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“Psychiatric Tales” draws on Darryl Cunningham’s time working in a psychiatric ward to give a reasoned and sympathetic look into the world of mental illness. In each chapter, Cunningham explores a different mental health problem, using evocative imagery to describe the experience of mental illness, both from the point of view of those beset by illness and their friends and relatives. As Cunningham reveals this human experience, he also shows how society’s perceptions of and reactions to mental illness perpetuate needless stigma, for example, the myth that schizophrenic people are more likely to commit crimes than non-schizophrenic people. “Psychiatric Tales” is a groundbreaking graphic work; it deftly demythologizes and destigmatizes the disorders that 26.2 percent of American adults (and roughly 1-in-5 Canadians) live with every day.  Concluding with a reflection on how mental illness has affected his own life, Darryl Cunningham’s “Psychiatric Tales” is a moving, engaging examination of what is, at its root, the human condition.

The strips are brilliantly written and drawn, and do something quite rare in discussion of mental illness – they manage to capture both the experience of people with psychiatric difficulties and the experience of the staff caring for them.

As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I think this drawing is an excellent representation of what life with a mood disorder is like.  While life may not always be as simple as black and white, the shades of gray can be very difficult to get through.  When I get to this point, I try to add some colour to my world, and work with and through whatever I may be feeling or dealing with at that time.

Bell marked February 9 as “Let’s Talk Day”, donating 5¢ for every text and long distance call to support mental health programs across Canada.  The day is also meant to get people across Canada talking about mental illness to help break down the stigma that surrounds depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other illnesses.

“The ”Let’s Talk Day” is music to my ears. Not so much because of the topic or the intent but because Bell is a huge corporation with huge reach and scope,” Karen Liberman, Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, said.  “To have a company like that echo what we’ve been saying in our own “smaller” ways for the last 20 years gives us a tremendous boost in morale. Sometimes it feels as though we’ve been the small voices that have been yelling as loud as we could and finally someone has taken up our cause. I believe this can only make our jobs easier, our capacity to fund raise easier, and our community outreach easier. My only hope is that Bell will see fit to financially support smaller, grassroots organizations like ours in addition to the bigger name mental health agencies.

“I believe we are on the beginning of a “tsunami” of support for mental health”. I think we have turned the corner on the silence and stigma that surrounds mental illness.  Now we need to ride this wave, translate it into support, and get on with helping more Canadians who deserve and need our support so desperately.”

The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario marked February 9 with the latest in their series of free public events featuring Dr. Anthony Levitt, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.  His talk, “Medication: Your Best Friend! Your Worst Enemy,” created a lively discussion, a refreshing look at medication and mood disorders. The event took place at the North Toronto Community Health Centre.

The crux of his point was that medication can lead to miraculous recoveries from disorders.  While it can produce intolerable side effects, many of them can be managed.  Resistance to medication can often be mistaken for sensitivity.  And, in rare cases, medication can do the opposite of what they are supposed to do, but to not discourage the use of medication, because it can also lead to miraculous recoveries, and, at the very least, to symptom regression.

In the meantime, it is heartening that corporations like Bell and Canada Post are contributing to the dialogue and helping to break down the stigma of depression and mood disorders, making the efforts of practitioners such as the MDAO more fruitful.

No Need for it to be the Elephant in the Room

Here are some quotes from Dave Gallson, the Associate National Executive Director for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, from an interview I did with him for newz4u.net:

“The Statistics Canada report indicating a rise of those reporting a diagnosed mood disorder shows that the work being done across Canada at promoting and encouraging people who are touched by mental health issues to reach out is beginning to work.  However, with 10.4% of Canadians at any one time having a mental illness means that approximately 1.4 million Canadians are suffering in silence at any one time.  These are huge numbers of people who are not obtaining the help they need.

“MDSC is working with numerous corporations on different projects that assist persons with mental illness and their families.  For example, our National Executive Director, Phil Upshall is a Trustee on the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health. This Foundation provides money for projects designed to have an impact right at the front-line, helping people cope with and overcome mental illness. We have not as yet had the privilege of work specifically with Bell, however we have a meeting scheduled in the very near future.

“MDSC is a progressive and inclusive organization which is very interested in improving mental health in the workplace. We have a deep concern that too many workplaces are not adequately addressing mental health, not creating healthy environments and not providing training and supports for both staff and management as is needed.

