Please check out the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
Aboriginal Healing, Sharing Culture
The Center for Mind-Body Medicine's professional trainings focus on practical techniques for self-care and mutual support. Learn the science and skills of meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and self-expression in words, drawings, and movement in classroom sessions and supportive, small group experiences.
Please check out the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
Some of you will know that I feel strongly about the focus on biology in much of the psychiatry and mental health care systems. Emotional and mental distress are not diseases and drugs do more harm than good. Here is an important book and a series of interviews.
'This blog post introduces a hundred-day series of interviews on Psychology Today with folks from around the world committed to non-traditional ways of helping individuals suffering from emotional and mental distress.
Human beings can be helped in all sorts of ways: with better schools, cleaner water, less tyranny, more peace, and fairer institutions. Movements of the last hundred years have given names to these different aspirations for betterment: the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, clean air and clean water initiatives, and so on. Now another sort of “helping” is desperately needed.
We need a mental health movement that takes as its central tasks the following three:
1) Exposing the current, dominant paradigm that claims that human experiences of distress are “mental disorders” that are best treated with chemicals and talk
2) Providing alternatives to this paradigm and painting a broader, richer picture of what can help individuals in emotional and mental distress
3) Creating facilities, organizations, institutions, helpers and a worldwide mindset that support an updated vision of mental health care as human work and not pseudo-medical work.
There is no single slogan to hang from the rafters or rallying cry to shout out that captures the essence of this much-needed movement. But the following may come the closest: suffering isn’t a medical condition. It would be pretty to think that there can be pills to treat life.
Indeed, our everyday wishful thinking does a beautiful job of propping up the drug companies’ campaigns that try to sell us on the notion that everything unwanted, from anxiety ruining your erection to your boss stealing away another one of your weekends, has a chemical answer. But these challenges aren’t medical conditions; suffering and distress aren’t medical conditions.
Not so long ago women who disobeyed their husbands were diagnosed as hysterical. Slaves who wished to be free were diagnosed as oppositional. Men who loved men and women who loved women were diagnosed as deviant and certifiable.
The future of mental health movement I have in mind is as much about freedom as are the women’s movement, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement: namely, the freedom not to be labeled and drugged just because you are experiencing distress. Much better that you are genuinely helped than that you are labeled and drugged!
What are the answers? We would love some short answers that are the equivalent of pills. Unfortunately, there are only long answers and, too often, no answers.
If we could rally around some simple, powerful idea like “treat women fairly” we could gain tremendous momentum and make real strides in providing human beings with better answers and better care when they are suicidal, despairing, anxious, addicted, or down some other rabbit hole. But the answers are not simple, for all of the following reasons:
Nevertheless we do have some powerful ideas to champion and some slogans to shout out: ideas and slogans like “Stop labeling!” and “Stop all those chemicals!” and “Stop making childhood a mental disorder!” But an awful lot of education, effort and paradigm-shifting look to be required to help bring people from where they are, convinced that “mental disorders” exist and that “medication” treats them, to the very different vision that these slogans herald.
How do we get from here to there? One way, having to do with creating a new helping professional of the future, shifting the focus and practice of current mental health professionals, and paying more attention to the communities of care and other institutions that already exist, is outlined in my new book The Future of Mental Health: Deconstructing the Mental Disorder Paradigm.
A second way is by providing as much simple-to-access, simple-to-understand information about “alternatives to the current paradigm” as is possible to provide. That is where this series comes in.
In this series I introduce you to people whose work you are likely never to have heard of. How much do you currently know about the Danish Hearing Voices Network? The Finnish Open Dialogue Method? The Australian Rogue & Rouge Foundation? Gould Farm, Rose Hill Center, or Skyland Trail? The free offerings of the British Psychological Society? Social therapy, humanistic psychiatry, or transformational coaching? I am guessing: nothing or next to nothing. You’ll hear about these and much more over the next one hundred plus days. These resources constitute a mosaic of great power and depth.
Georges Simenon, the Belgian novelist who wrote the Inspector Maigret mystery series and five hundred novels altogether, penned very short novels. When asked when he would finally write his “big” novel, Simenon explained that his “big” novel was the mosaic of his small novels. His “big” novel already existed: you just had to accept its form.
We are in a similar position today when it comes to changing the landscape of mental health services’ provision. The interviews in this series are each short but together they amount to a big picture. I hope you’ll enjoy them, share them with your friends, and be provoked to learn more - and maybe even join the future of mental health movement.
To learn more about The Future of Mental Health: Deconstructing the Mental Health Paradigm:
The Future of Mental Health: Deconstructing the Mental Disorder Paradigm - a book by Eric Maisel
To see the roster of 100+ interview guests CLICK HERE
http://ericmaisel.com/interview-series/(link is external)
To visit the Future of Mental Health website, which is home to a reading list of more than one hundred books in the areas of critical psychology, critical psychiatry and anti-psychiatry CLICK HERE
To subscribe to my weekly newsletter, which will keep you up-to-date on the interview series and provide you with live links to the week’s interviews:
http://ericmaisel.com/newsletter/(link is external)
If you have an RSS reader installed on your computer and would like to follow the series using RSS:
And to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail)
Please enjoy the series, which begins on Monday, January 18, 2016. And please do let others know about it!'
I found this interesting blog on Films for Action this morning.
