Mental Health in BC.

The B.C. Ministry of Health website says one in five British Columbians, or approximately 882,000 people, will experience some form of mental health disorder this year. It is also estimated that between one and three per cent  have a developmental disability, and that 30 to 40 per cent of those have co-occurring mental health issues known as a dual diagnosis. In fact, developmental disability is the most common disability in psychiatric hospitals; yet the needs of people with mental health disorders and dual diagnoses are largely unmet. This is not just about the people who are experiencing these problems. It is about our society and its well-being, because we all suffer the consequences of these short sighted, money grubbing, misdirected and careless decisions made by our provincial government.

 The Ministry of Health website also says: The Province of British Columbia is committed to a comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based system of mental health and addictions services. These services focus on health promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery, and support individuals’ and families’ resiliency and self-care.

 I say that’s crazy.

 I don’t mean to insult front line workers and mental health caregivers who I know are working diligently with the staffing, funding and mandates they are given to address the needs of this population. I do, however, mean to insult the government for lack of funding for much needed services that keep families intact and individuals safe from poverty, suffering, trauma, victimization and neglect.

 We have people who are not being productive as they could be, we  have people being incarcerated instead of medicated and/or receiving adequate therapies, whose recoveries are cut short because of lack of funding, or “cost effectiveness” as the government likes to put it. We have people homeless, addicted to drugs to ease their mental anguish, incarcerated or victimized for and by crimes that stem from disorders that could have been treated, and we have children in foster care that costs more than the continuum of care would have, and ultimately, individuals and families in distress.

 I should mention that the cost of dealing with untreated mental illness is in no way effective and those costs are just coming out of other Ministries, those that run the jails, shelters, welfare budgets, child protection/foster care, law enforcement, courts, and morgues.

Rich Coleman says “I think we are actually doing a pretty good job.”

 I say he has lost touch with reality.

Maybe he would like to tell that to parents in Kamloops who had their three youngest children removed by the B.C. government after they gave shelter to their violent, mentally ill adult son, who had been turned away from government care. He was living in a secure youth residence, with 24-hour supervision, but when he turned 19, making him an adult, the ministry was no longer responsible for him. There was no other government agency or community agency to house him. He left the home as soon as his siblings were apprehended, he is now charged with assaulting a police officer and robbery, only two of the three children are back  home. The other had a nervous  breakdown over the incident.

Would it had not been more cost effective to keep him housed and stable, rather than tossing him into the void that exists especially for young adults who have mental illness? We would have saved money on foster care and now the treatment of the other child, and avoided tossing him like garbage into the criminal justice system. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident, and families all across our province are desperate for help and not receiving anything but lip service on a website and a smug retort from the Minister responsible for Housing and Social Development. And for those whose conditions have costs them their families, friends, and caregivers, they are left to join the others without voices in this province, many you see on the streets. This is not indicative a pretty good job.

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Home Supports are not Supportive.

Mom Victoria Allen knew the writing was on the wall when her special needs
daughter Becky, who needs 24 hour support, was sprayed in the face with
vinegar and water by her caregiver when she refused to get out of bed. The
caregiver was told by social workers that this behavior, which had occurred
more than one time, had to stop. When the caregiver decided to leave Becky
in bed for week in response to her not wanting to get out of bed, feeding
her just fruit, Victoria knew that writing said “quit your job and take care
of your daughter 24/7.”

It has been an exhausting and painful journey for single mother Victoria
Allen, following the birth of her daughter Becky in 1992. Her child was
diagnosed with several significant birth defects including Cohen Syndrome,
Autism Spectrum, Mental handicap, anxiety disorder, epilepsy, and motor
delays. Becky would require constant supervision for the rest of her life.
There is a cost to such care, and according to Allen, the agency responsible
for her care has reduced those costs on the backs of the weakest and most
vulnerable members of society; young adults like Becky Allen.

“Those who, like Becky,” she says “ rely on wheelchairs and walkers, on
schedules and consistency, on close knit relationships with their peers.
They are preying on weak and tired parents and I did not raise my daughter
to be warehoused like she doesn’t matter.“

Becky is 20 now and through a series of failed attempts by government to
place her in a cost-saving living situation she is residing at home with her
mother, who has
had to give up her employment to take care of her daughter.

