Saturday, May 25, 2013

The "hole" is costly

This week, Bobby Lee Worm (supported by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association) won a settlement with Corrections Canada for spending over 3 and a half years of her 6 year prison sentence in solitary confinement, otherwise known as being in the “hole”. The amount of the settlement is undisclosed.

Solitary confinement was introduced in the U.S. in Philadelphia in the 1800’s and quickly copied as a model worldwide. However, it soon fell out of favour because of the consequences it posed on inmates: confusion, paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, self-harm…. in persons whom had no previous mental illness.  In persons whom already had a mental illness, it only made things worse.
Deeply ashamed of the robbery she committed, Bobby Lee states: "Solitary confinement does one thing. It breaks a person's will to live. Being locked up like that you feel like you're losing your mind. The only contact with another human is through a food slot. Days turn into nights and into days and you don't know if you'll ever get out."
While in many other countries, the use of solitary confinement is being increasingly limited, its use in Canada is growing. Approximately 850 of 14,700 inmates are held in solitary confinement in Canadian prisons each day.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act outlines   the goal of Canada’s correctional system is: to provide a range of services according to the needs of  the offender and to contribute to their successful reintegration into the community.
Creating new mental health problems or amplifying existing mental health problems cannot lead to a successful life in the community.  Besides being inhumane, our existing community mental health resources are already limited, why create new needs?  Perhaps the government is establishing a job creation program for mental health workers?  And, do we want to spend our tax dollars continuing to settle law suits for prisoners whom have been mentally abused by stays in solitary confinement?

How long will it take us to realize that in our correctional system, there is a huge cost to the “hole”?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Get Down and Get Dirty!

I missed last Sunday’s blog because of the way circumstances rolled out, which included 27 cm of fresh early spring snowfall in Timmins and a delayed flight, but….I woke up in Ottawa Monday morning ready take an instructor’s course for Mental health first aid.
How green and colourful Ottawa is:  its tulip time in Ottawa, which is an important part of my Dutch heritage.  I love tulips!
(Years ago, the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulips bulbs as a gift to Ottawa for sheltering Princess Julianna and her daughters during World War II, during which time daughter Margriet was born. I did not have time to participate in Ottawa’s annual spring tulip festival, but had dinner with a couple of friends who included wonderful “tulip tours”, thank you Mac and Mary!)

As we finished our Mental health first aid course later in the week, we talked about self-care: not as a luxury but as a necessity in keeping mental health on track. In talking about the need for everyone to take time to practice hobbies, my colleague Denis and I engaged in the topic of gardening.  Gardening, as Denis and I understand it, has emotional/social/physical and spiritual benefits. 
Denis mentioned that not only did he enjoy gardening, but he needs to get the soil into his hands and the dirt under his nails to feel great.  I feel the same, and thought I would explore this notion a bit further….   some internet searching producing this:
 Dr. Chris Lowry, and his colleagues from Bristol University, have been exploring the Mycobacterium vaccae.  Originally pursued as part of a possible treatment for cancer, patients have reported an increase in feeling better about the quality of their lives.   Also, mice fed this harmless bacteria display less agitation and anxiety and have increased levels of the brain chemical serotonin.  This would mean nothing, except that this bacterium which produces happy chemicals exists freely and readily…. in soil……aka dirt!
Our skin is the largest organ in our body absorbing all kinds of things.  So, who needs fancy gardening gloves? I hope to join Denis, and many gardeners alike, in feeling a natural high by getting my hands down and dirty this holiday weekend!  Perhaps you’d like to give it a try…maybe just even watching a few seeds come to life in earth? Happy gardening!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Let's talk! It's Mental health week

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week starting May 6th.
I want to thank our local Catholic Women’s League District (Geraldton, Hearst, Kapuskasing, Cochrane and areas in between) for helping launch the week for me.  I had the opportunity to present to the group this past Saturday, and the women have made an unexpected donation to for research.  Thank you!  We accomplished what to me was the most important activity that could happen, we talked. ..and we had a lot of fun sharing!
Mental health affects everyone.  Like any other “physical illness”, mental illness is not picky about whom it descends upon.  As we raise awareness about mental illness and its impact, I believe we will create a greater interest in creating supports and perhaps even a cure someday.  For my family, that could not be soon enough…but in the meantime, we will talk.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, and having good mental health should be part of it.
I encourage you to find out a bit more about Mental health week by checking out the following websites.
TV Ontario does a great job of hosting an evening program each night at 8 pm.  Why not tune in, and then talk with others about what you’ve learned.  Thanks!