Monday, June 24, 2013

120 suitcases

Actually, seventy suitcases were delivered to my church last week, but as the days went by, word of mouth by people who enjoy a good story, nudged the number closer to 120.

The minister found a call on his answering machine from a woman in the church that she was leaving town rather unexpectedly and that seventy suitcases would be delivered to the church the next day. Not, "would it be okay?" no, just "they're being delivered."

Panic set in. There really is no room in the tiny church to deal with 70 suitcases. A plea went out by e-mail for people to drop everything they were doing, if possible, and get over to church to begin sorting. Everybody was told if they did so, they could leave with four empty suitcases. LOL.

I spent Saturday afternoon with four other people and we were the second fleet of volunteers. By the time I left there was plenty left to do for the next batch of people early the next week.The suitcases were locked, so one of the volunteer's job was to cut off the locks. We set up five large tables and began sorting through used clothing, unused new clothing, shoes,handbags and other items all with the store tags on them, collectible teddy bears, memorabilia  of a certain pop star from an earlier era, brand new children's books, children's movies, Harry Potter, Beatrix Potter, books about faeries, books about gardening, a small fortune in spare change, old family photographs, old letters, and on and on.

We were, of course, sorting through someone's life, and given a glimpse into its more poignant aspects. As it turned out, I knew the owner of the suitcase from my work. She lived alone, and, as far as I am aware, never married. Whenever I saw her leaving work or coming to work, she dragged a suitcase. Occasionally she wore earmuffs, even in summer, and I suspect that they offered her some sort of protection against voices. If people didn't know "Mary" they might not be inclined to talk to her because of all her oddities, but in fact, she was pretty smart and articulate, and, she held down a responsible job. But, the price of being different was loneliness, and Mary was terribly isolated, which made her oddities more pronounced than they otherwise might have been. Her life, her many obsessions, were there in the suitcases.

There would have been no one for Mary to to turn to when it was time to clean out her apartment, so Mary did the church a favor. She simply picked up the phone and announced "suitcases are coming." The minister had initially wanted to divert the taxi cab for a drop off at one of the local charities, but when the head of the bazaar committee got wind of this, she said, "Absolutely not! We've got a bazaar coming up in October. We'll call in the troops."

Mary, through her generosity and quirkiness, has organized the bazaar for us, and will ensure that a tidy some of money is raised. We hardly need any more donations.

God Bless you, Mary. Good luck in your new home.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

If you take one course, choose this one

I'm currently enrolled (and luvin' it) in the online recovery education course offered by Mother Bear, Practice Recovery, and Family Outreach Response. There are two registration points Registration for the July course is happening now.

The strength of the Famililes Healing Together course for me is that it views psychosis as an understandable human coping mechanism and coaches families on how to help their relative from a strengths based perspective. I wish this course was available ten years ago when our family was in turmoil. Over the years I've had to piece together my own reading program and develop a strengths based relationship with Chris through trial and error. This course weaves it all together.

As a parent and mother, I want to be a problem solver. That's how most of us parents operate, isn't it? We try to fix our relative in the problem solving way that we tackle our own issues. Here's what the course moderator Krista MacKinnon emphasizes:

"You are not a problem to be solved and neither is your relative. Your deficits and your relative’s don’t need to be the main focus in recovery. Your strengths do.

A strengths-based approach isn’t about denying that problems are occurring. It is a fundamental shift in perspective that can help us identify inner and outer resources that can help us transform challenges into opportunities for healing and growth."

The current course started in May. Here are the lessons so far:

1. Introductions
2. Guiding Recovery Principles and Emotional Tools
3. Fundamentals of Mental Health Recovery
4. Looking at Roadblocks and Strengths
5. Recovery Attitudes, Challenges, and Turnaround People
6. The Continuum of Mental Health, Distress, and Psychosis
7. Hopelessness and Learned Helplessness
8. Making A Case For Cultivating Hope
9. Your Hope Practice
10. Looking at Strengths
11. How To Use A Strengths Based Approach
12. Relationship Building Amidst Psychosis
13. Communicating in the Midst of Psychosis
14. Boundaries

If you or someone you know would like to take this course, you won't regret it. You will discover how to practice recovery and transform pain.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Coursera's free online university course on social context of mental health

Feel free to check out the massive online courses (MOOC) offered by Coursera. The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness starts June 24th, taught by University of Toronto Faculty of Social Work associate professor Charmaine Williams.