'Dear self. Your secret, lonely knowledge is true. Despite all you have been told, the world that has been offered to you as normal is anything but normal. It is a pale semblance of the intimacy, connection, authenticity, community, joy and grief that lie just beneath the surface of society’s habits and routines.
Dear self: You have a magnificent contribution to make to the more beautiful world your heart knows is possible. It may not make you famous, but you have an important gift, an indispensable gift, and it demands you to apply it to something you care about. Unless you do, you will feel like you aren’t really living your life. You will live the life someone pays you to live, caring about things you are paid to care about. You can make a different choice.
Dear self: Do not believe the cynical voice, masquerading as the realistic voice, that says that nothing much can change. That voice will call your dreams by many names: naïve, unrealistic, immature, and irresponsible. Trust your knowledge that the world can be different, can be better. You needn’t sell out and live a life complicit in maintaining the status quo.
Dear self: You carry a deep yearning to contribute to the healing of the world and fulfillment of its possibilities. This is your deepest desire, and if you abandon it you will feel like a ghost inhabiting the mere shell of a life. Instead, trust that desire and follow it toward whatever service it calls you to, however small and insignificant it might seem.
Dear self: The most reliable guide to choice is to follow whatever makes you feel happy and excited to get out of bed in the morning. Life is not supposed to be a grim slog of discipline and sacrifice. You practiced for such a life in school, tearing yourself out of bed for days of tedium, bribed with trivial rewards called grades, intimidated by artificial consequences, proceeding through a curriculum designed by faraway authorities, asking permission to use the toilet. It is time to undo those habits. Let your compass instead be joy, love, and whatever makes you feel alive.
Dear self: When you follow your passion and come fully alive, your choices will feel threatening to anyone who abides in the dominant story of normal. You will be reminding them of the path they didn’t follow, and awaken in them the suppressed yearning to devote their gifts to something beautiful. Rather than face that grief, they may suppress it – and suppress you as well.
Dear self: At a certain moment it will become necessary for you to go on a journey. It isn’t to escape forever. It is to find yourself outside of whomever your conditioning trained you to be. You must put yourself in a situation where you don’t know who you are anymore. This is called an initiation. Who you were becomes inoperative; then, who you will be can emerge.
Dear self: Powerful forces will attempt to make you conform to society’s normality. These will take the form of social pressure, parental pressure, and very likely, economic pressure. When you encounter them, please understand that they are giving you the opportunity to define yourself. When push comes to shove, who are you?
Dear self: The old maps do not apply in these times of transition. Even if you try to follow them, even if you accept their bribes and heed their threats, there is no guarantee you’ll reap the promised rewards. The university graduates washing dishes and the Ph.D.’s driving taxis attest to this. We are entering new territory. Trust your guidance. It is OK to make mistakes, because in uncharted territory, even the wrong path is part of finding the right path.
Dear self: On this path, you are sure to get lost. But you are held, watched, and guided by a vast organic intelligence. It will become visible when things fall apart – as surely they must, in the transition between worlds. You will stumble, only to find overlooked treasure beneath your feet. You’ll despair of finding the answer – and then the answer will find you. Breakdown clears the space for synchronicity, for help unimagined and unearned.
Dear self: None of this advice can be sustainably implemented by a heroic effort on your part. You need help. Seek out other people who reinforce your perception that a more beautiful world is possible, and that life’s first priority is not security, but rather to give of your gifts, to play, to love and be loved, to learn, to explore. When those people (your tribe) are in crisis, you can hold them in the knowing of what you know. And they can do the same for you. No one can do this alone.'
This is an initiative in which Sharing Culture Advisor Matt Erb and his wife Noshene Ranjbar participated. This article appeared in the Lakota Times.
'A diverse group of volunteer medical professionals converged on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation last week to offer alternative mind-body medicine techniques to help the Oglala Lakota Oyate.
Hosted by Allie Bad Heart Bull of Pine Ridge School and cultural advisor Basil Brave Heart, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine held a four-day training at Prairie Winds Casino Hotel on October 1st-4th, 2015.
The Center for Mind- Body Medicine bills itself as “…the world’s largest, most effective, and culturally adaptable program for healing populationwide psychological trauma.”
The CMBM model directly addresses the causes and symptoms of psychological trauma, stress, depression, and burnout. Adaptable in any culture, the model begins by teaching grass roots based educators, community leaders and clinicians to use the technique of mind-body medicine (meditation, guided imagery, yoga and exercise, biofeedback); self-expression in words, drawings, and movement; and small group support to deal with their own stress and trauma. After that, the participants are taught to use the CMBM model in their communities.
For the Pine Ridge session, the focus was on learning techniques to combat “historical trauma” and “generational oppression”. We often recycle grief and trauma from our older relatives and the cycle of sadness continues for generations, without even realizing why. These traumas and their by-products have led to multiple suicides over the last six months on Pine Ridge.
Blackfeet Tribal Elder Linda Eagle Speaker, who traveled to Pine Ridge as an advanced trainer, uses the CMBM’s model to help Native women and girls who are victims of sexual trafficking in the Twin Cities.
“When we learned about mind-body medicine, we realized it was the missing piece of our trauma programs. Now we use the techniques and model as we work on selfidentity: reconnecting to our customs, knowledge, people and tribe,” stated Eagle Speaker.
