Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 2

“Culture has become life-giving medicine for our people, closing the wounds of the past and standing us strong to face the future.

Our Elders have been fundamental in this process. They are our wisdom keepers. They have seen the changes, so dramatically incurred in their lifetime. They are the vital bridge between the modern world and Aboriginal culture. They are the leaders of our communities, to whom we continue to rely on for guidance and counseling.

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Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)


Here’s an article on asset-based community development which I wrote some years ago. This approach can facilitate healing in a community.

“Mental health is not a product of pharmacology or a service that can be singularly provided by an institution: it is a condition that is more determined by our community assets than our medication or access to professional interventions more generally. There are functions that only people living in families and communities can perform to promote mental health and wellbeing, and if they do not do those things; they will not get done, since, there simply is no substitute for genuine citizen-led community care (not to be confused with volunteer mentoring schemes).” Cormac Russell

There are two alternative ways to build a community in a neighborhood.

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Owning One’s Past and Committing to One’s Future

Michael Chandler speaks about the eight variables that affect owning one’s past and committing to one’s future, especially as they relate to Aboriginal communities and the preservation of culture. TRU, Open Learning. [2’58”]

Sustainable community development: from what’s wrong to what’s strong | Cormac Russell | TEDxExeter

How can we help people to live a good life? Instead of trying to right what’s wrong within a community Cormac argues we need to start with what’s strong. We need to help people discover what gifts they have and to use those gifts to enrich those around them. TEDx Talks. [18’07”]

‘What is Recovery?: David Best

Here is a blog I wrote about David Best in May 2013. At that time, he had done a huge amount for the addiction recovery field and for the Recovery Movements in the UK and Australia, in terms of his research, writings, advocacy and a wide range of other recovery-based activities. Where he gets his energy from, I have no idea?

I thought it was worth showing what David thinks about the question, ‘What is Recovery’. I’ve followed his arguments and included quotes from his excellent book, Addiction Recovery: A Movement for Social Change and Personal Growth in the UK.

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Why the Need for Recovery-based Care?

A resonating message I have picked from many people affected by serious substance use problems over the years is their desperate need for hope (that they can recover) and understanding (of how to recover). Here is a blog I originally posted in May 2013.

There is a dearth of readily accessible information on how to achieve recovery, information that is also relevant to the day-to-day struggles and obstacles that people face in trying to overcome addiction and related problems. Many people do not know anyone who has recovered from addiction. Many find the treatment system to be disempowering and lacking in hope.

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‘Community Recovery’: Bill White

An excellent paper by Arthur Evans, Roland Lamb and Bill White, highlighted in a blog by the latter, which I originally posted in December 2013.

‘In the Red Road to Wellbriety, the individual, family and community are not separate; they are one.  To injure one is to injure all; to heal one is to heal all.’ The Red Road to Wellbriety, 2002

As a field, we have long known that the effects of personal addiction ripple through families, social networks and organizations.  But might whole communities and whole cultures be so wounded by prolonged alcohol and other drug problems that they are themselves in need of a sustained recovery process?  This suggestion is the premise of a new paper co-authored by Dr. Arthur Evans, Jr., Roland Lamb and myself just published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly.

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Understanding Indigenous Wellbeing

TristanSchultzArtwork“Indigenous people have a holistic view of health and wellbeing that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, scial and environmental. It does not just focus on the individual, but also on the health and wellbeing of the community.”

Indigenous Heath and Wellbeing
To appreciate the many ways that society can facilitate the healing of Indigenous people, we must understand the Indigenous view of health and wellbeing. It is different to that of western culture.

Indigenous people have a holistic view of health and wellbeing that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social and environmental. It does not just focus on the individual, but also on the health and wellbeing of the community.

This view, which has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, is far richer than the western concept of mental health, which comes from an illness or clinical perspective.

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‘From Trauma to Transformative Recovery’ by Bill White

Trauma to Transformation Image‘Between 1986 and 2003, I served as the evaluator of an innovative approach to the treatment of addicted women with histories of neglect or abuse of their children. Project SAFE eventually expanded from four pilot sites to more than 20 Illinois communities using a model that integrated addiction treatment, child welfare, mental health, and domestic violence services.  This project garnered considerable professional and public attention, including being profiled within Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary, Moyers on Addiction:  Close to Home.

My subsequent writings on recovery management and recovery-oriented systems of care were profoundly influenced by the more than 15 years I spent interviewing the women served by Project SAFE and the Project SAFE outreach workers, therapists, parenting trainers, and child protection case workers.  This blog offers a few reflections on what was learned within this project about the role of trauma in addiction and addiction recovery.

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‘Healing Trauma: What We Are Doing Wrong… and What We Need To Do To Get It Right’ by Bessel van der Kolk

338059More from Bessel van der Kolk’s wonderful book. If you want to know more about trauma and its healing, this is an essential buy.

‘We are fundamentally social creatures – our brains are wired to foster working and playing together.

Trauma devastates the social-engagement system and interferes with cooperation, nurturing, and the ability to function as a productive member of the clan.

In this book, we have seen how many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start off as attempts to cope with emotions that become unbearable because of a lack of adequate human contact and support.

Yet institutions that deal with traumatized children and adults are all too often bypass the emotional-engagement system that is the foundation of who we are and instead focus narrowly on correcting “faulty thinking” and on suppressing unpleasant emotions and troublesome behaviors.

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Merry Xmas… and some words of Native American wisdom

IMG_0142I’m going to take some time off, so this is my last blog until the New Year. I’d therefore like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and relaxing Christmas break and all the best for 2015.

I hope you’ve found this website of some value. If you haven’t already done so, you might like to visit my other website, Sharing Culture, which is a part of an initiative focused on Indigenous healing I have developed with filmmaker Michael Liu.

