This past February we had a chance to sit down with CMHA Durham's Public Relations and Mental Health Promotions Specialist Mireille Huneault who's been instrumental in bringing our efforts to life inside the CMHA.
Part 2 Focuses on Mireille's career in Mental Health. Her journey and the experience thats brought her to where she is today.
This past February we had a chance to sit down with CMHA Durham's Public Relations and Mental Health Promotions Specialist Mireille Hunault who's been instrumental in bringing our efforts to life inside the CMHA.
Mireille and I spoke about a number of topics including what CMHA's Durham branch does in our community; her role and her 24 year journey in mental health, including the challenges and rewarding experiences.; She high lights what could improve and she also fills us in on the importance of donors like No Surrender Hockey Challenge.
Part 1 Focuses on CMHA Durham and what they do for our community.,
The New Year is here and that means new challenges but also new opportunities to make a difference.
2017 promises to be full of distractions including a new President south of the border, millions of new cat videos on YouTube, second half action in the NHL with some amazing rookie performances on Canadian teams and the Jays re-tooling a bit in the off season. It all adds up to things we cannot control.
So lets focus on what we can do in 2017. Lets focus on mental health in Durham Region. We can be the change in our own community. We can fight stigma in our town. We can be there for our friends and family no matter what. We can take the game we love to another level and channel passion, teamwork and our competitive spirit into outcomes far beyond what we add up on the scoreboard.
The No Surrender Hockey Challenge is back and it's time to get out your sharpy and block off the calendar.
May 27th and 28th is time for Hockey & Mental Health.
Get involved and sign-up today!
The holidays are a time for cheer. A time when we bask in the joy and love of family and friends. To literally show each other we care with a gift. It is a time for nostalgia. It’s a time see the season through your children’s eyes.
Yet for so many it can be a very stressful time of year. If you or someone you know battles anxiety or depression or any mental illness, this season may cause you to call into question the value you have to the ones you love. If you’ve never battled mental illness maybe you begin feeling the pressures of the holidays.
The list goes on and on of potentially triggering stressors this time of year. If you do battle chronic mental illness you can compound those stressors with immense feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Especially if you’re stuck, exhausted from the mental grind, unable to get through it, or you find yourself going through the motions, numb to the whole thing. It might be extra frustrating because those around you seem to be coasting through the season oblivious to how you're feeling or the difficulties your facing. If it's not you it's someone you know.
Wow depressing, I know. If you weren’t already down this article will put you there. We've all been there at one time or another but we often forget to think of others going through those same challenges. That’s not the point though. The point is you can do something about it. The point is that all the joy in the outside world doesn’t just change the symptoms of mental illness and it doesn’t help the overwhelmed stressed out person who is trying to juggle it all. The good news is that there is something that will. Something that has the power to uplift. It’s not what you think. It’s not advice or dragging your friends butt to the mall. What is it? What is this magical Christmas miracle?
It’s empathy. Clear and simple.
Showing others how valued they are by simply attempting to understand their situation is often the least expensive but most valuable gift of all. It can raise someone’s spirits and it can even save a life. It can raise your own spirits. Turning your attention to others is often just what the doctor ordered to reconnect with your loved ones and find gratitude in your life.
Someone in the above scenario may be extremely irritable this time of year. They piss you off because they are so negative. Perhaps the reason for that negativity is guilt. They feel they aren’t able to do enough to show you or others how much they care. So they distance themselves from the holiday spirit. Maybe they this time of year is compounding their symptoms and putting them in a bad place. You’ll never know unless you ‘re prepared to get into their shoes. Ask them what’s going on? How are they feeling? Why do they feel that way? Don’t ask what you can do. Ask them. Create a safe place where they can talk openly. You might be surprised why they are so angry or stressed. Maybe there are bigger things at play and they need help. Help them ask for it.