Another component of the model is “Food is Medicine”. This was a particularly popular topic, given the extremely high rates of diseases/disorders throughout Indian Country. In the presentation, Dr. Kathy Farah, a board certified family physician at the Mayo Clinic in Wisconsin, shared the cause and effect of unhealthy food choices.
Dr. Farah, a volunteer to this training, integrates CMBM’s holistic and integrative health techniques into her medical practice. Having spent time on Pine Ridge for previous trainings, Dr. Farah referenced the “food desert” that we live in, meaning the lack of fresh produce in remote areas, and shared strategies of how to eat healthy and improve nutrition to curb diabetes and heart-related diseases.
One participant noted that, as a diabetic, she has a “need” to have a candy bar every night. On the fourth day of the program she was pleased to report that she hadn’t had a candy bar during the entire training. The meditation and breathing techniques curbed her cravings.
There were a few high school students that were in attendance for theentire training. Bad Heart Bull recognized them as student leaders who will be able to take what they learned at the training back to their peers and families.
Oglala Lakota elder Carol Iron Rope-Herrara, a long-time advocate for children, conducted a ceremony for two young female participants at the conclusion of the conference. They were honored with eagle plumes, painted with wase’ and brought into the circle as young women. It was a fitting way to conclude the gathering.
Founder and Executive Director, Dr. James Gordon, noted that his staff have worked with key reservation based organizations such as Sweet Grass Suicide Prevention Program, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, Oceti Wakan, Pine Ridge Hospital, Pine Ridge Elementary and High School, and Indian Health Services since 2009.
Dr. Gordon informed all participants that his staff wants to keep the momentum going and will continue to work closely with them to ensure that they will have the necessary training to share this model with all community members.'
The third of my classic blogs from this year, one focused on the ways that can facilitate the healing of Indigenous healing. I wrote this article on 11th August. I believe In the past week, I've been reflecting on what Sharing Culture can do to facilitate healing amongst Indigenous peoples. Here is an article I have written:
'Sharing Culture aims to help Indigenous peoples heal from historical and contemporary trauma and its consequences, e.g. mental health problems, addiction. It is based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness. We recognise that healing must occur at an individual, family, community and societal level.
We are developing educational resources relevant to lived experience that (1) empower Indigenous peoples to heal, and (2) help society create environments in which healing can flourish. Our approach is based on principles that facilitate healing:
1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Sharing Culture emphasises that 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.
Their wellbeing is tied to their collective rights, such as rights to land and cultural practices, and maintenance and application of traditional knowledge. Self-determination is the key foundation of Indigenous healing.
2. Help people understand the nature of the problem
Society must understand how Indigenous peoples’ problems have arisen if it is to facilitate healing.
Sharing Culture shows how historical trauma and its consequences, arising from the process of colonisation, have impacted negatively on Indigenous peoples’ health and wellbeing. This historical trauma is exacerbated by ongoing social and economic disadvantage, racism and paternalism, and the failure of government healthcare systems to address trauma directly.
Learning history from an Indigenous perspective - and about the impact of historical trauma and its consequences - helps Indigenous people understand why they have problems. It 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.
3. Focus on solutions, strengths, positive narratives and celebrating success
Whilst Sharing Culture highlights the nature of the problems, it focuses on finding solutions. We also focus on the strengths and assets of Indigenous peoples, rather than their weaknesses and deficits (as much of society does today).
We create positive narratives about Indigenous peoples and their culture, in order to counter the disempowering negative narratives and paternalistic actions of governments and wider society. We celebrate the successes of Indigenous peoples in order to facilitate healing.
4. Healing trauma
Sharing Culture emphasises the necessity of healing trauma and its consequences directly, rather than managing its symptoms by medication, as is generally the case today. Medication does not heal trauma - it generally causes more health issues and disempowers Indigenous people further.
Sharing Culture shows that society has the knowledge - from both Indigenous and western cultures - to help people heal from trauma and its consequences. We show what trauma does at a biological, psychological and social level, and demonstrate how these changes can be reversed.
5. Empowerment and connection
Sharing Culture is creating a powerful voice of healing (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) that empowers and connects people. Empowerment and connection are the foundation of healing from trauma and its consequences.
We empower people to heal by giving them hope (that healing is possible), understanding (of how healing can be achieved) and a sense of belonging.
We aim to connect people to safe and empathic environments, where they feel accepted and supported, learn how to improve their health and wellbeing, and gain a positive identity. We also connect Indigenous peoples to their culture, land, spirituality, family, community and history, as this is key to healing.
6. Tell Healing Stories
Many Indigenous people have healed from trauma and its consequences, showing the necessary coping mechanisms, skills and knowledge, to rise above adversity. Their personal narratives are of considerable value, since they inspire other people and help them understand how they too can overcome their problems.
People in the early stages of healing identify with and trust the experiences of someone who is further along in their journey. Who better to help us than someone who has ‘been there’?
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. During this process, Indigenous people can work through multiple levels of loss and grief.
8. Facilitate self-healing and self-care
Healing comes from the person, not from treatment or a professional. Indigenous peoples must develop self-awareness, self-regulation, self-expression and self-care skills to facilitate their journey to wellness.
The Sharing Culture education resources will facilitate these processes and help people deal with shame and negative thinking; learn about mindfulness, self-compassion and forgiveness; and develop resilience. It will help our audience understand the nature of society’s treatment and support systems, and how they can navigate their way around these systems.
