A Peer Perspective on Day 1 of the Conference

Movement Building: CMHA National Conference on Mental Health
A Peer Perspective – by
Davina M. Kula

 Day One of the National Conference:  I was greeted at the front doors of the Capri Hotel with a smile from Charly Sinclair.  I found my friend, and fellow Peer Mentor, Suzanne, and we settled at a table near the centre of the room.  We were excited, and a little nervous, to be rubbing shoulders with Mental Health Professionals from across Canada.

We were pleasantly surprised!

When Edna Terbasket, an Elder of Okanagan Nation, began with the words, “My prayer isn’t meant to offend… take what you need and leave the rest,” Suzanne and I knew that this conference was going to be an enlightening experience.

Alya Ramadan, of CBC Radio, was a sparkling MC, and introduced an impressive list of presenters over the course of the 3 Day event.

The Honourable Steven L. Point spoke of combining awareness and service delivery to break out of the “emergency ward syndrome” and described how we are “medicating our need for energy”.    He spoke of Aboriginal Youth Rights, and the benefits of speaking to an Elder about the Body, Mind and Spirit connection.  He described how the cycle of kindness and generosity perpetuates itself when we look back to tribalism for the strategies needed in today’s society.  He spoke to us about the need to break out of individualism, and get back to collectivism.

Tod Maffin, CEO and Senior Strategist of tMedia Strategies Inc., Digital Marketing Strategist, consultant, broadcaster, author and speaker, was a conference highlight!  His extremely funny keynote presentation “Taking Crazy Back”, described Tod’s “warped thoughts in a chaotic world”.  He described “presenteeism” and why society rewards “busy-ness”.  His presentation included such statements as: “Multitasking does not exist”, “You are Not the Energizer Bunny”, and “Crazy gets @#$% done!”
Tod stated that “maybe we need more crazy in our system”.  Although his delivery was light-hearted, his life experience tells a story of alcoholism: “Booze: it gave me wings and took away the sky.”  Then he poses the ultimate question … “Have you asked anyone for help?”  His presentation was unique, loud and brave, because Tod believes that bold statements and presentations make the difference.  You deserved that standing ovation, Tod!  For more on Tod Maffin:  www.todmaffin.com, www.facebook.com/tmaffin, www.twitter.com/todmaffin, and www.youtube.com/todmaffin.

Nancy Mannix of the Norlien Foundation, spoke about the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (AWFI) and  described the “neuroscience of addiction”.  The Norlien Foundation focuses on “where science meets real life,” and uses epigenetics, or developmental neuroscience, to challenge dominant cultural beliefs.  Nancy describes three types of stress: Positive, Tolerable and Toxic.  Using a table analogy, Mark Gold, PhD., and Amelia Arria, PhD., described the success rate for those who had achieved “levelness”, and that we all need the same.  Research summaries from the 2010 Early Brain & Biological Development Symposium Summary are available by visiting www.albertafamilywellness.org.  AFWI has combined forces with the Frameworks Institute to create a simplifying model and to work together in outlining potential strategies for advancing remedial policies. The Frameworks Institute works in partnership National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, the National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation, and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.  Excellent resources can be found at www.developingchild.harvard.edu/ and www.frameworksinstitute.org.

Can you believe that we took in all of this before lunch?  We did!  We were all looking forward to the CMHA National Awards that would take place during lunch service.  The C.M. Hincks Award went to Mr. Cliff Cross from Vernon, BC. This is CMHA’s highest award and is presented annually to one individual (or organization) that advanced mental health in Canada through their work/volunteer activities.

We were extremely proud of Eimert Koops of Kelowna, BC for winning the Consumer Involvement Award!  Eimert was surrounded by his peers and friends at the head table, and then he got up in front of 300 people, and eloquently thanked all the supports that had helped him towards this achievement!  Not long after, the Edward J. Pennington Innovation Award was received by Shelagh Turner and CMHA Kelowna Branch, for significant community development, mental health promotion projects or programs that exemplify team leadership and innovation in the mental health field.