Course description:
This course is an opportunity to explore how social practices and ideas contribute to the ways in which society, families and individuals are affected by mental health and mental illness. We will look at issues like why some people think mental illness is a myth, how people think about mental health and illness in different cultures, who gets mentally ill and why, how families are affected by mental illness and what interventions are available to treat mental illness and promote mental health."

Course Syllabus

Week One: A brief history of madness 
Week Two: What is mental health and what causes mental illness?
Week Three: The social context of diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses
Week Four: Culture, mental health and mental illness
Week Five: Families, caregiving and mental illness
Week Six: Society, communities and mental health

Thursday, June 6, 2013

They're writing self-help books, but not for me

(Apologies to George Gershwin.  (....They're writing songs of love, but not for me)

I caught the tail end of a BBC radio interview last night. British libraries have begun stocking 30 evidence based self help books for mild to moderate mental conditions. Two thirds of people suffering from anxiety and depression in the UK apparently are not getting help.

After much discussion of the growing evidence base that self help books can help people feel better, the interviewer eventually piped up, "So, I guess this is not for people with major problems, say, bipolar."

Well, it's not. Apparently, people with "major mental illnesses" are beyond self help. Best to leave their supposedly intractable problems with the professionals, as we read in a different interview with clinical psychologist Neil Frude:

"The use of good self-help books is endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, although Frude said Nice does not say which books should be used, whereas it would with particular drugs.

"They are not for everybody," Frude said. "And of course we are not talking about people with serious illnesses, but one in six of us will have a diagnosable mental illness in our lifetime."

I can think of many self-help books for schizophrenia and bipolar. Let's start with The Bible. Then, there's The Divided Self (R.D. Laing), Selfhood (Dr. Terry Lynch), just about anything by Joseph Campbell, books on Eastern mysticism, poetry books, philosophical treatises on man's relationship to God and nature. Agnes's Jacket. No doctor's prescription or NICE endorsement needed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Making madness fun

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. ― Tom Robbins

Ron Unger writes about madness and play over at the Mad in America webzine. Don't miss this one!  Madness these days is viewed in the same way as the Ladies Temperance Society viewed alcoholic beverages. We are "awfulizing it." Let's get others to lighten up and recognize that a little humor goes a long way. Laughter is often the best medicine and as for play:

Ron writes:

"Curiously, those convinced that the best way to reduce “stigma” is to portray madness as an “illness like any other” see it as part of their job to suppress any notion that there can be something fun about madness. For example, a NAMI page on stigma reduction contains the following paragraph:

Another triumph came in the field of advertising. Nestle’s line of Tasty, Tangy Taffy Bars featured wrappers bearing distorted cartoon faces of characters with names like “Psycho Sam,”"Loony Jerry” and “Weird Wally.” Two alerts and even a letter from former First Lady Rosalynn Carter convinced Nestle to repackage the candies, minus the stigmatizing names and cartoons.

Of course, if madness is not an “illness like any other,” if it is more of a human thing, very multifaceted and containing potential for growth and change as well as hazards, then it might be a good thing to notice the fun side of madness; to notice not just the dangers, but also how it might be sometimes be liberating or even just amusing."

The value of networking

The job possibilities are endless with my LinkedIn account profile as "Rossa Forbes."

Novartis posted a job you might be interested in:
Director, Payment Policy, Public Affairs

Job Purpose: Develop, align and represent the Novartis position on Healthcare policy with particular focus on payment policies for medicines/devices such as Health Technology Assessment, Referene Pricing, Value of Medicines and various cost...

Kelly Scientific Resources posted a job you might be interested in:

Head Medical Affairs

AbbVie is a global biopharmaceutical R&D company focused in developing leading-edge therapies and innovations. Their expertise in research and development of pharmaceutical products goes back to a 125-year legacy. They are the owner of a solid...