9. Highlight Indigenous worldview and Indigenous Healing initiatives
Sharing Culture highlights the holistic view of Indigenous health that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social and environmental. The Indigenous worldview of wellbeing is far richer than western culture’s view of mental health.
We also highlight successful Indigenous healing initiatives so that the approaches they use are more widely adopted. We help people understand traditional healing approaches, Indigenous spirituality, and the importance of connections to culture and land.
10. Create cultural pride and cultural connectedness
Sharing Culture aims to create cultural pride in order to facilitate cultural connectedness, which in turn enhances wellbeing and facilitates healing. We do this by celebrating Indigenous art, music, ceremony, dance, theatre, history, land, food, language, stories and spirituality.
We show how Indigenous peoples are far more protective of their environment and planet than are non-Indigenous peoples. We not only facilitate cultural connectedness, but also enhance understanding of Indigenous culture in wider society.
11. Whole community healing
Sharing Culture advocates the Native American “Healing Forest” approach, which emphasises the importance of actively healing the whole community and its institutions at the same time that individuals work on their own healing. What is the point of someone learning to overcome their problem in a treatment centre, only to return to the same ‘sick’ environment in which their problem developed?
Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples must work together to create safe healing environments for all. We intend to enhance understanding of Indigenous healing across wider society, including in education, health, social care and criminal justice settings, and create advocacy campaigns to catalyse grassroots activity and create change at a government level.
12. Create networks of hope and healing - and create historical (or intergenerational) healing
By spreading healing messages in innovative ways and harnessing the considerable latent energy that exists at grassroots levels, Sharing Culturewill create a ripple effect of hope and healing. Eventually, healing will become contagious, as has happened with other social movements.
Our content will be pass on to our audience’s children and grandchildren. Trauma has crossed generations - healing can do the same.
Here's an interview with a very special man, and a close friend of mine, Wynford Ellis Owen.
Some of you will know Wynford from his outstanding addiction recovery work, others will recognise him as one of the Sharing Culture Advisors. He lives in my old haunt of Wales. The article appeared in alt.Cardiff. I'm looking forward to seeing Wynford and his lovely wife Meira just after Christmas.
'It’s a gloomy Thursday outside The Living Room, Cardiff. A pamphlet on the coffee-table illustrates the details of their Reaching Out workshop, due to run this December. It trains people to become recovery coaches for addicts - a role Wynford Ellis Owen, the head of The Living Room, has played for years now.
When the 67 year old walks into the room, you know exactly why he’s had such a high success rate with it. It’s because of his ability to inundate a room with warmth. Perhaps you can attribute his charisma to his time as an actor, but the warmth - it’s the sort that only comes from having walked through the fire.
Wynford was born a minister’s son in Denbighshire. As a child, he constantly whistled - something he believes you can’t do unless you’re truly happy. But after years of being cast as a curate to his father and feeling pressured by the expectations of others, little Wynford stopped whistling.
At 11, he found solace in his mother’s barbiturates. From then on, he scavenged for the next fix, befriending senior citizens to swipe tranquilisers, sleeping pills - anything that would alleviate his burden.
“For much of my early life, my parents, the education system, society imposed their values on me and it led to a spiritual bankruptcy. I didn’t know who I was,” he admits. At 18, Wynford found alcohol and spent many more years stumbling punch-drunk through the dimly-lit underpasses of his psyche.
So how did he emerge from the darkness? It happened in 1992, while he was working in television. “I’d run away to the only producer who would still give me work,” he says. “I was drunk when I arrived and he said to me, ‘When are you going to do something about your drinking?'” That was all it took.
Owen drove down to the only treatment centre in Wales, stopping at every off-license on the way. His moment of clarity came outside one, bottle of beast in hand, bleeding and drunk. “I saw myself as I was and it brought me to my knees. There was a voice in my head, screaming ‘Everything is over, everything is going to be alright’. That voice is still in my head now and the more I listen to it, the better life becomes,” he says.
It’s hard to attribute the horrors of addiction to the man in this moment; someone whose virtues and victories far outshine this inherent vice. Today, the former dramatist is a proud husband, father and grandfather, recipient of last year’s Citizen’s Voice Award and the chief executive of the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
He’s also penned three books. But he speaks most prolifically of his lovechild The Living Room. The free peer-based recovery centre opened in 2011 despite much opposition and has helped hundreds of addicts since.
Love is all you need
Owen sees his transition from entertainment to service as integral to his own recovery; he needed to become a giver rather than a taker. What’s the secret to its success? ”Many people believe they have to be good to be loved, but you don’t at The Living Room - you are loved here unconditionally,” he says.
It might be hard to relate to the junkie in the street, but according to Owen, addiction stems from the overarching desire to be loved - something we all crave alike - and receiving it is the cornerstone of recovery.
His journey is the stuff superhero stories are made of: of a man overcoming his suffering to alleviate the suffering of others. So what has he learned from the human experience after 67 long years? “That I am loved,” he asserts unwaveringly.
Watch Owen talk about the idea and philosophy behind The Living Room:'
'Here’s how we can stop putting Aboriginal people with disabilities in prison' by Elizabeth McEntyre, Elleen Baldry and Ruth McCausland
Here's an excellent article in The Conversation from a group carrying out important research on Indigenous- related issues.
'Our research shows how Australia imprisons thousands of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities each year because of a lack of understanding, and a dearth of community-based services and support.
