Tag Archives: adults

Incarceration Day

2prison-05Today I had lunch with an old friend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years; needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great fun to meet again and catch up (of course Facebook provides advanced info). Beyond discussing our youth and mutual friends, S. and I have something else in common – we both work in the field of mental health, family and corrections.

While S.’s work involves hands-on counselling, social work and research, I interview experts and write about issues related to these same topics. We had a stimulating conversation about what’s at the root of offenders – what makes them tick and what many have in common.

This topic deserves pages and pages of research and writing. But, because this is in blog format I will get straight to the point: We agreed that mental health challenges and a history of violence and abuse is at the core of most offenders/offences.

This discussion reminds me of the painfully honest film that shines a light on offenders who have gotten out of the prison system and are trying to make their way in the world. Just thinking about A Hard Name hurts my heart.

While it’s easy to say: “Lock ’em up” (and so we should in many cases), dismissing or hiding offenders away in the prison system does not get rid of the problem. Having a better understanding of good mental health, neglect, and child and domestic abuse is the key to preventing offences and ripping peoples’ lives apart.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like governments and the public at large are realizing more and more that good mental health makes a huge impact on society.

For Extreme Parenting Read The Glass Castle

Have you read The Glass Castle? Written by Jeannette Walls, now a successful American writer and reporter, this memoir takes the reader on an unbelievable journey through a traumatic, wild, raw childhood in the American south.

Next time you feel guilty about not being able to give your child the latest gadget, activity or toy, read The Glass Castle – it will instantly make you feel like you’re the best parent in the world.

Even now on my second read, I gasp at the outrageous acts of neglect foisted on Jeannette and her three siblings by parents, Rex and Rose Mary. These children often went for days without food, heat, electricity, proper clothing or even needed medical attention.

Here are a just a few examples from the book:

  • In the book’s opening chapter, Jeannette, at three years old, is cooking hotdogs on the stove top. Her pink dress catches on fire and she suffers severe burns. Rushed to the hospital, she entertains herself by picking at dead skin, happy to stay in the hospital where she receives fresh food, enjoys a cozy, clean bed and has a TV all to herself. She’s not eager to leave.
  • At one point the family moves to Welsh, West Virginia. First staying with Rex’s mother and father, a dour, unkind couple, the family later moves to a heatless, rusted old shack where they sleep in boxes, rarely have enough to eat and are traumatized by river rats who sneak into their home.
  • Jeannette suffers a nasty gash in her leg from a rusty nail. Her mother takes a quick look and declares it nothing but a flesh wound.
  • We find out later that Rose Mary inherited Texas land from her mother worth well over a million dollars. She could have sold the land to pay for the family’s food, medical expenses, and education. She never does.

Sure, the family enjoys extreme adventures – moving constantly from city to city, state to state, and all four children learn more about physics, astronomy, art, history, geography and hard knocks from their parents and their own ingenuity than the average child.

However, it’s only through sheer luck – or a kind angel looking down on the family – that anyone in the Walls’ family survives.

It’s Canadian ADHD Week: Learn. Understand. Inspire.

CADDAC’s 2012 ADHD Week banner

The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada has launched ADHD Week. Celebrated October 14-21 2012, this week is meant to inspire, educate and inform.

In light of the launch, last Thursday and Friday I attended CADDAC’s annual ADHD Conference which was held in Markham, Ontario. The four day conference included distinct presentations for educators, parents, adults and girls.

Thursday night’s presentation was aimed at parents of children with ADHD. About 200 parents of children ranging from toddlers to those heading off to university took in a presentation from Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, a woman who has ADHD and an American licensed psychologist.

Here are highlights from Dr. Nadeau’s talk on ADHD-Friendly Parent Coaching:

  • Medication is NOT a magic bullet that solves all problems
  • Develop a CLOSE* relationship with your child
  • Don’t hold a grudge: you can be loving and still set limits and consequences
  • Get enough sleep. Work on your own bedtime as well as your child’s sleep habits
  • Perfection is not required! (Be a GEM = Good Enough Mom/Man)
  • Engage in “social engineering” to help your child make and keep friends
  • Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise is key
  • Anticipate and avoid the “upset zone” i.e. late afternoons
  • Understand the difference between a “punishment” and a “consequence” i.e. a consequence does not come from anger
  • Learn the art of habit-building to set the path for success later on in life

Do these tips and suggestions resonate with you? Do you know someone with ADHD to whom this could be helpful? Feel free to share this post and/or the ADHD Week Facebook page or share your comments on this blog. We all have a lot to learn.

*The CLOSE model involves: choices, consequences, collaboration, calm and consistent parenting, loving, looking out for good behaviour, special time every day, and empathy for your child.

Exploring Van Gogh’s Mind

Van Gogh's self-portrait taken from Wikipaedia

In an earlier post focused on the connection between creativity and mental illness, there were some excellent comments, including people asking to know more about Van Gogh (the famous European painter) and his well-documented challenges with mental illness and inner demons.