When it’s all said and done we’re all just seeking to be understood. Trying to genuinely understand someone else is the ultimate gesture of holiday good will. So make this the best holiday season ever. Full of love and understanding.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Founder, No Surrender Hockey Challenge
Suicide. Its an awkward topic blurred in a haze of misunderstanding and stigma. Many of us couldn't fathom the idea of coming right out and asking someone, "Are you thinking of suicide?" The thought alone causes stress. Some might even find it outright ridiculous. The fact of the matter is many of us, when presented with all kinds of signs that someone we know may be thinking of suicide, still don't ask the question staring us in the face.
This week I'm at CMHA Durham to take their ASIST course. ASIST standing for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. Three quarters of the way through I'm still asking myself if the "S" for "Skills" is just there because ASIST sounds better than ASIT or if it's intentionally there because while "skills" can be trained no training can guarantee a positive outcome when it comes to suicide. Perhaps after today I'll be finishing the article with that question answered. There is one thing I've learned that really stood out for me so far.
We need to ask, directly, about suicide once we feel someone is at risk.
The past day and a half I've learned a relatively simple 3 step framework for assessing and intervening with a person in crisis. I say "with" that person because you really don't intervene on your own. It's far from scenes in the movies where the hero distracts a distraught man on the roof of a building and then tackles him to safety. Instead its more like a sales process. First looking for signs of a potential crisis (needs you can help solve) and confirming what you see. Specifically by asking questions and asking about suicide. Then gently guiding the process through questioning and active listening (qualifying). Identifying the hook that can be used to help that person choose safety (buying signals). Adjusting as needed to changes in the persons responses (objections) to remain in-sync. Finally helping them create their safe plan and gaining agreement on it (contract).
"We need to ask, directly, about suicide
once we feel someone is at risk."
Most would assume the hardest part would be confirming the potential for suicide. Coming right out and asking, "Are you planning on killing yourself?" Without asking this question you may never get to the opportunity to guide that person to safety. The reality is, once you come to grips with it, asking is actually the easiest part. It's not that difficult if you just acknowledge the signs that something is wrong.
You see/hear/feel the signs that something is wrong.
You confirm what you see by asking about it.
You ask straight up. "Are you thinking about suicide?"
What I've learned in this training is that so often those signs something is wrong are invitations for you to support someone. When you ask them point blank you can be surprised by the honesty of the response. When someone is able to acknowledge those feelings and ideas it can lift a weight off their chest and make the rest of the process achievable.
There is no guarantee you can stop someone from dying by suicide. You can however, learn "skills" to make sure you do what's in your power to help that person. That's what ASIST is all about. Looks like I did answer my question.
For more information on ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) visit Living Works @ www.livingworks.net
To book ASIST Training or for information on upcoming sessions visit CMHA Durham @ http://cmhadurham.ca/education/applied-suicide-intervention-skills-training-asist/
As we got closer to today, Remembrance Day, we're encouraged to reflect on the brave acts of valor and sacrifice that secure our way of life. The pride we should feel in the way our armed forces have come to the defense of Nations mired in turmoil and marginalized citizens caught in the crossfire. We're encouraged to place a poppy on our lapel and remember the fallen soldiers, the brave men and women who gave their lives so that we could enjoy a semblance of peace and tranquility.
We all experience Remembrance Day in our own way. We think about Grandparents who may have participated in WWII. Maybe we have a family member serving now or who served in the recent past. Maybe a friend of ours has done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe we don't know anyone but history is a constant reminder of the battles that have been fought up to this point. We all channel it in different ways.
Some of us even put ourselves in the shoes of a soldier as we reflect on what Remembrance Day means to us. We imagine soldiers ducking into dirty trenches in the cold fields of Europe or storming the shores of Normandy upstream against a hail of bullets. For a moment we might assume the stress of the battlefield. Never knowing when an enemy would fire or when chaos would erupt. Never being certain the next step could be the last with the grim prospect of an IAD or a roadside bomb. It raises our blood pressure as our adrenal glands pump out cortisol in response to this imaginary stress.