It also shows what can be done about this shameful breach of human rights.
We have data on hundreds of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities that tells the story of their early and regular contact with police, courts and custody. And Aboriginal researchers in our team have spoken with Aboriginal people with disabilities, their families, communities and service providers in New South Wales and the Northern Territory so we can better understand their experiences.
What will make a differenceBased on that research, we are recommending these principles and strategies to underpin policy reform:
Self-determination is key to improving the human rights and well-being of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities. This means an ongoing process of choice on matters affecting them, their families and communities.
Community-led knowledge, solutions and services to respond to the over-representation of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities in prison should be properly supported and resourced. And we must ensure the input of Aboriginal women on their needs and aspirations given their particular disadvantage and vulnerability in the criminal justice system. We also need better services for Aboriginal people in regional and remote areas.
Education and cultural competency for non-Aboriginal organisations and people working in this area is crucial.
2: Person-centred support
Person-centred support that puts Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities at the centre of their care and that’s appropriate to their culture and context is essential. People should be supported to make decisions about their own needs and recovery.
Disability services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) need an overt strategy to support Aboriginal people with disabilities in the criminal justice system. This initiative should also cover the needs of people with borderline intellectual disability and fetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD), who may not be recognised as having a disability but who often need targeted support so they don’t end up in prison.
Specialised housing, services and treatment options should be available in the community to prevent incarceration and improve well-being.
3. A holistic and flexible approach
A determined holistic and flexible approach to services for Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities is needed from a young age to avoid contact with the criminal justice system. Early recognition by maternal and infant health services, early childhood and school education, community health services and police is important.
Governments should provide positive and preventive support that allows Aboriginal children and young people with disability to develop and flourish. We need supported housing and case management options for people with cognitive impairment to help keen them out of the the criminal justice system. The NSW Community Justice Program is a good example. It provides specialised intensive 24-hour supported accommodation to drop in support for people with an intellectual disability who have been in the criminal justice system.
4. Integrated services
Government and non-government services need to work in a more integrated way to improve referral, information sharing and case management, and to better support Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities.
Justice, Corrections and Human Services departments and non-government services should take a collaborative approach to program pathways for Aboriginal people with disabilities who need support across their sectors. All prisoners with a cognitive impairment should be referred to the public advocate of the state or territory they are in.
Better practice and preventionIt’s vital that Aboriginal understandings of “disability” and “impairment” underpin support for Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities in the criminal justice system. The particular experiences and perspectives of Aboriginal women should be central.
Better education and information on Aboriginal people with disabilities is needed for police, teachers, education support workers, lawyers, magistrates, health, corrections, disability and community service providers to help them understand and work with Aboriginal people with cognitive impairment, mental health disorders and complex support needs.
More resources are also needed for Aboriginal communities, families and carers so they can better support people with mental and cognitive disabilities.
Our data tracks the pathways of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities into early contact with police, courts and custody largely due to a lack of appropriate health, education, disability and community services. We heard about the racism and stigma faced by Aboriginal people with disabilities that drives the cycle of over-policing, under-servicing and incarceration.
This predictable path is preventable. Early intervention and diversion into holistic, therapeutic, culturally responsive, local community-based services are essential. These will enable Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities to live with dignity and support in their communities.
This is the fifth in a series of articles by this research team. Click here to read more on the Indigenous Australians with Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Disability in the Criminal Justice System (IAMHDCD) Project.'
Various pieces of information about the research project can be found here.
Here are links to the four other articles in The Conversation:
> Why Aboriginal people with disabilities crowd Australia’s prisons
> Aboriginal people with disabilities get caught in a spiral of over-policing
> How Aboriginal women with disabilities are set on a path into the criminal justice system
> Supporting, not imprisoning, Aboriginal people with disabilities could save millions
And now for something completely different, found on the Upworthy website.
"One of the most groundbreaking, critically acclaimed, and delightful video games of 2014 began in a highly unlikely place - Anchorage, Alaska.
It's called "Never Alone" (or "Kisima Ingitchuna"). And it wasn't developed by Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, or any of the other big game studios.
It was the brainchild of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) - a nonprofit community support organization for Alaska Natives and their families.
Many Alaska Native communities are struggling to hold on to their identities in the 21st century. As more and more Alaska Natives move out of traditional communities and into urban areas, indigenous languages are disappearing - and with them, traditional knowledge. Many don't have a choice because climate change threatens to erode and, in some cases, even destroy native towns and villages around the state.
For many, life in Alaska's cities is hardly easy. According to Amy Fredeen, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the CITC, Alaska Native youth in Anchorage are plagued by high dropout and suicide rates. Passing traditional knowledge down under these conditions becomes all the more challenging.
The council saw "Never Alone" as both a way of becoming more financially self-sufficient and a necessary new method of transferring cultural knowledge from one generation to the next. "We saw video games as a way to connect to our youth in a place where they're already at," Fredeen told Upworthy. The group also hoped that sales of the video game would help reduce their dependence on federal grant money.
There was a problem, however: No one on the CITC had ever made a video game before.
Undaunted, the council cold-called E-Line Media, a Seattle-based entertainment and video game development company with a message: "Come to Anchorage."
"What was funny is they actually came up and tried to talk us out of it."
According to Fredeen, E-Line urged the council to approach the project with caution: Video game development is a highly risky business and particularly challenging for a nonprofit with limited cash supplies.
