Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Parts 2 and 3)

42115582. Working towards solutions with Sharing Culture
We developed Sharing Culture as a way to help tackle historical trauma (and its consequences) and facilitate Indigenous healing.

Sharing Culture is a grassroots initiative based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness. We use a strengths-based, solution-focused approach that celebrates success and fosters positivity, acceptance and cultural pride.

We recognise that self-determinism is a central foundation of healing – solutions must come from Indigenous communities. At the same time, non-Indigenous people can contribute to this healing process in a variety of ways.

One major way that Sharing Culture will facilitate this healing process is to generate high quality educational content and Stories about Indigenous healing and the healing of trauma, and distribute it in the most effective manner to as wide an audience as possible.

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Part 1)

3702998“Indigenous people possess a gift. This is a gift of healing, strong relationships and a deep connection to land, from a culture that has flourished over many thousands of years.” David Clark and Michael Liu

1. Nature of the Problems
As a result of the historical experiences of colonisation (and associated violence and control), forcible removal of children, and loss of culture and land, Indigenous people of Australia (and other countries) have suffered a trauma that has been passed unwittingly down through the generations.

The consequences of this historical, or intergenerational, trauma include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and abuse, self-harm and suicide.

Today, the impact of historical trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, experiences of racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements. It is exacerbated by closing down of remote Indigenous communities, destruction of Indigenous sacred sites, and turning over of Indigenous land to the mining industry.  

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Dreambuilding in Napranum

Napranum-Aboriginal-Community-4-450x337Some of you will know that I am also running the Sharing Culture initiative. Sharing Culture aims to help Indigenous people heal from historical trauma and its consequences. These consequences include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, self-harm and suicide.

Here is a blog I put up today which will describe one of my projects:

‘”The Elders taught us that to treat the sick trees you must treat the whole forest – you must create a healing forest. If not, the trees will just keep getting sick again… It means that we must actively heal the community and its institutions at the same time an individual works on his or her own healing from alcohol or drugs or other unwell behaviors.” Don Coyhis, Native American Leader & Founder of the Wellbriety Movement

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process, as well as from successful Indigenous healing initiatives. Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by current systems of care.

Society must also pay attention to, and implement, findings from scientific research that demonstrate key principles that underlie healing. For example, research has shown that self-determination is the foundation of healing and recovery from adversities like trauma, mental health problems and addiction.

Sadly, however, governments and systems of care still act in a paternalistic and controlling manner towards Indigenous people. They see themselves as the agents of change for Indigenous people, even though evidence shows that this approach does not work. It further disempowers people.

As a result of these problems, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should. This is a human rights issue that needs addressing urgently.

Sharing Culture involves the development of an educational resource that shows how healing occurs at an individual, family and community level. As part of this initiative, we are collaborating with highly respected people who have developed key Indigenous healing initiatives. We intend to create high quality content about these initiatives that will be disseminated to a wide audience via a multi-platform approach, i.e. internet, documentary film, iBooks, newspapers, etc.

We aim to inspire and educate our audience, create advocacy campaigns, and help the people we collaborate with develop their projects further (many receive minimal funding). We need to learn from, and facilitate the work of, people with successful healing initiatives.

Today, I would like to announce the first of our Healing Journey collaborative projects. This project involves the development of an easy-to-access, internet-based educational and advocacy resource based on lived experience that will inspire and educate people about community healing.

This resource will focus on the remarkable transformation – at an economic, social and spiritual level – that has been occurring in the Cape York Indigenous community of Napranum, a transformation catalysed by Annalise Jennings of Dynamic Exchange.

Dreambuilding in Napranum will comprise film, audio, text and animation that highlights: (1) healing stories and principles; (2) the evidence for transformation; (3) community events and culture; (4) personal reflections on what facilitates change, and (5) how to address practical issues when facilitating community change. We will also link to other internet-based content that enhances understanding of community healing.

Dreambuilding in Napranum will show what can be achieved when Indigenous people are empowered, connected and given the opportunity for self-determination, key elements underlying healing.

Our audience will gain important insights into how Indigenous people overcome great adversity. We will celebrate what Napranum has achieved and ensure that their successes are shared with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world.

We are in the very early stages of this project. Annalise and I have been talking for some time about linking up. I recently uploaded ten pages of content about Annalise’s work in Napranum using content that is already available online.

Last week, Annalise visited Napranum and the community agreed to participate in the project. I am planning the filming that Mike and I will do in Napranum on the basis of my interviews with Annalise. However, this project is dependent on us raising funding, so I have a busy period ahead.