Becky’s care fell into the hands of Ministry for Children and Families
(MCFD) while she was growing up, and there were a lot of problems even
though Allen tried to have Becky live with her full time. “She never had
just one social worker.” Allen said. “A lot of hope but no consistency. A
lot of meetings but no action. Never one person in charge of her case. No
before or after school care. No weekend care. MCFD said they could not find
anyone to do it.”

It took a seizure being ignored to get her into a Life Skills Program at
school. Becky did not have an educational assistant assigned to her. Her
mother said that she just sat at her desk and ripped up paper all day. She
was on a wait list to get into the life Skills Program, she was on a wait
list to see a medical specialist because she was starting to fall down.

‘She had a seizure in school,” said Allen. “ What did they do? Sit her at he
desk all day. I took her to emergency after school and the doctor on call
was
outraged and suddenly she got into the Life Skills program and jumped the
wait list to see the specialist.”

Allen sent her daughter to the Life Skills program in her wheelchair to make
sure she was safe from falling down. She stayed there in middle school
for 6 years.

MCFD was in charge of her case while she was under 19. As she got older
things became more difficult to care for her at home because Allen had to
work.

“So they put her in a townhouse with stairs! She has a drop-seizure
disorder. The caregiver was not equipped to manage her emotional or physical
needs. She refused to bring her walker in to the home.” said Allen.

Becky uses a wheelchair in the community and a walker inside the home.

‘When I complained I was told it was the caregiver¹s fault that the walker
was not brought into the home and it was between me and the caregiver.”

Becky was moved into another home six months later because the person in the
other home had little kids and was worried about the interaction between
Becky and them.

“ The home had steep stairs and they put her in a room at the top of the
stairs. She lived up there alone. No socializing- she was trapped up there
with a tv. Then she was moved to a rancher but that ended up being worse.
This was a respite home. There was no time given to get to know the woman
running it. They were paying her versus paying me.” said Allen. “ This woman
took over, changed Becky¹s family doctor without consulting anyone, had a
birthday party for her that did not inclde her me or her friends or family,
took her to emergency department a couple of times without telling me, Then
Becky told me she had been sprayed in the face with water and vinegar
because she wouldn¹t get out of bed.”

The respite provider admitted it and said she wouldn¹t do it again. After
that her answer was to leave Becky in bed for a week when she woulnd’t get
out of bed. She said she fed her fruit.

Allen says that MCFD put in no interventions. At the meeting when this was
revealed Allen said she was frozen in shock that they did nothing. “I didnt
know how to respond. We had a meeting with head of MCFD who said you can
take her or you can leave her there. Those are your two options.”

Allen was frantic because at that moment in time her living situation was
not suitable to move Becky back in with her. She had dogs and a home that
was too small. So she had to exercise the only other option the Ministry
who is in charge of keeping children safe gave her; send her back to the
situation.

“I had to send her back. Becky would tell me on the phone that the lady
would yell at her all the time. I moved into a different situation as soon
as I could, within about two months.” said Allen.

After many meetings over years and years, eleven social workers not
including managers, and living in ten different home situations to date,
Victoria Allen took her daughter Becky home to live with her. She received
the respite hours that she needed to have Becky at home and to be able to
work. They were at peace, as best as they could be.

That lasted a year until Becky turned 19 and was moved over to Community
Living BC. The CLBC is a Crown Corporation that funds support for adults
with learning disabilities. youth with developmental disabilities as they
enter adulthood and responsibility for their care shifts from the Children’s
Ministry to Community Living B.C.

Allen says they came in to fix something that wasn¹t broken.

“They want to move her into a homeshare - where it will cost a lot more than
what it does now to keep her with me.”

The rationale they use is she needs to be independent, to live her own life
on her own terms. For Becky this meant living in a room in a house
versus remaining with her mother and be supported by one consistent
caregiver while her mother worked. CLBC said they could not provide for that
scenario.

