Tag Archives: philosophy

When Vicious Behaviour Goes Viral

Towards the Light

Towards the Light

By now, most of the world has heard about Rehteah Parsons’ life and death.

Beautiful, young and said to show great compassion for both humans and animals, Rehteah was sexually assaulted at a party, photographed and then victimized all over again when the photo was posted and shared by who knows how many students.

Ironically, the cause of so much of Rehteah’s pain and torture (social media) is now one of the vehicles being used to express outrage and promote justice.

Just this morning I signed a petition on Change.org demanding an independent inquiry into the police investigation which declared that no crime had taken place regarding both the rape and distribution of graphic and revealing photos. There are also Facebook pages set up, tweets posted and emails being sent to Justice Minister Ross Landry.

Why does it take death and despair to invoke a change in our laws? How can we use social media in a way that’s innovative and useful without promoting hatred, bullying, stress and destruction? Obviously, the way we engage in and rely on social media must change. Now.

Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don’t…

Parent Trap

Parent Trap

As a freelance writer, I regularly receive articles, books, gadgets and expert opinions pertaining to parenting and health.

Usually I’m happy to discover new philosophies and content but, sometimes, it can be too much.

For instance, this Huffington Post article Anxiety in Children: Are We to Blame was shared by friends on Facebook yesterday.

The article is certainly valid, focused on the increase in “helicopter parenting” and our apparent inability to lay off kids and give them the independence they require. “…Seligman also identifies learning independence as a major source of growth. Kids need the opportunity to learn for themselves, the chance to make their own decisions and to see how the consequences work out.”

It’s a tough call. After hearing about an eight-year-old girl who was almost snatched on her way to school this week, parents have every right to be concerned about children’s safety.

Is it possible to encourage independence and learning while still maintaining a safe vigil? Where is that illusive line between hovering and respect, loving and awareness?

What’s your take?

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.

Reaching Out: Q + A with Kids Help Phone Volunteer

Suzanne Shillington - Volunteer with Kids Help Phone

I’ve long been a fan of the work done by Kids Help Phone (KHP) as have the  225,622 Canadian youth who contacted the organization in 2010.

Kids Help Phone’s is Canada’s only bilingual, 24-hour, toll-free, confidential and anonymous phone and online counselling, referral and information for children and youth.
Here’s a Q & A with Suzanne Shillington, an Ottawa-based parent who has also been a dedicated volunteer with KHP for the last 2.5 years.

Q: Why volunteer with this organization?

A: I had been wanting to volunteer but felt it had to be something that had meaning for me. I found my calling when the 15 year old nephew of friends’ of mine, committed suicide. In their despair, his parents came forward to talk about their son’s mental health and asked that if people were considering making donations in his name, that they consider donating to Kids Help Phone.  I went online to research and when I saw what they were about, I contacted them right away to offer my help.

Q: What do you do as a volunteer?

A: I do many things to help, including:

  • I am on the Walk For Kids Help Phone Walk Committee here in Ottawa.
  •  Find Corporate Sponsors for the walk. We were thrilled to secure the Ottawa Senators Foundation as a sponsor. I also look for support from local businesses who may be able to help by providing raffle prizes for the Walk.
  • Raise awareness, speak to my many contacts, help to think of creative ways to fund raise, and attend workshops where kids participate to spread the word about Kids Help Phone.

Q: What’s made the biggest impact on you and why do kids call or reach out most to KHP?

A: I think what really hits me is, that, according to KHP’s research, “100% of young people will experience sadness, frustration, grief, stress…”. The top 3 reasons that kids contact KHP are: Mental Health (about 30% of calls and online posts relate to mental health, including eating disorders, self-harm and self-esteem); Peer concerns are the second most common reason followed by family concerns.

Q: Is there any particular story that stands out?

A: One story that really sticks with me: We had a speaker at this year’s Walk who said that KHP saved his life. He said that if KHP had not been there for him when he was younger he would have committed suicide. A counsellor talked him out of committing suicide and provided him with the help he needed. The young man was very inspirational and motivating.

Currently, Kids Help Phone uses these tools and initiatives to reach and respond to children:

1. Phone counselling (including three-way call)

2. Ask Us Online (a tool for kids and parents, and the place to access tip sheets)

3. Info Booth (age-appropriate information on more than 50 topics)

4. Virtual support community created by kids viewing kids’ posts and counsellor response

5. Interactive tools

6. Community referral database of more than 37,000 local agencies in 2,750+ communities across Canada

7. IM/Chat professional counselling pilot (coming in Fall 2011)

Thank you, Suzie, for your time and generosity.

Novel Idea: How Books Spur Imagination

Got books?

This post doesn’t have a lot to do with kids or mental health except that I’m thrilled to be sharing my love of books, writing and reading with my children. I hope that they grow to cherish books and magazines and the art of the written word as much as I do.

So much can be gained from reading and thinking about books. Bored? Read the latest best seller or a long lost classic. Lonely? Off to the book store to fondle the gorgeous paper backs, hard covers and glossy magazines. Feeling blue? Write a short story about it.

I’m in two book clubs. Both of the clubs tend to focus on literary fiction. Today I participated in one book club’s meeting. The novel of choice was Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. I didn’t have an opportunity to finish the book but I can say it defies quirkiness and creativity. If you like word play and, um, tortoises, give it a read.