Here are two testimonials for the project:

“Napranum people have always known where they wanted to go. They have always had great vision and direction. What is different about what is happening now, is someone is willing to walk alongside them to help make their dreams happen. It is a story that needs to be told. It is a story that needs to be repeated in other places, by other people. A story of people doing things together. It was in Napranum many years ago, a woman said: ‘Sometimes, when we look at the problems, they seem like a large mountain. But we can move that mountain, one rock at a time.’ Napranum and Tjunundi people of old Mapoon can teach us many things.” Professor Judy Atkinson & Dr Carlie Atkinson

“Every now and then something happens that is so indisputable and powerful that its impact and implications cannot be ignored. The transformation of Napranum is one of those somethings. Communicating the Napranum story should be an urgent priority so that many people, at all levels of decision making, can understand its message and become part of the healing solution.” Professor Tim Carey

You can find out more about Annalise’s work with Napranum here. We’ll both be blogging about this project as time moves on.

20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 1

2007_0118walpole01151-220x164Some of you will know I also run the Sharing Culture website, which focuses on Indigenous healing. Today, I thought I would upload the same blog onto both websites. My action reflects the importance I attach to this area.

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process (the lived solution); successful Indigenous healing initiatives, and scientific research demonstrating key principles underlying healing.

Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by government and health care, social welfare and criminal justice systems. As a result, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should.

In this and forthcoming blogs, I shall briefly describe 20 ways to facilitate Indigenous healing. Here are the first five.

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“Transcend Depression Through Serving Others” by Douglas Bloch

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Douglas Bloch’s YouTube channel on healing depression is an excellent self-care resource, as are his website and book Healing Depression.

‘In this video, author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks about how giving of your time to help others can draw you out of depression and transcend the “prison of self.”‘

Classic Blog: ‘Family Stories, Secrets and Survival’ by Dr. Judith Landau

This talk will provide you with insights into intergenerational trauma and how addiction arises as a coping response. It will show you a way forward to recovery and healing, through Story. Understanding the past can help us deal with the present and help create a better future.

Judith, thank you for this wonderful talk! Here is the Youtube intro:

‘Dr. Judith Landau tells the story of trauma and recovery through generations and gives clues along the way for healthier families.

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Classic Blog: ‘The Four Walls’ by Mark Ragins

rsz_markHere’s some great earlier writing on recovery from Mark Ragins, who set up The Village in California. This is what recovery is about!

‘In 1989, the California State Legislature authorized the funding for three model mental health programs, including the Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, in part to answer the question, “Does anything work?”

We created a radical departure from traditional mental health services basing our entire system on psychosocial rehabilitation principles, quality of life outcomes and community integration. Arguably, we have created the most comprehensive, integrated and effective recovery based mental health program anywhere.

In recent years, encouraged by our success, both our attention and the legislature’s have turned to the further question of “How can our whole system be more like the Village?” Undoubtedly, there are numerous serious beaurocratic, funding, and system design issues relevant to that question, but I would like to focus on the personal issues staff must face.

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‘Why We Need to Abandon the Disease-Model of Mental Health Care’ by Peter Kinderman

DSM-5__DSM-IV-TRExcellent blog in Scientific American by Professor Peter Kinderman. I agree with all that Peter says here.

‘The idea that our more distressing emotions such as grief and anger can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is pervasive and seductive. But in my view it is also a myth, and a harmful one.

Our present approach to helping vulnerable people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned, inhumane and fundamentally unscientific ideas about the nature and origins of mental health problems.

We need wholesale and radical change, not only in how we understand mental health problems, but also in how we design and commission mental health services.

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Classic Blog – ‘The Four Stages of Recovery’ by Mark Ragins

IMG_3040-220x164Mark Ragins is a leading recovery figure in the mental health field. He was a pioneer in setting up MHA Village, a recovery community based in Los Angeles. His writings are well worth a read.

Here is what Mark has to say about the four stages of recovery in an article entitled The Road to Recovery. What Mark says here is just as relevant to people recovering from addiction.

‘Recovery has four stages: (1) hope, (2) empowerment, (3) self-responsibility and (4) a meaningful role in life.

Hope
During times of despair, everyone needs a sense of hope, a sense that things can and will get better. Without hope, there is nothing to look forward to and no real possibility for positive action.

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Classic Blog – ‘What is Recovery?': Julie Repper & Rachel Perkins

2007_0116walpole0097-220x164In my blogs, I will be exploring the nature of recovery and will sometimes focus on the ideas of someone else (or a group of people). I’ve previously looked at how David Best has talked about “What is Recovery?” David described key principles underlying addiction recovery.

In this blog, I am going to look at what Julie Repper and Rachel Perkins have to say about “What is Recovery?”, as described in their excellent book Social Inclusion and Recovery: A Model for Mental Health Practice. They include a number of quotes about recovery, some of which I will use here.

As Julie and Rachel point out the concept of mental health recovery did not come from professionals and academics. It emerged from the writings of people who themselves face the challenges of life with mental health problems. On the basis of such accounts Anthony (1993) described recovery as:

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’Self-Determination in Mental Health Recovery: Taking Back Our Lives (Part 2)’ by Mary Ellen Copeland

Unknown-7Breaking Down Barriers to Self-Determination
There are many assumptions about “mental illness” and mental health that must change, and are changing, that will facilitate the personal process of self-determination and taking back our lives.