“I have been firm in my resolve to say no, she is not moving into a home
share based on her previous experiences. Becky wants to stay with me. She
likes her workers, her respite, her day program. But I was called into a
meeting where I was told by a (CLBC) Analsyt ‘As of Nov.1 you will have
nothing.’ They are trying to squeeze me into accepting a home share
placement.” Allen is not going to give in.

“ So she stays with me but they took away all my supports. No respite.
Nothing. We have been removed from home-based community inclusion and
homemaker services. She is with me 24/7, cannot be left unsupervised. CLBC
says I can spend 100 dollars a day up to $500.00 a month and can give them
receipts to be reimbursed. Who has a hundred dollars a day upfront to spend?
They already owe me $1200. to reimburse me for respite I paid for last
March.”

Community Living B.C. came under fire last year for pushing some people out
of group homes and cutting services to others once they turned 19. Parents
and relatives of developmentally disabled adults in group homes say that
Community Living B.C. is closing the homes and moving the care to less
costly, non-unionized arrangements, such as home-sharing with a caregiver.

According to then-Housing Minister Rich Coleman, group homes cost $100,000
per client to operate per year, whereas shared housing arrangements cost
around $40,000, which works well for some disabled adults. Home share people
get $2000 a month plus $716 of a persoon’s $906 disability assistance. “This
leaves people like Becky with $190 a month for entertainment,
clothing,personal needs. And how do we know that money is going towards
improving the lives of the people living there? I heard they get these
people from Craigslist.”

Th BC Association for Community Living has also spoken out against the cuts
that have put Becky Allen and countless others in precarious situations and
impacted their parents.

The BC Association for Community Living (BCACL) is a provincial non-profit
association dedicated to promoting the participation of people with
developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life. They are not to
be confused with Community Living BC (CLBC), which is the Crown Agency that
funds supports and services for adults with developmental disabilities in
BC.

On their website they state; “ In an attempt to recover a $22 million budget
deficit, CLBC embarked on a ³service redesign² process that resulted in
drastic cuts to supports for people with developmental disabilities and
their families and the rapid closure of group homes. We are calling for an
immediate moratorium on the
service redesign process.It has become clear that ³service redesign² is
driven and motivated by budget pressures and not the needs of community.

Moms on the Move was formed in 2001 by BC parents who were concerned about
drastic provincial budget cuts to services for children and youth with
special needs.
MOMS is now the largest provincial group representing families of children
and youth with special needs and adults with developmental disabilities in
BC.

Cyndi Gerlach and Dawn Steele, Co-administrators said, “There are countless
families who are needlessly suffering emotional and financial stress due to
CLBC's lack of concern, acknowledgement of problems and lack of financial
support.Adults with developmental disabilities are being forced out of their
homes and farmed out to home share contractors recruited off Craigslist.
Promises to respect choice, involve families abandoned. Agencies, families,
staff, clients say they fear retribution if they
complain publicly. No independent oversight, no public reporting,
significantly lower standards, instability and higher risk all characterize
CLBC's cheaper care models All to save 22 million dollars.”

The Advocate for SERVICE Quality, Jane Holland, helps adults with
developmental disabilities and transitioning youth with special needs and
their families have access to supports and services that are available. The
Advocate can help with services from the Ministry of Social Development,
from other ministries, Community Living BC or from service agencies in the
community. Throughout 2011 the Advocate¹s office became involved with
numerous callers concerned about the closure of group homes. following a
major analysis of CLBC in 2011, noted that the CLBC Board acknowledged that
changes to staffed residential living facilities had not been managed well,
and that these group home
closures were problematic for the individuals and their families. Adults
with developmental disabilities are at risk, as is the residential service
and community inclusion infrastructure that supports them. Service and
support options are being reduced, not expanded. Individuals and families
are not being consulted.
David Hurford, Director of Communications for CLBC said,"We are not closing
group homes. That is not the policy of CLBC."
“We initiated an external review of home case services over the holidays. We
respond to what families want. Homes sharing is increasing in popularity by
families.”