What could be worse than experiencing that kind of emotion? That fear? You can imagine the relief at the end of a long battle, or better yet, the end of a war. The joy of reuniting with family. Going home after your tour was complete. Resuming civilian life. Maybe the military is a career and the experience would benefit a career greatly. Improving rank and status within the field.
But what if that relief was only temporary? Sure you'd survived but at what cost?
What if your memories weren't moments of glory but of bloodshed? What if you found yourself consumed with guilt over a lost comrade or you saw the faces of the enemy combatants you'd put to death when you closed your eyes? What if you couldn't stop thinking about innocent civilians caught up in the conflict or that the war wouldn't end now that you were back at the base, on your side of the pond, or back at home with your family. That it would play out in your head. What if you just couldn't shut off that need to be constantly vigilante? You couldn't relax. You still felt your blood pumping. Even as it exhausted you, at night, you couldn't fall asleep. What if you had no one but yourself to endure this mental minefield? What if you did speak to a professional? Would your career be in jeopardy? If your service was complete, how would you cope? Where would you turn for help?
The questions keep mounting when you put yourself in those shoes. You really begin to feel the gravity of war. The long term impact it can have on individuals long after the last shot is fired. This is what I think about when I imagine life as a service man or woman. I don't imagine this is how it is for most, but I'm sure, for many.
On 4-Nov the Globe & Mail posted an article in a series entitled "The Unremembered". The article called "We Remember" brings to our attention that at least 70 of Canada's service men and women who served in Afghanistan mission died by suicide. It provides brief stories of 31 of those service men and women shedding a light on and "raising questions about the thoroughness of their post-deployment health screening and the psychological support offered."
This year when you get your poppy from that humble old veteran standing outside your local grocery store, as you pin it to your coat, remember that the sacrifices you are honouring come not just from the battlefield. Think of service men and women today and throughout history who's battle rages on.
PTSD Association of Canada
On Wednesday September 29, 2016 I attended the annual CMHA Durham AGM and Keynote speaker event. This years event featured a unique speaker in Mr. Stéphane Grenier a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Prior to attending the event I reviewed the description of the keynote on CMHA Durham's website. It described retired Lt. Colonel Grenier as having served for 29 years highlighted by several tours including in Rwanda and Afghanistan. It mentioned that he endured undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome and that his experience led him to take a personal interest in the way the Canadian Military dealt with mental illness.
Having read this short intro (and recently having been nominated to take up the 22 Push-up Challenge in support of service men and women battling PTSD) I expected a speech about the horrors endured by service men and women and the long term impacts it causes. I expected to hear about the need to re-humanize mental healthcare in order to make it more accessible to service men and women given the tough nature of their occupation.
I couldn't have been more wrong. While those topics would have been compelling. While those statements are true for many of our brave men and women in the armed forces, Mr. Grenier's speech transcended the notion of PTSD as an isolated and clinical illness. The notion that the military and service men and women who experience mental illness in relation to PTSD or otherwise, are somehow different and separate from the rest of society. He humanized the concepts of mental illness as well as military and helped the audience see the parallels in every workplace.
In fact Mr. Grenier spoke of his time in the military as it were any other workplace. He was like any of us, wondering through our work day, run down and fatigued by our own minds. He spoke about how in his darker moments he'd been tempted to give an honest answer when casually asked "How are you today?" at the office elevator. Just to see the reaction when he responded with anything other than a token "Fine". He chickened out at the unknown of that response. Acknowledging the awkwardness that comes from openness around mental illness. I'd come to learn that Mr. Grenier had battled back from the brink having planned and nearly completed several suicide attempts. His wife catching him in what would be his final attempt. Despite regular therapy sessions and a good relationship with his therapist Mr. Grenier still struggled mightily in between appointments. Finally, a friend and colleague realized something was wrong and offered a person to confide in. Ultimately helping him off the proverbial ledge.