“Consequently, we are seeing such evidence as the recently released report from CAMH that the actual cost of mental health leave on average is double the cost of a leave for a physical illness. The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Medicine, looked at data tracking the short-term disability leave of 33,913 full-time employees in Ontario. Results showed that the cost to a company for a single employee on a short-term disability leave due to mental health concerns totals nearly $18,000. Mental illness is associated with more lost work days than any other chronic condition, costing the Canadian economy $51 billion annually in lost productivity. The MDSC is looking at developing targeted programs for employers and is currently looking for companies who would like to support our organization in order to develop and share these resources.”

He also provided me with an excellent link for employers to use for establishing a mental health in the workplace program:  http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/page/workplace

Also, a Facebook mental health in the workplace page which can be found here:  http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_178042798876193&ap=1

Happy New Year, everybody!

Patrick Connors


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There is a mental health crisis in Canada which must be addressed immediately. Often, when there is the perception of an urgent need, there is a grass roots movement to enact change from the bottom up. This is the story of a corporate giant looking to do something which makes good business sense as well as create a positive impetus on the human level.

On September 21, Bell announced the launch of an unprecedented, multi-year charitable program to support mental health across Canada. Practically addressing a pressing national health concern, Bell’s five-year, $50 million initiative supports an extensive range of programs to enhance mental health in every aspect of Canadian life.

Bell also announced Bell Let’s Talk Day, which will work to raise awareness about mental health across Canada each year. The first Bell Let’s Talk Day is set for February 9, 2011. For every text message sent and every long distance call made by Bell customers that day, Bell will donate 5 cents to programs dedicated to mental health. Olympic hero Clara Hughes is the spokesperson for this venture.

“As someone who has come to know people of all kinds in every corner of the country, I have seen the prevalence and the dramatic impact of mental illness on Canadians. And I’ve seen how much access to mental health care and support means to those who suffer,” said Ms. Hughes, Canada’s six-time Olympic Medalist and an Officer of the Order of Canada. “I’m gratified at the chance to take a leading role in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, which will bring the mental health discussion to the forefront. Talking about mental illness is the first and best step in ensuring improved mental health in Canada.”

Julie Smithers of Bell Media Relations shared thoughts from her personal experience at Bell. “We’ve all seen its impacts on either our families or our friends, perhaps without always recognizing what we’re seeing. That’s what makes this such an important issue, and one in which Bell can make a difference.”

Corporate Canada needs to address mental health issues with a clear, uniform policy. This is essential from a business standpoint, in terms of looking at people as a commodity, a resource. While those working for large corporations are contributing to record profits and a financial structure unimaginable 50 years ago, they are also people who deserve to have a quality of life. Bell’s initiatives appear to be very well thought out and responsible to Canadians in general and employees in particular. I hope other corporations follow suit and make this a successful model going forward.

why_it_matters.asp

‘Environmental Warnings’ is by Meera Sethi, a Canadian Artist of Indian origin who also has a strong background in design. She combines those mediums in this piece, displayed on four seperate windows.
“Inspired by the work of writers Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy, Environmental Warnings is a comment on the invisible, silent toxins we encounter everyday,” she explains in a press release. “Using the language of street signs, I have created symbols that raise our awareness of the many environmental threats that cross an urban space.

“Pesticides, toxic water, landfills, deforestation, nuclear testing, plastics, GMO seeds, gas spills, carbon emissions, water wastage/shortages, energy wastage/shortages, ozone reduction and the patenting of staple foods such as rice are some of the issues I explore. These signs are universal as the toxins are global. Although they impact us differently depending on our privilege, they impact us all. They make equal sense in Toronto or New Delhi, Bangkok or New York.

“The use of soft, pastel colours is deliberate. The colours and the messages are incongruous. The colours signal calm while the symbols signal danger. This irony is a comment on the food industry that uses pleasing packaging to sell us products that are toxic to our health, the environment and society. The childlike colours also reference the impact these invisible, silent toxins are having on children.”
Street signs connote warning if not outright danger, and are a simple, everyday, universally used way to get a point across. In this way, ‘Environmental Warnings’ becomes accessible to everybody.

Patrick Connors

This weekend, June 25-27, my city, Toronto, really became the centre of the universe. And I’m not sure if either of us will ever be the same.