Hurford said that there are 3100 people in homesharing in BC and growing.
“We are initiating an improved complaint process. We are turning to
individualized preference where families manage the money and choose the
caretakers themselves. The only way someone is removed from a care home is
if a family member wants them out the person doesnt want to do it anymore or
there are safety concerns.”

Hurford explained the options available for CLBC’s clients. Home share,
group homes, service providers in-home, respite hours for caregivers so the
person can live with family. “We find out what they want and build around
that.” he said. “There is definitely movement towards buying into the
preferences of the individual and that will be fully implemented in the new
year.”

He also explained that there will be a home share review over the next six
months and CLBC wants to address access to services in more rural
communities like Campbell River. “Your health care infrastructure there is
still catching up with your population so there are challenges.”

Finally, he said, one of the major problems is the complaint process. “An
integrated services support team ahs been created to cut through red-tape
and get resolution for families who are not satisifed. The government
deserves a lot of credit for doing that.”

While Allen used to work while Becky was in a day program and in respite, As
of Nov.23 everything is gone.” said Allen. “ I drive her where she needs to
go. I pick her up. I take her to the doctors. I am not available for work.”

She plans to apply for income assistance.

“I want her to stay with me so I can work, save up for a house of our
own,and just get some in home supports while working which is cheapest for
the government.”

When asked what she wants Becky kept her head down coloring in a coloring
book and said,”I love my mum. The rest is stupid.”



Post Mortem on Post Mortems

Not that people are dying to have this done, but British Columbia has the
lowest autopsy rate in Canada.

As a result, too many deaths and possible homicides are not being
investigated. 

The rate of autopsies in BC dropped from 30 per cent in 2006 to 19.2 percent
in 2012.
The highest rate of autopsies occurs in the North West Territories and
Newfoundland at 42 percent.

The average rate in the rest of Canada is about 35 per cent.

The B.C. Coroners Service budget has steadily been cut to $11.7 million this
year from $17.3 million in 2008/09.

Lisa Lapointe ,Chief Coroner, Province of British Columbia said in a
statement issued to respond to this
situation, that police officers and coroners are routinely called to the
scene of sudden and unexpected deaths.

³Each death is initially treated as suspicious until foul play can be ruled
out, unless a death is due
to natural causes of a person under the care of a physician. The Coroners
Service does not 
have legal jurisdiction to investigate these.

In any other death, both police and the coroner will undertake a thorough
review of the circumstances of the death
before determining that there is no evidence of foul play. If foul play is
suspected, a criminal investigation by police is launched.

Autopsy decisions are made in consultation with the regional coroner after
carefully and objectively considering all available information," said
Lapointe. " An autopsy will be ordered if cause of death cannot be
established though examination of the scene, body and history. Where the
preponderance of evidence gathered clearly supports a cause of death, an
autopsy will not be undertaken."

All is not well at the Hospital.

The diagnosis is in; VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority) has a bad case of secretiveness.

Doctors who spoke up last week against what they said was lying on VIHA's
part, about plans for the new hospital, have now back peddled.

Maybe 'lied to' is a bit strong as we can't prove it is done
intentionally and we should say we were misled." said Dr. Tabarsi, who was
initially cited by VIHA as being one individual calling them to task. Since
then four more physicians have spoken up to the Courier Islander about their
concerns.

³There is no question that we were told many times that the plan is just to
secure the funding. We were never told that the total square footage of the
entire plan is fixed. said another physician. We cannot claim they lied to
us, but we can clearly accuse them of absolutely failing to be transparent
and open in their discussions and planning, despite any claims they may make
to the contrary.

The physicians insist that VIHA has completely failed to clearly and
transparently itemize exactly how they define and what they mean by all
acute care services. This is despite many meetings, correspondence and
complaints by the physicians over more than 2 years.

And they continually failed to do this in the face of major complaints and
direct questions asked by us, especially when their actions appeared to be
directed to achieve an outcome completely opposite to that which their
guarantee would appear to promise. said the group.