It’s my turn to chose the next selection for book club # 2. I’ve chosen The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Originally, I thought the book version stemmed from a long-standing blog but, I don’t see anything confirming this idea on Rubin’s web site. If you go to Rubin’s site, check out the Foreign Cover Gallery under About the Book – very cool.  I can’t wait to get my hands on The Happiness Project and, ideally, get happier as a result. Bring it.

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?

Judgement Day is Coming: Do You Judge Others?

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know Judgment Day was coming until a few days ago when I read about it in a colleague’s blog. I’m not Christian nor Conservative nor religious nor American. Does that negate my being judged? Time will tell I suppose.

Since we’re talking about judgment, I’ll throw this out there: do you judge others?

...lest the finger be pointed at you.

If so, are you aware that you’re doing it?

Today I was at an indoor play centre with my daughter and our friends. There were kids eating pizza and candy for lunch, kids whining and grabbing and throwing fits. And, yet, most of the children and adults there were perfectly nice, chatting and smiling. I’ll admit that I was slightly appalled at the father who let his kids eat store-bought pizza and chips and candy for lunch. However, they seemed like a sweet family; two happy, energetic sisters and their dad. Perhaps he just grabbed whatever was around before driving to the play centre.

The whining, crying, grabbing kids? Maybe they don’t get much attention at home; perhaps they missed their nap today; or maybe it was all too overwhelming and that was their way of acting out. I used to judge parents and kids a lot more (especially when *I* didn’t have my own children); it’s easy to do. What about you? Are you judgmental?

Guest Post: With a Little Help From Their Friends

I’m pleased to include a guest post by Eileen Kennedy-Moore. Eileen is an author, psychologist and speaker whom I’ve gotten to know through a professional writers’ forum. After some back and forth, Eileen and I decided to focus on  friendship and its impact on mental health. Here’s her take on the merits of friendship for children.

Children Thrive With A Little Help From Their Friends

When I was a child, my sister and I used to get together with the neighbour kids and create shows. There would be numerous and varied acts, multiple costume changes, and a shifting cast. We created tickets and offered refreshments for our parent audience members. Preparing the show involved inspiration, arguments, and the occasional tears, and the performance invariably had calamities like falling curtains and wandering toddlers, but somehow the show went on, and we all enjoyed the final bows.

For most adults, some of our fondest memories of childhood involve the times we spent playing with friends. In some sense, friendship is what childhood is all about. Friendships are not only a source of fun; they also help children grow in meaningful ways.

Here are some of the things that children can gain through friendships:

1) Identity: Friends help children begin to discover who they are outside the family. Friendships are based on common interests, so by selecting friends, children declare something about who they are: “My friends and I play baseball” or “We all like the new Harry Potter movie!” When children have a friend who likes them, it can also help them to see themselves as likeable.

2) Coping: A friend is an ally. Having a friend means it’s easier to cope with disappointments.A recent study also found that children who have at least one friend are less likely to become depressed.

3) Problem solving: Friendships give children lots of opportunities to work out disagreements. This gives kids a chance to practice skills of persuasion, negotiation, compromise, acceptance, and forgiveness.

4) Empathy: Probably the most important benefit of friendship is that it encourages children to move beyond self-interest. Caring about a friend, or even just wanting to play with that friend can help children reign in selfish impulses and encourage caring responses.

Friendships are fun and painful, exciting and frustrating, challenging, enjoyable, and unpredictable—kind of like life. Whether children are putting on a show, negotiating where base is during a game of tag, or deciding which video game to play together, they are developing the skills they will use through out their lives.

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD is a Princeton, NJ psychologist (lic. #4254) who works with adults, children, and families. She is co-author of two books for parents: Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential (NEW! Jossey-Bass/Wiley) and The Unwritten Rules of Friendships: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends (Little, Brown).

She is also the author of a children’s book, What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents’ Attention Without Hitting Your Sister (Parenting Press). Her website is http://www.EileenKennedyMoore.com

Tweet Much? Who to Follow in Mental Health Field

Tweet, Tweet

Are you on Twitter? I am @UGoGrrl. You can follow me if you like. At first I took the same tack as so many others: “Why on earth would I want to ‘tweet’ in 140 characters with a bunch of strangers?”  Recently though, I learned (just like the 200 million others with Twitter accounts) that tweeting is a fun, useful social media tool that is easily incorporated into both business and social life.

Here’s a list of some of the people and organizations I follow on Twitter; they tweet about children, mental health, psychology or all of the above:

@MadPsych

PhD Candidate at York University; Therapist at The Clinic on Dupont; Guest tweeting for Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services

@HelpMeSara

Author – Am I a Normal Parent? & Character is the Key Individual, couple & Family therapist (registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario)

@TrishRohani

Marriage and Family Therapist, wife, mother, purveyor of hope, dispeler of shame, creative soul

@CherylJackson

Host/producer of tvoparents.com, TVO’s educational parenting website.

@CAMH Media

Official CAMH twitter acct. Media rep for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

There are many, many more fantastic experts, laypeople and organizations to follow on Twitter. And, you can check out my quick guide to MH experts online here, too. In fact, I’ve gained much knowledge and more than a few contacts since becoming active on this tool. Are you on Twitter? Who do you follow in the parenting or mental health field? If you’re got suggestions, let me know – you can comment here or send me a DM on Twitter!