada.  Pink is a significant colour.
Men have been brain washed to know that pink is associated with being a girl, being feminine.  Before boys have reached their cribs, blue is their assigned colour.
Here’s some more “pink” facts:
During the World Wars, men imprisoned under accusations of being gay were forced to work a pink triangle which pointed up.  A hot pink triangle, pointed down, is now worn with ‘pride”.
 “The elephant in the room” is an expression used to refer to a topic that should be “swept under the rug” and has been used in anti-stigma campaigns regarding mental health. 
However, the mental health elephant is pink. “Seeing pink elephants” is a euphemism for hallucinations and was used by Disney’s elephant Dumbo who accidentally becomes drunk and sees a parade of pink elephants.
Lastly “in the pink” is a British expression meaning good health.
No statistic are needed, we hear regularly of teens that have submitted to suicide because of bullying and its contribution to mental illness. So, if male or female, let’s get pink out of the closet and talk about the elephant in the room so we can all experience good health.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

School lessons: when our assignment is late

The Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest school board, released a report this week. The report shows that 57 per cent of high school students said they were losing sleep because of their worries, either sometimes or all of the time. About 66 per cent said they were under a lot of stress, sometimes or all of the time…and that’s even before they reach college or university.   The aim of the study is to identify if schools can stop student suicide.
Also this week, Queen’s university released a long awaited report making concrete recommendations to reduce student stress. This report is entitled Student Mental Health and Wellness Framework and Recommendations for a Comprehensive Strategy.
The tragedy behind all of this: Suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths of 15- to 24-years-olds in Canada. Suicide is the second leading cause of death, after car accidents, for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24.  Canada has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.  Even beyond these statistics, First Nation’s youth commit suicide 5-6 times more than non-aboriginal youth and the suicide rates for Inuit youth are 11 x higher.
Are teachers equipped to identify mental illness? In a classroom of 30 students, about 5 to 6 students will be facing a mental health problem, and 3 to 4 of them will have a problem that interferes with their daily life (Waddell and Sheppard 2002/Ontario Child Health Study).
Clearly, under the Child and Family Services Act, teachers have a responsibility to report abuse….but how do teachers deal with mental health concerns?  Is it a teacher (who may spend 70 minutes a day 5 days a week in front of a class of 23 students)  primary responsibility to identify a child’s mental health problems  when we hear that families  often don’t even pick up on their children’s distress.  
The family of Jordan Gallant has filed a $2.45million dollar lawsuit for teacher negligence for failing to act on an  assignment, perceived to indicate suicidal thoughts, that their son handed in.  Are we clear with teachers that this is their responsibility?  Are we clear as parents that we want to hear and act on the message if a teacher or principal calls?  And, if the school does make a call, are we clear as parents what resources are at our disposal to address the potential concerns of our child? Do we know the answers to this assignment?  Can we all use a lesson in mental health, or is this something that we simply must learn about in school?
Please take 10 minutes and listen to the story of Jack, his experience at Queen's university, and his father's bravery in sharing this deadly and heart-breaking life lesson:  Perhaps, together as a community we can educate and respond before this assignment is too late


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Emotion in Motion

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Friday that he plans to introduce legislation (Bill C 54) to prevent  what he considers to be the early releases of individuals that were deemed mentally ill at the time of violent crimes.   Our normally very controlled Prime Minister showed emotion and rightly so, as he spoke of the death of 3 beautiful young children and our country’s need to prevent such tragedies.

In no way can these children’s deaths, or Tim McLean’s murder on the Greyhound bus or the deaths of Dr. Guy Turcotte’ children be explained or understood.   However, we have been told that these tragedies are a result of mental illness.  The media ensures that we get this message.  So does the Prime Minister. 

Thankfully, such crimes rarely occur but they stay in our minds.  Would these images be imprinted in our brains so clearly if our stigma of mental illness did not exist? 

For instance, many studies such as the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, report that 1/3 of murders are alcohol related . Would we feel the same way about these crimes if the perpetrators were drunk on alcohol at the time?  Is the media telling us that alcohol is a risk factor for murder when we’re watching those good looking people enjoying themselves on t.v. beer commercials?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning violence in any way but research consistently says that people with mental illness are victims of crime and seldom the cause. 

So what are we doing to help?  1 in 5 Canadian’s will need mental health care and there are only 4,100 psychiatrists and the number is declining.  Person’s in jail particularly lack mental health care.  Think about this the next time you” belly ache” about your own health care:  there are 70,000 physicians in Canada and the number  has been steadily growing. 

Should we start to speak up?  Do we all have a responsibility in this?   Prime Minister Harper, it really is time to get emotional.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Facebook may help your friends get a better "picture"

Do you have a lot of friends?  Do you have a high credit card debt?  How’s your self-esteem? How about your self-control?  How’s your appetite? Your Facebook page may be exposing more than you think.
Two studies were announced this week by researchers at the Universities of Wisconsin and Missouri with findings to be published in the journal Psychiatry Research.
Study One: It is thought that if you are “strongly connected” to Facebook, you may be using Facebook to boost your self-confidence.  This is especially true if you use Facebook to tell others about yourself. This is not so true for people who use Facebook to simply “follow” others.
Good news right?  Maybe not the researchers say.  People “strongly tied” to Facebook were found to have less self-control, higher credit card debt, and higher body mass indexes.
Now for Study Two:  Facebook can remove some of the accuracy problems psychiatrists have with people when they are self-reporting their symptoms.  For instance, people with social anhedonia (I’ll let you research that term) have fewer friends on Facebook, communicate with friends  less often and share fewer photos    Psychiatrists are pleased with this study and think Facebook (with the patient’s consent of course) might help them get a better picture.
That’s what my local radio station boldly announced this week:  “Facebook may reveal to others whether you are mentally ill!”
How about you?  Apart from the fact that you might have high credit card debt or a bit of extra belly fat….do you really want your friends to check your Facebook page and wonder if you are “mentally ill?”
Does Facebook put your view of mental illness into focus?