We were not told that there would be no cafeteria in the hospital. we were
not told that there would be no meeting room / lunch rooms in both radiology
and laboratory.said Tabarsi. In the next stage of the planning, we had to
cut a lot of corners and make sacrifices to settle for a very small and
inadequate meeting room / lunch rooms.
Pharmacy is another example that in the original plan was totally ignored
and the space had to be taken from somewhere else to rectify the problem.
The list can go on.

The clearest example of this, said one physician, is VIHA's concerted,
continuous and vigorous attempts² to both downgrade the laboratory services
and drive the pathologist away. ³This latter claim is not an exaggeration
but I believe the only rational explanation for their course of action,
especially for an organization which touts its commitment to co-operation
and optimizing workplace functioning or whatever their current mission
statement claims. said another physician.

Despite vigorous complaints by all of us, the process continued unabated
and when we repeatedly asked for clarification and an explanation for this
discrepancy, we were completely stonewalled by the senior administrators,
both physician and administrative. The only answer we have ever had to these
frank and directed questions was that we had to start thinking of these
specialty services as regional services.

The physicians state that the business plan that was accepted had two parts.
One involved the building of two new separate hospital buildings, one in
each community.
All the focus was, I believe intentionally on VIHA's part and by default on
the community leaders part, focused on this. said one physician.

The second component of the plan is that both hospitals and their medical
staffs will be part of one hospital administrative structure, and despite
vigorous complaints by the physicians, they say this still remains in force
as part of the accepted plan,

It is very easy to see how this combination of thinking of all specialty
services as a regional service, with the concept that we will all be one
hospital and medical staff with two campuses.² one physician said. They can
move any specialty service to Comox and by virtue of us all being one
hospital, the Campbell River hospital as the north wing or north annex of
the Comox Valley hospital if you will, that VIHA can promise that Campbell
River Hospital, can and will keep all its specialty services , at the same
time they center any or all of these services in Comox. This has been a
clearly and repeatedly expressed concern by the Campbell River physicians
that VIHA ha been singularly unwilling to clarify.

Toni O'keefe, Vice President Communications and Public Relations for the
Vancouver Island Health Authority, said "The relationship VIHA has with our
partner physicians is an important one. We value their input and we have
been committed to clinical consultation since this project began. We have
met with this group in the past, they do not represent  the larger community
of physicians in the North Island. If this small group of physicians have
specific questions for VIHA, we would be happy to meet with them again if
they are still seeking clarity on some items."

For the public to have their concerns heard, the physicians have asked that
people contact the Chair of VIHA and the Regional Hospital Board;
Don Hubbard at 250-370-8693 or Don.Hubbard@shaw.ca and Comox Strathcona
Regional Hospital District at administration@comoxvalleyrd.ca

Public forums on the two hospitals continue to take place, visit www.viha.ca
for more information.

sthomson@courierislander.com


Bully

It is hard to admit that you were once a total jackass.
 It is harder to have to worry that your children, one day, might run into someone just like you were.
 Campbell River mother “Tammy”, who does not want to use her real name,  is a devoted parent to three children, a volunteer in the community, and unless she revealed her browbeating past, one would never suspect she once wore the title of “bully” proudly.
She has come a long way from the days when kids like hers would suffer verbal and physical assaults by the self proclaimed mean girl.
“There was nothing anyone could say or do that made me feel bad for it or want to change.” said ‘Tammy’. “I think that correcting a bully is just impossible until that person decides they don’t want to be like that anymore.”.
‘Tammy’ said that she  began being a bully in Grade seven at age 13 “right after I switched middle schools and made friends with the wrong crowd.”  It carried on all through her time in school and outside of school until she was about 16.
“I would bully anyone who seemed weak, including my own mother and even my father but not as much .” she said. ” I would target girls who were my own age and even some that were older, social groups of girls, and guys who were typically seen alone, but never groups of popular guys. It was always circumstantial with me, not premeditated.  It could be any one of those or all depending on weakness.”
” I honestly think it was a defense mechanism to begin with as I was in a new school had a hard time making new friends and eventually it became a feeling of power, if I could make someone afraid of me then I felt in control and like I was something special.” Tammy said. ” I actually remember thinking that everyone thought I was cool for it and wished  that they could be like me. “
While the cruel and sometimes violent behavior started at school,’ Tammy’ said it carried on to other venues. ” The mall was a huge hang out place for the crowd I was with .” she said.  “Admitting that I was a teenage bully is incredibly embarrassing, but by far the worst of it is the knowledge that I caused another person psychological or physical harm.”
 