That experience eventually led to Mr. Grenier working alongside military doctors and developing peer-to-peer programs for the Canadian Military designed to help humanize mental illness through a non-clinical approach. He introduced terms like "Stress Injury" making mental illness more approachable for the average person in our armed forces.
During his talk he said something that really got my attention. He said something like, "No one dies, no one commits suicide in the doctors office." It hung in my ears ringing for a few seconds after he said it. It hit home. He added how all the campaigns and ribbons and buttons and charitable donations were great. How they were important. Yet in all the campaigns on awareness we've still haven't put a dint in the number of suicides that happen each year. Something else is missing. Theres so much focus on the clinical side of mental illness. Clinical terms, clinical processes. Look at any mental health organizations website. You'll find terms like "anxiety disorders and phobias, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, depression". You'll find paths to assistance start with your family doctor. Supporting a loved one involves routines and encouraging good nutrition and sleep. What you don't find is the human aspect. The non-clinical component. The part that helps someone decide to get help in the first place. The people who are their supporting someone between doctors appointments.
Mr. Grenier brought up that we all have it in us to provide that support. No one teaches us how to greet a colleague returning from bereavement leave. We just know to show compassion. Ask them how they're feeling, offer our condolences. Ask, "Is there anything I can do for you?". We just know because we've seen it since we were children.
So after he retired from the armed forces Mr. Grenier started MH Innovations. His social enterprise works with organizations to help them develop workplace peer-to-peer support programs. He's made his life's work about helping organizations identify and develop ideal candidates to provide peer-to-peer support within the workplace. Focusing on humanizing mental illness and recovery. Understanding the barriers cause by the clinical narrative associated with mental illness and creating a social, cultural narrative making supportive roles more accessible to the average person.
Mr. Grenier's story of transition from victim to mental health advocate and leader was inspiring. His actions to improve mental illness and recovery is the real take-away. We all have skills and a certain learned emotional intelligence that helps us navigate relationships. Help us support someone in need when they are ill or when they are grieving. Help us empathize. Let's use that skill set to support each other through mental health crisis. Through stress injuries. Through trying and tough times.
About Retired Lieutenant Colonel Stéphane Grenier | Mental Health Innovator
Stephane Grenier is a former member of the Canadian Military who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after serving for just over 29 years. He participated in several Canadian missions overseas, most notably nine months in Rwanda in 1994/95 and six months in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2007, as well as numerous shorter deployments to Cambodia, Kuwait, the Arabian Gulf, Lebanon, and Haiti, to name a few.
In hopes of challenging society’s traditional outlook regarding mental health, Grenier has spent much of his career redefining how workplaces and individuals should care for and support those affected by mental health problems. By developing, implementing, and managing peer based programs aimed at reducing stigma, Grenier provides leaders and managers a firm understanding of how to deal with the fast growing realities hindering today’s brain based economy. His non clinical approach offers simple and pragmatic ways of giving purpose to the lived experience of members of workplaces and allows organizations to start down the path of systemic wellness and re-humanized workplaces where mental health stigma is no longer a barrier to recovery.
Three weeks seems like a lifetime ago these days. Like a distant memory. It's not unusual to ask ourselves "that happened three weeks ago?" when confronted with a reminder. It's understandable really. We all live very busy lives. Lives inundated with the latest American election headline, the Jays wins or losses, some video showcasing some obscene yet really innovative invention we'll never use. A recipe filmed in process from above so you can see exactly how it's done. Some tiny cute creature crowding your social feeds. Your friends Instagram photos from their trip to Iceland and about one millions ads.
So let me remind you about something I can't forget about, from three weeks ago. Something that makes my heart ache and my mind race. Three weeks ago a man in a hat (you know the man) opined during an intermission, in what may have been one of Canada's most iconic rock'n'roll moments. He said the following:
"We're in good hands, folks, real good hands. He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what's going on up there. And what's going on up there ain't good."