After conducting research, I’ve found that Van Gogh suffered (and, yes, I will use the word “suffer” as he seemed to live a rather tortured life) from a host of mental and emotional health problems.

Van Gogh smoked extensively, drank absinthe (a potent and sometimes lethal alcoholic beverage), and massive amounts of coffee, and is said to have a very poor and nutritionally-empty diet. These factors, of course, could have spurred on or impacted any of his emotional or mental conditions.

In addition to self-diagnosed epilepsy, Van Gogh lived with bipolar disorder, possible sun stroke, Meniere’s Disease, lead poisoning, hallucinations and depression.

Living with one of these illnesses could be debilitating but, the fact that Van Gogh was able to create works of art while battling chronic malnutrition, addiction and mental and physical illness is an amazing feat! I continue to be amazed by the secret lives of artists. However, as Susan K says in the comments section linked above in this post, is the price of mental illness worth it to the people who live it?

Guest Post: Can Children be Hoarders?

Janine Adams

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. A fellow professional writer, Janine has a great deal of passion for organization, helping others and exploring that ghastly clutter habit that takes over so many homes and apartments. In this post Janine digs deeper into early hoarding tendencies. Ironically, I was watching Hoarders on A & E online when I received her post via email!


As a professional organizer, I’m privileged to be a member (and board member) of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, an educational group for professional organizers and other professionals who work with clients challenged with chronic disorganization. I recently took an ICD teleclass on helping children with hoarding tendencies, presented by Kim Anker-Paddon and Leslie Josel.  The content was illuminating.

The research on children who hoard is limited, but according to the research explored in the class, nearly half (44 percent) adult hoarders first started showing hoarding behavior by the time they were 15 years old.  According to the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation’s website, the typical age of onset of hoarding behavior is 13.  It typically progresses to becoming a moderate problem in the 20s and 30s and a severe problem later in life. Clearly, children can be display hoarding behavior.

Hoarding in children is more about difficulty letting go, rather than acquisition, since kids don’t usually have the access to money and transportation that would allow them to shop easily. They tend to anthropomorphize their objects and want to maintain control over them. Compared with adults, clutter may or may not be such a significant factor with these children. Kids with hoarding tendencies tend to be perfectionistic about their objects.

It’s important to note that many children are collectors. If your child likes to hang on to certain items, that doesn’t mean he or she is displaying hoarding tendencies. Hoarding behavior is more extreme and problematic–it can interfere with social interactions and school, and can result in intensely emotional reactions to others touching their belongings.

So what’s to be done for a child with hoarding tendencies? The class explored three case studies in which three young people were helped with varying combinations of techniques such as collaborative therapy between therapists and organizers, journaling, picture drawing/storytelling, motivational interviewing and containerizing and labeling.

The younger the hoarding patient is, the more effective treatment will be, so if your child is exhibiting hoarding behavior, seeking help may be wise. Unfortunately, information on children who display hoarding behaviors isn’t abundant. The International OCD Federation’s web page on hoarding and families is a good starting point, however.

Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing LLC in St. Louis, Missouri, is a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®). She is the Marketing Director of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

Ode to a Blogathon

WordPress logo

As the WordCount Blogathon comes to a close (four more days!), I can say that, although I’ve blogged for myself and for organizations in the past, I’ve learned a lot about the art of blogging. This includes:

  • Using WordPress
  • Re-learning blogging basics (with assistance from Jane Boursaw)
  • The art of commenting
  • Creating compelling content
  • Publishing on the fly
  • Posting images
  • Sharing posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Updating widgets and… a whole lot more. However, as you can see from the wonky bullet points in this post, I still have more to learn!

In addition, I’ve gained more knowledge about children’s mental health through new research, interviews with experts and through the useful comments that others have posted here.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have met (mostly virtually) some wonderful fellow bloggers. Many of their sites are linked on my Blogroll on the right hand side of the main page. I encourage you to check out their blogs.

What do you love about blogging? Is it sharing information with others? Connecting with fellow bloggers? Learning new tools and tricks? Self-publishing? Social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Baby You’re A Firework: Creativity and Mental Illness

Oooohhhh!

I was trying to think of a way to mesh a blog post about fireworks together with the topic of famous people living with mental illness. You see,  it’s Victoria Day here in Canada and many people celebrate by setting off fireworks during the long weekend.

So, how’s this for a connection? Apparently Russell Brand lives with bipolar disorder (formally called manic depression). Brand is married to Katy Perry who sings the extremely catchy tune, “Firework.”  A creative segue is now made.

Apparently, Robert Munsch (author), Linda Hamilton (actress) and Edvard Munch (painter) also have/had bipolar disorder or depression.There’s also a huge number of well-known people who are said to be affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, too. Here’s a short list: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Bill Cosby, Avril Lavigne, Magic Johnson, and Paris Hilton.

It makes sense of course: There’s a long standing connection between mental illness, intelligence and creativity.  Some say that one must suffer for one’s art.

What do you think? Do you think that all brilliant artists “suffer” from some form of mental illness? Do you feel that passion is born from pain?