‘Tammy’ recalls  having  many meetings with parents of kids she had bullied at school, and once faced an assault charge that ultimately ended up being dropped. She was suspended from school and eventually expelled.
“I remember this one time the most, it was a boy who I don’t remember ever speaking to before but we were at school and I was at the smoke pit and I think he had walked by with a friend and made a comment about the smoke.” ‘Tammy’ said. ” I told him off and called him names and he continued to put up his stance and argue his point and I remember throwing him down a hill into a bramble bush and then walking away back into the school.  I found out later that he ended up really hurt and his parents were the ones who were going to press charges. What I remember most was not fear of being charged or empathy for what I had done but anger that someone had thought they could say something to me about my bad habits and not expect to end up hurt.  I also felt powerful for showing him what I was capable of doing.”
What ‘Tammy’ is more terrified of as a parent is how unconcerned the bully is with their actions. ” I think, for the bully, awareness of stronger consequences is key and strong parenting as well.” said ‘Tammy’, who did spend time in foster homes, group homes, and juvenile detention. “From a very young age you must teach your children that any form of bullying will  not be tolerated and will have extreme consequences, for them, right from the start and even later in life. “
But the consequences have to be there.
‘Tammy’ believes bullying in any form , in school, in the community, at employment, and on line, should  be punishable by law.
 ” If all bullying was reported to the police who were then allowed to hand out community hours the same that we as adults get traffic tickets on the same point style system then maybe it wouldn’t be so ” cool” to be feared anymore.” she said. ” Basically if you get reported and, say after getting 20 or 40 hours of community service you do it again and know you will be prosecuted, I think it won’t be worth the kick you get out of it. Maybe that kind of punishment sounds unreasonable to some, but children are dying so its too late to just talk about it.  It’s time for immediate action.”
” I can tell you first hand from someone who was once feared as a bully that if I am ever told any of my children are bullying someone it will not be tolerated.” Tammy said. “And to the parents of children being bullied I say do not accept schools’ consequences the way they are now. An apology letter and garbage duty is not acceptable. Ask for a meeting with that child’s guardians, and perhaps even the bully and the bullied child,  show your emotions, show your pain and make sure when they leave that meeting they can feel it through you. And don’t stop. Even if it means you’re in there every day. Because bullying takes lives, it destroys lives, and you are your child’s best defense. if you’re not making the biggest deal about this then you’re not doing your job.”

Speak about the Unspeakable.

The act of taking one¹s life is commonly viewed with anger, resentment, and
blame. The person who did it is called selfish, cowardly, and wrong for
making his or her family suffer.

The death of Robin Williams, however, has brought out more compassion and
sorrow than judgement and indignation, and for the first time since social
networking became a prominent form of communication, people are talking
about it.

His suicide is seen as the sad abandonment of hope, his fans wish they could
have done something for him.

This outpouring of sympathy is not always the case.

People traditionally find mental illness something to joke about. Terms such
as “funny farm” and “looney bin” are not considered forbidden terms,
ridiculing “schizos” and “nut jobs” is still socially acceptable forms of
humour. Why would anybody suffering from an illness that has such slangs
attached to it want to ever come forward and ask for help?

They don’t.

They suffer in silence for fear of losing their jobs, losing their friends,
losing their reputations, and what’s left of their dignity.

In doing so, they often lose their lives.

On Aug. 21, 2010 Barbara Swanston’s life was shattered when her son, Terry,
died by suicide in the grip of a profound depression. She has struggled to
come to terms with his irrevocable act.
The Campbell River Suicide Awareness Advocate talks openly about how she and
her family have coped with suicide bereavement, how the stigma of mental
illness and suicide stops people from reaching out for help and what you can
do to make a difference.