But the group was determined - and the developers were impressed.
E-Line signed on. And off they went.
The team started by analyzing how indigenous characters were typically portrayed in video games. What they found was upsetting - and unsurprising. "It ran the gamut from being terrible stereotypes to just appropriation," Fredeen said.
The group found that not only were native video game characters exceedingly rare, but when they did appear, it was often as sidekicks exhibiting a mishmash of cultural signifiers cobbled together from various and unrelated communities or, worse, as one-dimensional villains.
"Some of them were really almost obscene," Fredeen said.
In contrast, "Never Alone" features an Alaska Native main character and is based largely on a traditional Iñupiaq story.
E-Line chief creative officer Sean Vesce teaches Minnie Gray, an Alaska Native elder, storyteller, and consultant on the game, how to play.
Nuna, the game's hero, teams up with an arctic fox to find the source of the blizzard that's threatening her community. Players explore themes of resourcefulness, cooperation, and the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next through the beautifully rendered gameplay.
"When I saw that come to life on screen, when they were using the scrimshaw in an animated way to tell a story, it brought tears to my eyes." Amy Fredeen
E-Line credits the game's part-Iñupiaq lead writer, Ishmael Hope, for helping ensure that Alaska Native voices were front and center in the development process.
“We want to be culturally appropriate without cultural appropriation," Matt Swanson, one of the game's producers told Upworthy.
That meant checking their egos at the door and questioning some assumptions they didn't even realize they had. According to Swanson, the original villain of the game was slated to be a raven before their collaborators pointed out that wouldn't make sense in an Alaska Native context.
"As Westerners, we have lots of stories where [the raven] is a trickster character, and things like that. And they pushed back on that and said, 'Look, that's not really culturally appropriate. The raven in our culture is a much more sort of sacred character.'"
It was a surprise to the E-Line team, which highlighted the importance of listening and their role as students in the story development process.
In addition to the main game, "Never Alone" features hours of documentary footage of Alaska Native elders and community members sharing traditional stories, explaining customs, and passing down knowledge.
The team was initially worried that the footage - which the player has the option of watching - would disrupt the gameplay but later received tons of positive feedback on the feature.
For Fredeen, the moment she knew "Never Alone" was going to be something special was when she saw the first cutscene - rendered entirely in serialized scrimshaw.
Scrimshaw is a traditional form of bone or ivory carving. According to Fredeen, while scrimshaw today is most often done in single panel, it was traditionally used in Alaska Native communities as a multi-panel, serial storytelling device.
"When I saw that come to life on screen, when they were using the scrimshaw in an animated way to tell a story, it brought tears to my eyes," Fredeen said. "The instant I saw that, I knew the team was listening to who we were as a people and how we really connected with each other."
The game debuted to terrific reviews and has since won some very big awards.
Its effects are being felt far beyond Alaska's borders as well."After the game launched, we've been getting this incredible response from people of all different backgrounds on how getting to see an indigenous main character in a game, and seeing cultural representation in a game has resonated with them," Swanson said.
For Fredeen, the importance of that representation can't be overstated and was evident from the first time she saw a group of Alaska Native youth encounter the game.
"When they saw the video game on the screen, and when they saw a character that looked like them and the dress was familiar to them, and they saw their community members on the video with the video game, you could just see the pride on their faces."
The game is expected to make money - a big deal in the video game world - and the team continues to be impressed with its success. “It's been amazing all around," Fredeen said.
"People just get excited in Alaska," she added. "... They're excited to see something that was made with Alaskans."
This blog from one of my favourite bloggers is well worth thinking about. Upon reading this, I think you'll see that there is much we need to learn from Indigenous cultures.
“Depression is not just a private, psychological matter. It is, in fact, a social problem… The fact that depression seems to be “in the air” right now can be both the cause and result of a level of a societal malaise that so many feel.” Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
In a recent Ted Talk, Depression is a Disease of Civilization, Professor Stephen Ilardi advances the thesis that depression is a disease of our modern lifestyle. As an example, Ilardi compares our modern culture to the Kaluli people - an indigenous tribe that lives in the highlands of New Guinea.
When an anthopologist interviewed over 2,000 Kaluli, he found that only one person exhibited the symptoms of clinical depression, despite the fact the Kaluli are plagued by high rates of infant mortality, parasitic infection, and violent death. Yet, despite their harsh lives, the Kaluli do not experience depression as we know it.
Ilardi believes this is due to the fact that the human genome of the Kaluli (as well as all humans) is well adapated to the agrarian, hunter gatherer lifestyle which shaped 99% of people who came before us.
Then two hundred years ago, we saw the advent of the modern western-industrialized culture which created a “radical, environmental mutation” that has led a mismatch between our genes/brains/bodies and modern culture. As Ilardi concludes, “We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, socially isolated, fast-food laden, sleep-deprived, frenzied pace of modern life.”
Evidence to support this idea comes from a study of 9,500 adults which found that people born near the end of the 20th century were three times more likely to develop depression than those born earlier. A person born in the 1930s was likely to have his or her first depressive episode between the ages of thirty and thirty five.
If you were born in 1956, your initial episode occurred between twenty and twenty-five. This phenomenon - the early onset of depression and the greater prevalence of depression in young people - is reflected in a three hundred percent increase in the youth suicide rate in one generation.