When I first decided to reach out for help to deal with the difficult feelings I had been having all my life, I went through a lengthy questioning process (assessment) that had little or nothing to do with the way I was feeling.

I was given a diagnosis, told what that diagnosis would mean in terms of what I could expect in my life, and given medications that I was told I must take, probably for the rest of my life. Little attention was paid to my “out of control” lifestyle, my abusive relationship and my history of childhood sexual and emotional abuse and trauma.

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‘How Depression Can Bring Blessings in Disguise’ by Douglas Bloch

In this video. author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks about how depression and anxiety can bring unexpected blessings in their wake.

Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People

4323131_origSince moving to Australia, I’ve become increasingly saddened, concerned and angered by the way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are treated by many non-Indigenous people (including government). As a friend said the other day, it has to be seen to be believed.

The damage that has been done to Indigenous people here (and in other countries) as a result of colonisation is huge and it continues today. It is a great demonstration of the resilience of Indigenous people that they have survived.

I’ve decided to devote most of my time from now on to working with Indigenous people. I’ll be running this website and working on recovery-related projects.

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Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head

Brilliant and very moving TED talk from Eleanor Longden.

‘To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn’t know how to help her.

Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.’

‘Shh… Just Whisper it, But There Might Just Be a Revolution Underway’ by Peter Kinderman

pkindermanHere is an excellent article by Prof Peter Kinderman from Mad in America. Yes, recovery-based care is needed!

‘The idea that our more distressing emotions can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is a pervasive, seductive but harmful myth. It means that our present approach to helping vulnerable people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned, inhumane and fundamentally unscientific ideas about the nature and origins of mental health problems.

We need wholesale and radical change in how we understand mental health problems and in how we design and commission mental health services.

–o–

It’s all too easy to assume mental health problems must be mystery biological illnesses, random and essentially unconnected to a person’s life. But when we start asking questions about this traditional ‘disease-model’ way of thinking, those assumptions start to crumble.

While it obviously serves the purposes of pharmaceutical companies, ready with their chemical pseudo-solutions, the evidence doesn’t support this view.

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‘Recovering From Psychiatry’ by Laura Delano

0-71Here is an excellent website from a very special lady. Please spend time exploring the website, including Laura’s amazing Story. Here’s what Laura has to say:

‘We search, and search, and search for answers to our emotional pain, until we realize they’ve been in us all along – not in psychiatric diagnoses, psychiatric textbooks, pill bottles, or the minds of the doctors we’ve surrendered ourselves to.  At least, this has been my experience.

What does it mean to “recover” from Psychiatry?  For me, it’s meant healing from the physical, emotional, cognitive, and existential trauma of psychiatric labels and psychotropic drugs, which has taken time, patience, acceptance, and unyielding determination. 

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Family Stories, Secrets and Survival: Dr. Judith Landau at TEDxVailWomen

I can strongly recommend this extraordinary talk from Dr Judith Landau. It’s one of my favourites, found only this morning. Thank you BDawg!

This talk will provide you with insights into intergenerational trauma and how addiction arises as a coping response. It will show you a way forward to recovery and healing, through Story. Understanding the past can help us deal with the present and help create a better future.

Judith, thank you for this wonderful talk! Here is the Youtube intro:

‘Dr. Judith Landau tells the story of trauma and recovery through generations and gives clues along the way for healthier families.

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’emotional-CPR Overview’ by National Empowerment Center

Here’s a great new video from the National Empowerment Centre (NEC) in the US. I can strongly recommend both the video and the approach. Here is what the NEC has to say.

What is eCPR?
Emotional CPR (eCPR) is an educational program designed to teach people to assist others through an emotional crisis by three simple steps:

  • C = Connecting
  • P = emPowering, and
  • R = Revitalizing.

The Connecting process of eCPR involves deepening listening skills, practicing presence, and creating a sense of safety for the person experiencing a crisis.

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Recovery Road website from Baylissa (Bliss) Frederick

UnknownPlease check out Baylissa (Bliss) Fredericks’ wonderful website Recovery Road. This is an excellent resource.

The website has  self-help information, coping tools and other resources for people affected by withdrawal and dependency on sleeping pills, other benzodiazepine tranquillisers, Z-drugs and antidepressants. There is also information for family members, families, counsellors, doctors and others who provide care.

The aim of the website is to help people feel reassured, encouraged and empowered. There are lots of videos to watch as well as content to read.

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Vikram Patel: Mental health for all by involving all

Nearly 450 million people are affected by mental illness worldwide. In wealthy nations, just half receive appropriate care, but in developing countries, close to 90 percent go untreated because psychiatrists are in such short supply.

Vikram Patel outlines a highly promising approach – training members of communities to give mental health interventions, empowering ordinary people to care for others.