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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Don Coyhis: What the Boarding Schools Did to Our Community

Don Coyhis, Founder of the Wellbriety Movement in America, describes Native Indian culture and communities before the issues that arose from intergenerational trauma. This trauma arose partly through the government-led introduction of boarding schools across America to to which Indian children were sent. [16’02”]

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Learning from the Experts

When I was a teenager, I competed in chess competitions around the UK, including the British Under-18 championship on two occasions. I was my county junior champion. To be competitive, I had to study chess theory and practice. I learnt from those people who were champions at what they did, including world champions. Not by being in the same room as them—although I did play Anatoly Karpov, who was later to be world champion, in a simultaneous exhibition—but by their games and introspections. I learnt from the experts.

You would have thought that people working in the addiction field would also be learning from the experts—the people who are in recovery, or are recovering, from a serious substance use problem. Many do. But… you’d be surprised to know that this goes on far too little, at least from my experience.

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12 Principles of Indigenous Healing

When I first developed the educational healing resource Sharing Culture, I did a great deal of reading about the healing of trauma and historical trauma. I summarised what I considered to be 12 principles of healing, which are relevant to Aboriginal people here in Australia and other Indigenous peoples around the world.  I have decided to make an article on these principles the first  in our educational journey into Indigenous trauma and healing.

1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Recognition of, and respect for, the Human Rights of Indigenous peoples is fundamental to improving their health and wellbeing. Society must ensure that Indigenous peoples have full and effective participation in decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives.

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Journeys Into and Out of Heroin Addiction, Part 1:

Common themes that resonate about people’s journeys into and out of heroin addiction, and common factors that influence these journeys. This first part focuses on the descent into addiction (5,300 words).

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Journeys Into and Out of Heroin Addiction, Part 2

Focuses on living with addiction and covers such topics as relationships, changes in personality and lifestyle, hustling, crime and prison, impact on health, and treatment (5,900 words).

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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”]

Key Factors Facilitating Indigenous Healing

When I first developed the educational healing resource Sharing Culture back in 2014, I did a great deal of reading about the healing of trauma and historical trauma. I summarised what I considered to be 12 principles of healing, which are relevant to Aboriginal people here in Australia and other Indigenous peoples around the world.

1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Recognition of, and respect for, the Human Rights of Indigenous peoples is fundamental to improving their health and wellbeing. Society must ensure that Indigenous peoples have full and effective participation in decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives.

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Part 4)

3702998I recently wrote three blogs about my other initiative Sharing Culture – which is focused on the healing of Indigenous people – and what we are trying to do [Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3]. It is time to continue with another part, which will focus on our activities over the past 18 months.

Progress To Date
The first development was the Sharing Culture website, launched in late-2013. We set out with the aim of developing a small website focusing on historical trauma, healing and culture, primarily using the voices of Indigenous people (which is why you see so many quotes) within an organised framework. We wanted our audience to gain a basic understanding of key issues relating to Indigenous healing.

The information (written and film) I provided was obtained from web pages, books, science papers and personal communications. A considerable amount of research, reading and watching of films was involved in bringing this content together. In addition to this content, I included Stories, both of individuals (e.g. Professor Judy Atkinson) and initiatives (e.g. the Native American Wellbriety Movement).

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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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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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‘Cultural Genocide Survivor Walking The Red Road’ by Wayne William Snellgrove

a07bb170c4a36161aa1f8f4859c19794_LI can’t begin to appreciate what it must have been like to have been removed from my mother at a very young age and be brought up in a culture I knew was not my own. This happened to so many Indigenous people in Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand and other colonized nations.

When I read stories like the one below,  I know I am doing the right thing with my life, trying to help Indigenous people through Sharing Culture. I marvel at the healing that is illustrated in stories like the one below. I know that we must pass on such stories, so many other people can be inspired to Walking the Red Road. That they can take their own journey of healing.

Here is the story of Wayne William Snellgrove, which appeared on the I Love Ancestry website.  

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20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 2

P4061087-220x1646. The Healing Ritual of Storytelling
Storytelling is a healing ritual amongst Indigenous people.

In a culturally safe environment (e.g. healing circle), Indigenous people can share experiences by telling their Story (which is often a trauma Story), help each other come to terms with the emotional pain caused by what has happened to them in their past, and make sense of their personal story in relationship to the collective, communal Story.

7. Pride in Surviving Colonisation
Learning history from an Indigenous perspective, illustrating how conditions for social and psychological discontent have developed, helps Indigenous people understand why they have problems.

It also shows them that they retain the necessary agency to change their lives for the better. It helps them deal with shame and blame, factors that impact negatively on social and emotional wellbeing.

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‘Without a life story, a child is adrift, disconnected and vulnerable’ – Dr Bruce Perry on the value and power of the Life Story approach

UnknownHere is a powerful piece of writing by Dr Bruce Perry, which is adapted from the Foreword to the new book, Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children, by Richard Rose. It is fundamental to what I am doing with our new initiative Sharing Culture, which is focused on helping Indigenous people heal from intergenerational trauma and its consequences.

‘A fundamental and permeating strength of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships – the capacity to belong. It is in the context of our clan, community and culture that we are born and raised.

The brain-mediated set of complex capacities that allow one human to connect to another form the very basis for survival and has led to the ‘success’ of our species on this planet. Without others or without belonging, no individual could survive or thrive.

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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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Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing

imagesIndigenous people have a holistic view of health that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social and environmental.

It includes healing oneself and relationships with others, such as family and community members. It recognises the importance of connecting to land, culture, spirituality and history, as well as the importance of bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and caring.

The Indigenous view of health people also recognises the importance of healing the community, rather than just focusing on the individual.

Indigenous people focus on social and emotional wellbeing, rather than on mental health. They view social and emotional wellbeing problems arising from a broad range of circumstances – unresolved grief and loss, trauma and abuse, domestic violence, removal from family, substance misuse, family breakdown, cultural dislocation, loss of land, racism and discrimination, and social disadvantage.

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‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 5′ by William L. White: Recovery Identity & Cultural Affiliation

This part of Bill’s excellent talk focuses on identity, social stigma and recovery styles. He describes how some people hide behind anonymity because they are ashamed of themselves.

‘Six First Steps for Building Communities of Emotional Wellness’ by Matthew Cohen

mcohenI’ve been writing a strategic document for developing a healing community for Aboriginal people here in Perth, so this blog from Mad in America is particularly pertinent. Matthew is a very interesting person – please check out his website

‘I am being asked by a number of grassroots communities to facilitate a dialogue about how they can better welcome and support individuals who experience emotional distress. This is a challenge for many aspiring peers and allies in a culture where responsibility for our individual well-being has been increasingly transferred to psychiatrists, doctors, and other health professionals.

Even among our movements for alternatives, we often find ourselves replicating disempowering patterns of relying on experts, institutions, and formalized programs to help us through our trying times.

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Bruce Alexander’s Globalization of Addiction Website

Unknown-1This website is well worth checking out. I really like Bruce Alexander’s ideas. They need reflecting upon.

‘Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits. This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life.

People adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness, and addiction provides this substitute for more and more of us.

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The Culture of Addiction, Part 2: Influence of Legal Status

UnknownThe second part of this series focuses on the impact of legal status on drug culture. Click here for Part 1.

‘Society makes judgements about different types of psychoactive drug. As Bill White points out in his book Pathways from the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery, the social status and value attached to a particular drug by society influence several things:

  • The risks associated with use of the drug
  • The organisation of ‘tribes’ within the culture of addiction
  • The characteristics of each tribe and the impairments that members experience from both the drug and the culture itself.

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