When changes of this magnitude occur within a fifty-year period, social forces are clearly at work. Myrna Weissman, epidemiologist of Columbia University, blames such societal factors as an increase in stress, fewer family and community ties, and even nutritional deficiencies. Buddhist psychologist John Wellwood, whom I quote at length, provides his own compelling analysis of depression in our time:
Our materialistic culture helps foster depression. Not only do we lack a living wisdom tradition to guide modern society, but we find it more and more difficult to achieve even the ordinary worldly satisfaction of adult life: finding rewarding work, maintaining an intimate long-term relationship, or imparting a meaningful heritage to our children.
Our sense of personal dignity and worth is quite fragile in a society where stable families, close-knit communities, commonly held values, and connection with the earth are increasingly rare. In a society such as ours where the motivating ideal is to “make it” through social status and monetary success, depression is inevitable when people fail to find the imagined pot of gold at rainbow’s end.
Furthermore, many in the psychiatric profession seem determined to view depression as an isolated symptom that can be excised from the psyche with the help of modern technology. The fact that drugs have become the treatment of choice indicates that we as a society do not want to directly face the existential meaning of this pathology.
If we believe that depression is primarily physiological and treatable by drugs, we will not confront the ways in which we create it, both as individuals and as a culture. The view that depression is an alien force that descends on the psyche actually interferes with genuine possibilities for healing.
The theme of disconnection lies at the heart of the societal imbalance described by Wellwood. People who are depressed describe themselves as disconnected - from their bodies, their emotions, their spirits i.e., from their core selves. The roots of this disconnection are to be found not only within the individual, but within society and its institutions. Here are just a few examples of how the values and lifestyles of Western culture promote and foster disconnection.
We Are Disconnected From Our Feelings
In our intellectual culture, feelings are devalued and considered a sign of weakness. Family therapist John Bradshaw describes the “no-talk, no feel” that is prevalent in family systems. Children are raised to suppress their feelings, especially those of anger and sadness. But when we are conditioned to lose touch with our so-called “negative” feelings, so too do we lose touch with our joy.
We Are Disconnected From One Another
Mother Teresa called America “the loneliest place in the world.” This loneliness is created by many factors: the dissolution of extended families (the number of Americans living in extended families has gone from 80 percent in 1945 to three percent in 1990), the breakdown of traditional communities, and our hurried way of life.
Instead of true community, we now have pseudo-communities like malls (where children frequently hang out) and the Internet. While people on the Internet may sometimes experience community, sitting in front of a computer terminal for long periods, like watching television, can be isolating. Thus, one study found that the more time a person spends on-line, the more likely he or she is to experience symptoms of depression.
We Are Disconnected From Time
In her seminal book, The Overworked American, Harvard psychologist Juliette Schor documents that the average American works an extra 163 hours a year (or the equivalent of an extra month) compared to thirty years ago.
As a result of the decline of leisure, we have less time to devote to our families and to our children. Child neglect has become endemic to our society. Children are increasingly left alone to fend for themselves while their parents work. Even when the parents are at home, overwork may leave them with little time or energy for their kids.
We Are Disconnected From Our Sense of Morality
In 1991 and 1992, the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics conducted a survey of the ethical behavior of 8,965 young adults. They found that six in ten high school students and one in three college students admitted to cheating on exams in the previous year. Moreover, one in three high school students took something from a store without paying.
(An extreme example of this behavior recently occurred in my neighborhood; the student-body president of the high school where I tutor was sentenced to 12 years in prison for committing 19 armed robberies. According to his friends, he did it to gain “thrills and excitement.”)
The authors of the study concluded that such a precipitous decline in ethics has been caused by two factors – a pervasive cynicism about the need for ethical conduct in order to succeed, and the failure of parents, schools and businesses to consistently impose natural consequences for unethical behavior.
Moral and ethical values are usually imparted to children in their families. When parents abdicate responsibility for raising children, their children are more likely to be influenced by the pernicious violence and nihilism that infects much of the entertainment industry – i.e., video games, music, and TV.
We Are Disconnected From Curiosity and a Sense of Wonder
Anyone who has spent a day with a five-year-old child knows that children possess an innate love of learning. Somehow, between kindergarten and the sixth grade, this natural curiosity gets stamped out.
In his acclaimed book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, award-winning teacher John Taylor Gatto asserts that public schools (which he calls “jails for children”) suppress the self-knowledge, curiosity and solitude that are essential to learning – replacing them with emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem and fear of self-expression.
Gatto poses the question, “How can we restore children’s love of learning and put them back in touch with their special genius?” In searching for an alternative to public schools, he prescribes a combination of independent study, community service, large doses of solitude, and learning through apprenticeships.
We are Disconnected From the Earth
Nowhere is our disconnection more evident (and more dangerous) than in our relation to Mother Earth. In his book, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Al Gore diagnoses our ecological problem as being a symptom of a dysfunctional, addictive civilization. Gore writes:
“I believe that our civilization is addicted to the consumption of the earth itself. This addictive relationship distracts us from the pain of what we have lost: a direct experience of our connection to vividness, vibrancy, and aliveness of the rest of the natural world. The froth and frenzy of industrial civilization masks our deep loneliness for communion. The price we pay is the loss of our spiritual lives.”
We Are Disconnected From Our Spirit
As Gore says, the ultimate disconnection in this culture is the disconnection from our spirit. This is why Mother Teresa repeatedly stated, “The main problem facing the Western world is that of spiritual deprivation.”