I’d like to end this year with some pearls of wisdom written by Don Coyhis on the basis of what he was told be a Native American Elder in New Mexico:

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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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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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‘What Does an 800 lb Gorilla in the Room Say at an ADHD Conference? The Truth…’ by Michael Corrigan

mcorriganHere is an excellent blog from Michael Corrigan on the Mad in America website from 2014. Michael shows one thing we can do to counter drug companies (and their allies) efforts to drug our children with addictive drugs used for ADHD.

‘This blog is a little different than my normal. I want to tell you about an inspiring ADHD conference I took part in last week and a band of 800 lb. gorillas who gently shared the obvious with adults just wanting the facts when it comes to ADHD.

First, if you didn’t know, October was ADHD awareness month. Yes, according to www.ADHDawarenessmonth.org, a website sponsored by Shire Pharmaceuticals (the philanthropic makers of Adderall and Vyvanse) and supported by a large collection of non-profit groups (e.g., CHADD) conveniently supported by the profits of many other ADHD-focused pharmaceutical companies, October was the month to celebrate awareness of ADHD. October was the month to learn more about the ADHD stimulant drugs so often prescribed.

Move along folks… nothing to see…no conflict of interest here.

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Guest Blog – ‘Solvent abuse: the hidden issue’ by Victoria Leigh

logoI wanted to highlight the great work of Re-Solv who have been working 30 years to tackle solvent abuse and its impact. Here’s a Guest Blog from the team at Re-Solv. Well done all for all your hard work.

‘This month, Re-Solv celebrates 30 years of working to end solvent abuse and support all those whose lives are affected by it.

To most people, solvent abuse means “glue-sniffing”; people think of the 1980s, they remember the 100 or more people that were dying of solvent abuse every year in that decade, and they make the thankful assumption that it’s all a thing of the past.

But it’s not.

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‘A Tuesday With Bob’ by Deron Drumm

ddrummI cannot emphasise enough how important grassroots activism is for creating change in the mental health and addiction fields. A clear example of a successful movement is Mad In America, started by Robert Whitaker after publishing his book of the same name.

Here’s a thoughtful and passionate blog which illustrates just how much this movement means to people on the ground.

‘Robert Whitaker’s books and website have changed my life in profound ways. Nearly two years ago, thanks to the generosity of Dorothy Dundas, I was able to have dinner with Bob and several activists.

I sat next to Bob for two hours and was only able to summon the courage to say the deeply philosophical words, “I liked your book.” It was a long ride home to Connecticut that night with that phrase repeating in my head and the knowledge that I had lost an opportunity to tell someone how they had changed my life.

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‘Listening Across the Stages of Recovery’ by Bill White

Listening‘Addiction shrinks one’s world to a state of stark self-imprisonment.  As the person-drug relationship devours everything else of value, nothing remains that cannot and will not be sacrificed. And as the drug then devours the self, what remains are only manipulative masks interchanged so quickly that any sense of “true self” remains as only a faint memory.  This shell, now masquerading as a person, burns its way through the world leaving human wreckage in its wake – all wounded by addiction’s self-centeredness, dishonesty, disloyalty, depravity, and brutality.

Extreme narcissism, self-will run riot in the language of Alcoholics Anonymous, is the essence of addiction regardless of whether one sees this trait as a cause or consequence of addiction.  It is a paradoxical entrapment manifested in self-absorption (self-inflation and exploitation or self-deflation and serial victimization) and deteriorating capacities for self-care. These styles of self-deception exist within a person fighting to retain and assert his or her fading humanity.  These are the Janus faces of addiction – the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of addiction fame.

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‘Personal Reflections on Recovery Month 2014’ by Bill White

recovery monthThis month marks the 25th year of what has evolved into National Recovery Month.  With an early focus on the slogan “Treatment Works,” the event took on its recovery focus in 1998 just as new and renewed grassroots recovery community organizations (RCOs) were rising across the U.S.

RCO representatives came together at the 2001 Recovery Summit in St Paul, MN to launch the formal organization of a new recovery advocacy movement under the leadership of Faces and Voices of Recovery.

In the intervening years, Recovery Month celebration events have grown beyond what anyone could have predicted.  Local recovery celebration events that once welcomed a few dozen brave participants grew into the hundreds and then into the thousands.

This month, in community after community, recovering people and their families and allies will fill parks and streets as far as the eyes can see – an ocean of lives touched and transformed by recovery.   More than 450 recovery celebration events are scheduled this month in the U.S. and such events will also transpire around the world – from Vancouver to Cape Town, from Tokyo to London. 

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‘Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.’ by Laura K Kerr PhD

Scapegoat‘Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions.

Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using advertisements to attract potential users of their medications.

While both these arguments seem correct, they nevertheless fail to address that an increasing number of people regularly experience despair and anguish and are struggling to make a meaningful life, if not keep themselves psychologically, socially, and financially afloat.

I would like to suggest an additional explanation for the increase in mental illness: The upsurge is the result of the collective failure to alleviate conditions that contribute to trauma-related stress.

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‘The Power of Storytelling’ by Lisbeth Riis Cooper

lrcooperLisbeth Riis Cooper is another person whose blogs on Mad in America I really appreciate and value. Here’s one on storytelling.

‘Over the years, I have heard many powerful recovery stories. I’ve also had many opportunities to share our family’s struggle with mental health challenges and our recovery journey.

Each time I share my story, it gets a little easier. I feel a little lighter, a little more hopeful. And I realize how far our family has come, how much we have learned and healed.

Stories are powerful. And so is the process of telling them. Here is what I have observed over my last 10 years of storytelling:

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