He was referring to our PM, Justin Trudeau and First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in need of our attention.
So why write about this three weeks later? Why have I been hanging on? Truth is, because I was ashamed. I didn't really truly understand. Sure I'd seen the headlines about the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, and Pimicikamat. I'd heard about the inquest into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I knew of the song "Goodnight Attawapiskat" and "Now the Struggle has a Name". I hadn't pieced it together. Not really.
Working on No Surrender Hockey Challenge I was shocked and upset about the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat and Pimicikamat and other reservations. Now I hear even social workers are having a hard time working within the communities. Upon further review it's unconscionable how this could happen in any community.
According to CBC's The National & Stats Can this century 27% of all Inuit deaths in Nunavut have been by suicide. Suicide rates among Indigenous people are between 5 and 6 times the national average. Young adults 15-24 are 5-7x more likely to take their own lives. Young females seem to be highest at risk although males are not even close to ok.
How ashamed I felt only grew as I looked into the litany of potential causes for these needless deaths. The list included poor socioeconomic conditions, poverty in general, racism (did you know the CBC had to turn off its comments section of articles on Indigenous people because of the comments they received), sexism and the legacy of colonialism along with the devastating impact of the residential school system.
The worst part of all is an apathy that would allow this to go on for decades. I was frustrated before that Canada hadn't had a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention but I'm maddened by that fact that if this was happening in other Canadian communities we would've done something. There would have been action. There would have been outrage.
Not knowing what to do I wrote this. I wrote this for you. The No Surrender posse. The folks who consistently come together for their community. I wanted you to hear it three weeks later. So we don't forget. We're not alone and neither are they. I hope Justin Trudeau is the guy. If he is I'll support his efforts.
So thank you to the man in the hat, for waking me up. (you know who you are).
For insights and statistics on suicides of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people go to: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/thenational/national-conversation-attiwapiskat-suicide-crisis-1.3544041
For some fast facts on the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat go to: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/attawapiskat-four-things-to-help-understand-the-suicidecrisis/article29583059/
For background on the history impacting First Nations, Inuit and Metis in Canada and Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada go to: http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Final%20Reports/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf
For background information on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1449240606362/1449240634871
For tidbits about Tragically Hip songs "Goodnight Attawapiskat" and "Now the Struggle has a Name" among others visit: http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/tragicallyhip/
Google and read its all there if you look.
Another amazing No Surrender Hockey Challenge tournament come and gone like the wind.
This year is defined by some major milestones.
This marks 5 years we've been celebrating mental health awareness in our community. Five years defeating stigma in our community and letting our actions show our friends and family members that it's ok. It's ok to be vulnerable and its normal to get sick.
As tough as the hockey community can be. As much of a bunch of grit grinders we are. As battle tested as we can be. We understand we're not robots. We need compassion and understanding.
4 Years we've been awarding the the championship as the Glenn Curley Memorial Trophy in honour of a great loss and a great family.
2 years donating to the CMHA Durham and working hand in hand with them to help their clients right in our community. (Previous 3 were CMHA National)
This is the 3rd year of the Old Timer's Division.
Its also the biggest Men's Division we've ever had with 8 teams.
We're reaching people in our community.
We're still calculating our final tally for the CMHA Durham but we are close to our goals.
This is especially thanks to our great volunteers working the bake sale and the 50/50 draw. To all the players who joined the cause. To the volunteer time keepers who kept us on the rails. To the corporate donors who topped up our efforts.
A special thank you as well to a very special donor who asked to remain nameless who donated $1000 to the cause. Wow! So lucky to host such outstanding and humble individuals.
Thank you you all for participating. You're making change.
Stay tuned for the final fundraising results.
No Surrender Hockey Challenge
Founder of No Surrender Hockey Challenge.