I was supposed to attend the Toronto Poetry Slam on Saturday, as a reporter for News 4 You, and it would also have been a wonderful opportunity to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in far too long. I even wrote a somewhat out-of-character spoken word piece which I would have had fun performing, and I think the audience would have appreciated on some level.

However, early Saturday afternoon, the intersection of Queen and Spadina turned into a war zone. This is certainly closer to the Drake Hotel, where the slam took place, than to the intersection of Yonge and College, where there was also violent protest. Part of me wanted to go attempt to be a peacemaker, part of me wanted to cover it as a news story, part of me wanted to protest systemic poverty.

All of me stayed home. I will cover the slam another time. Valid protest is always available and a necessity in a democratic society. And I will always be a strong force for peace. But on Saturday, I stayed at home, horrified by the chaotic images portrayed on television for all the world to see.

Right now, the only one of my poems I would like to perform is the ironically titled, “Toronto The Good.”

Can anybody tell me that something useful, something meaningful, something positive, something which affects the real world, day-to-day life of Torontonians, was actually accomplished this weekend?

The loss of focus from real protest and real policing is something which will affect our city and our country for a long time.

Sadly the loss of our title of “Toronto the Good” may be permanent.

PTJC

As of Monday June 28th, 700 people remain detained. Judy Rebick addresses the Gathering at the Toronto Police Headquarters

According to Naomi Klein, Toronto Police we’re caught with their hands in the G20 Cookie Jar.

For more on this story please check out:

http://news4you.viviti.com/patrick-connors-mental-health-for-you

Our very own J Peachy performs at the special benefit performance of the 2010 Vancouver graduating class of SMH this coming Monday, May 31st, at The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage at 2750 Granville Street. Doors open at 7 PM, PST.

J Peachy interviewed by Nationally Syndicated Radio Program, Latin Waves, May 29, 2010

PJTC

I am in a very long transition period from the corporate sector to the more vocational work I have always been called to do. I was very productive and a high achiever at my previous career, but not so good with the office politics. I could never bridge the gap at work between being very competitive in the workplace to being part of an interdependent team with shared goals. The harder I tried to worse it got. I felt for most of my career that I was just a cog in a machine which had no desire to grow or even be successful.

I also suffer from depression, and went through some very profound personal issues between 2003 and 2008. Between this, my lack of work happiness, and what seemed a lack of meaning in my life, I had to take stress leave a couple of times during this period. Fortunately, I belonged to a union which did an excellent job of addressing medical needs, and received my full salary. Finally, I decided I could no longer live the corporate fantasy, and took a severance package in March 2008.

I need to be in work which gives me satisfaction and a sense of purpose. A paycheck is just not enough for me in itself, even an above average one. I consider myself very fortunate to have gone through what I have, as it has improved my coping skills, as well as the organizational and personal success skills I gained while in the corporate world. Also, if I was working right now, I wouldn’t have been able to take care of my Mother while she has gone through some health issues since, ironically enough, March 2008. That being said, I am extremely anxious to start my next chapter.

Tune into ‘Art of the Mind’ Monday at 7 PST as the hosts of Sound Therapy discuss workplace Mental Health Issues with Dr. Merv Gilbert and Mark Brunke.

PJTC

What a horrible place to work there are no windows on the 6th and 7th floors

GlenGarry Glen Ross: The cult hero of Sales Managers everywhere. Great Sales Management or abuse?

I know when I am having a bad day or feel trapped by negative thought patterns, putting a beloved CD on is very centreing and liberating. Much like reading, and, of course, my writing, I don’t really feel like myself if I don’t spend time listening to music, especially if I give that time to watching too many sports or online gaming. My favourites are Santana, Rush, U2, Bob Marley, Vivaldi, Handel, and various contemporary Christian artists. What do you like to listen to?

The Canadian Association for Music Therapy, much like myself, resides here in Toronto. Here is a link to their website: http://www.musictherapy.ca/ These professionals are seeing their methods succeed in the treatment of anything from Acquired Brain Injury to Victims of Abuse to many other points of concern.

Tune in to Sound Therapy Radio this Monday Mar 15 at 7 PM Pacific to hear J Peachy delve further into this topic. It is on CJSF 90.1 PM out of Burnaby, British Columbia, or can be accessed live on the internet at http://cjsf.ca

I am very grateful to J for this opportunity to contribute to his blog, and I invite any questions or comments to my e-mail address: pconnors69@yahoo.ca Have a great weekend, everybody!

Pat Connors

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