In trying to fill that inner void, we vainly turn to alcohol, sex, drugs, workaholism, compulsive gambling, and a host of other addictions. Yet no amount of money, status, power, or sensual pleasure can create the connection to the deeper spiritual self that alone grants us peace.
Many of the ills I have listed are, I believe, a misapplication of capitalism as practiced by the corporate culture. The threefold human crisis of deepening poverty, environmental destruction and social disintegration can be traced to economic models that make growth the ultimate goal and that treat people as mere means.
While the profit motive is not inherently evil, when money is worshipped as a false god (i.e., when it becomes an all-consuming priority, to the detriment of living systems and the natural world), evil deeds result - the exploitation of young children in overseas sweatshops; the oppression of American workers in electronic sweatshops; the unequal distribution of the earth’s resources, so that twenty percent of the earth’s people are chronically hungry or starving, while the rest of the population, largely in the North, consume eighty percent of the world’s wealth; the marketing of fast food to children teenagers; the inhumane treatment of farm animals in factory farming; the decimation of the rainforests; and ultimately, the destruction of the earth’s biotic capacity to produce life.
There is, however, another way. Business can move towards sustainability and create a real ecological economic system. In his visionary book, The Ecology of Commerce, Paul Hawken writes:
“The ultimate purpose of business is not, and should not be, simply to make money. Nor is it merely a system of making and selling things. The promise of business is to increase the general well-being of humankind through service, creative invention and ethical philosophy.”
Hawken argues that we have the capacity to create a new and different economy, one that can “restore ecosystems and protect the environment, while bringing forth innovation, prosperity, meaningful work and true security.” Among other things, Hawken’s “restorative economy” would:
Paul Hawken and other visionaries such as E.F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful), David Korten (The Post Corporate Era: Life After Capitalism) and David Suzuki (The Sacred Balance) lay out clear and practical road maps that can lead us to sustainability.
The theme of this article is that we can no longer afford to view depression solely as a problem of the individual. The health of the society and the health of its individuals are inextricably linked.
To end the worldwide epidemic of depression, we must combine individual psychological therapies with new social and economic systems that respect the earth and more fairly distribute the worlds resources. Such models already exist. What we need is the political will to implement them. If we can do so, we will be able to create a more equitable culture that optimizes the mental and emotional health of each of its ciitizens.’
One of the things I want to develop on the website in the future is a section on self-care. I'm going to start by blogging about some useful articles I've seen on the web. Here's the first, an excellent piece I found on on Thrive - the Kripalu blog on yoga, health and wellness.
‘Why do some people bounce back after a major tragedy or illness, while others seem derailed by life’s daily challenges? The answer, in a word, is resilience.
At its core, resilience is the capacity to handle difficult moments. That could be a major trauma such as post-traumatic stress after a military deployment; a chronic source of tension, such as parenting a sick child; or a sudden loss of a loved one, a job, a marriage, or a home, to fire or flood.
“That old image of resilience as gritting your teeth and struggling through is not what we’re talking about,” says Kripalu faculty member Maria Sirois. In fact, instead of being stoic and handing things on their own, she says healthy people seek out connections during tough times rather than trying to go it alone.
Life hands us difficult situations, no matter how much yoga or meditation we do. For those who study resilience, the question is: How can our lives be rich, even joyful, during both the ups and downs?
According to Maria, what differentiates resilient people from the rest of us is that they have a handful of strategies they consistently utilize.
They lead from their strengths. Maria says her strength is perseverance. In times of great difficulty, she reminds herself, “You don’t give up.” When we start from our strengths, we remind ourselves of who we are and what we have control over.
They are authentic. You can’t thrive unless you’re being true to yourself. Trying to live someone else’s life creates more stress and confusion, leaving you exhausted. “Drink from your own well and follow where your own path leads you,” Maria advises. “Remember, what works for me is different from what works for you.”
They reach out. Resilient people make wise choices about social connections. They invest time in building meaningful relationships and sometimes end those that are no longer healthy. There are certain times when it’s crucial to be connected to others. A diagnosis of an illness is one example; ironically, this is when people tend to be most isolated.
There are three specific types of connections that can make a real difference in a crisis. There are connections with experts in the field, such as therapists, healers, counselors, and coaches.
There are connections with people who have experienced the same situation and can give us insight and guidance (for example, others who are recently divorced or have survived breast cancer).
And there’s what Maria refers to as “the choir”- our support system, those people we trust most.
They are mindful. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of how we live our lives. Being in the present allows us to see things clearly, so we are better able to handle problems as they arise.
They are positive. Positivity is an overall sense of optimism and well-being. People who are most resilient are able to cultivate a positive mindset and outlook even during the bad times, which enhances their capability to come up with more creative solutions.
For example, a resilient person who has lost her job will find a creative way to move forward. She might ask: What are the unexpected benefits? Should I pursue something new? What lessons can I learn from this? This can help transform a painful period into an important lesson in survival.
Maria cites a real-world example, a young woman who was unable to do yoga or meditate on a cushion after enduring multiple back surgeries. Her creative and resilient solution was substituting a 10-minute meditative walk in nature.
The lesson, Maria says, is “You can say ‘Woe is me,’ or you can have those feelings and choose to do something constructive anyway.”
What is your lesson in resilience?’
Professor David Clark is Founder of the Sharing Culture initiative.