She wants to make the unspeakable, speakable.

She said her deepest hope is that she can help to eliminate the stigma
around mental illness so no one will feel so ashamed, worthless, or hopeless
that they complete suicide rather than seeking help, because we all have
mental health and anyone can develop a mental illness.

Even though we know depression and mental illness are deeply intertwined
with suicide, we still don’t treat them as the public health issues that
they are.

Sick people either go to the hospital, or they get “locked up” in a “rubber
room” at the “chuckle palace”.

Canadian Medical Association in its annual report card on health care
confirms that mental illness still a source of socially acceptable
discrimination.

The survey found almost half of Canadians, 46 per cent, think people use the
term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour. One in four Canadians
are fearful of being around those who suffer from serious mental illness.
Half of Canadians would tell friends or coworkers that they have a family
member with a mental illness, compared to 72 per cent for a diagnosis of
cancer or 68 per cent for diabetes. Most Canadians, 61 per cent, would be
unlikely to go to a family doctor with a mental illness, and 58 per cent
would shy away from hiring a lawyer, child-care worker or financial adviser
with the illness.

Does the same discrimination exist towards people who have cancer, ALS,
Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease?

No, because these diseases don’t make people uncomfortable, they bring out compassion, not contempt.

But mental illness is a disease that anyone can get at any time. It does not
discriminate and neither should you.

Gone too soon.

There is a lot of poverty in the world. I often talk about it, about how people should have enough money for basic needs, about offering dignity to those who are marginalized and vulnerable. I talk about equality, and justice, and being our brother’s keeper. These are things I believe in. We are all feeling the pains of poor economic times. We are facing job loss, higher costs, cutbacks to things we have taken for granted. We worry a lot. Mothers skip meals so their kids can eat, men try to find work with rotting teeth and a tent for a home, families struggle to pay for childcare so they can work for wages well below the poverty line. Addictions are overtaking our society at warped speed.

In the scheme of things, all of this is worrisome and should take a front seat to our concerns as a society. Having said that, let’s not forget what is most important of all. Loving one another. Saying what we should say before it is too late. Appreciating what we have. Comforting those who are lost and who are broken. Celebrating our youth and remembering there are a lot of great young people in our world. Thanking our lucky stars that the kids many of us struggle to support are at least at home with us every night.

Too many young people have died in our community in the past couple of months. One is too many. We are all shocked, saddened, we wonder how it happened, why it happened, and who’s to blame. Eventually, life goes on for most of us.

There is just cause, however, to remember that the young people who are no longer with us are much more than just one person. They are grandsons, nephews, big brothers, little brothers, students, employees, boyfriends, sons, and young men who will never be fathers themselves. With them a generation is lost. To many more people they were the kid who everyone got along with, the guy you could always count on to be there for you and made you feel good about yourself. The class comedian. The talented musician. The star athlete. The quiet helper. They were a best friend. To their co-workers, they were the youngest one on the crew, the one to tease and joke around with, the one with the goofy grin, the kid who would do anything that was asked of him. To a special few they were a role model, a confidante, a protector, someone to wrestle with, someone to wait up for, someone who gave rides in a cool car, someone to cheer you on at hockey game.They were and will always be all these things to a lot of people. They will be the one we tell others in our lives “I wish you could have known him.”

A lot of people are hurting right now and will never quite be the same. These people are vulnerable. They need our help.

Every now and then we will continue to hear of tragic losses and it hits us hardest when these are young people who have not had time to live yet. But they have lived, and stories like this don’t just happen to other families. They can happen to anyone. The golden rule comes in to play. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

At the end of the day, you or people you know of or hear about may not have enough to eat, may not have the right clothes, a furnished home, a home at all. But their hearts are beating. They will wake up tomorrow morning to start a new day with new possibilities. We can hope they have friends, family, and people who care about them. We must hope that they have their community. That spirit is often the difference between isolation and despair, or hope and recovery. We need to pay attention to that and not let all the other things that can be fixed, overshadow other things that cannot be fixed once it is too late.

Hug your children and tell them you love them. Then fix something by making a difference in the life of someone else.