Lunch was followed by an insightful presentation of the InterCultural Online eHealth Network, by Dr. Kendall Ho, eHealth Strategist.    Dr. Ho describes the interactive eHealth community as “YouTube for Health”.  His stepwise strategy includes self-management, access, and continued support.  This can be established by creating in person forums, online presence and by introducing on-line tools, such as live webcasts of events.  His events include skis to address the common issues of cultural, generational and social situations.  He views “patients as partners” with valuable skills and knowledge.  To learn from the community, the necessary ingredient is, “culturally relevant resources available in one’s own language.”  By overlapping “eknowledge, epresence and etrust”, we can motivate “informed” patients into action.  Although “technology is not meant to replace the human touch”, the paradox is that online eHealth is personal, and can be used 24/7 for personal connection, anonymity, action and ongoing support: “Plan, do, study, ACT.”  More information on eHealth is available at www.iconproject.org  or by emailing eHealth@med.ubc.ca.

Dr. Ron Remick, from the Mood Disorder Association of BC, described the Psychiatric Urgent Care Program, an out of the box approach to rapid access psychiatry.  This model of care encourages and empowers patients to get informed.  It drops the average wait time from 5 months, to approximately 4 weeks, or as low as 10 days if there is a cancellation.  The approach focuses on “universality, altruism, the instillation of hope, imparting information, socialization and imitative behavior”.  After a 40 minute assessment to determine diagnosis and a specific, detailed treatment recommendation, patients can attend Group Medical Visits (GMV) in lieu of individual appointments.  They can also receive email communication with their psychiatrist in lieu of follow-ups, and have needs for supportive housing assessed.  GMV can be “8 times more efficient than traditional psychiatry”: in groups of 8, with 2 psychiatrists, patients focus on symptoms, and several options for treatment are provided.  The new patient satisfaction surveys read: “very good to excellent”.  The Kootneys, Naniamo, Vernon, Whistler and Pemberton have shown interest in developing satellite clinics.

Day One of the conference was nearing its end; only one breakout session remained.

Suzanne and I opted to attend “Connecting the Dots”, a presentation by Amanda Swoboda from Connecting the Dots – CMHA Kelowna, and Sheila Lewis from the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society.  The presentation focused on “sharing our collective knowledge”.  A Connecting the Dots project adaptation of Communities that Care, applies a “highly prescriptive model” that focuses on “addressing risk and protective factors influencing mental health”, and the evolution of community, through the lens of Urban Aboriginal Youth.  The Participatory Action Research (PAR) model includes adaptations such as sustained relationships, storytelling in lieu of reporting, qualitative in addition to quantitative data, as well as the application of PhotoVoice, an expression of lived experience captured by participants in photography.  Communities that Care have noted success in Squamish, with a 50-80% descrease in problem behaviours within 4 years.  Kelowna, Quesnel and Port Alberni are matching and implementing fresh data all the time.  There is a need to “get all stakeholders at the table”.  An Elder Advisory Council has been developed in Quesnel, and more and more we are looking to Elders as key leaders.  The community based research aims to “understand the root of trauma” and therefore create community and a sense of belonging that is reflective of culture and cultural competency.  By sharing stories and exchanging knowledge, a community and environment can focus on healthy beliefs, and strong standards, that are inclusive and build trust.  For more information on Best Practices in Aboriginal Injury Prevention Intervention, visit http://cbpp-pcpe.phac-aspc.gc.ca, and for local adaptations to the Communities that Care Project Model, visit http://www.cmha.bc.ca/advocacy/connectingdots.

And that, my friends, is the end of Day One!  A day of profound presentations, exciting new research, cultural shifts, and a lot of notes for this lady!  Although we were tired, we left the first day of the conference very inspired.   Stay tuned for more Peer Perspectives from the rest of the 2011 CMHA Movement Building National Conference on Mental Health, and visit www.cmhakelowna.wordpress.com for a synopsis of the presentations.

Day Two Sneak Peak: The New Paradigm

A message from Peter Coleridge, National CEO CMHA on Building Collective Impact.

An introduction to the work of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).

The winner of the Nancy Hall award, Michael Schratter, and his Ride Don’t Hide Awareness Campaign. Visit www.ridedonthide.com to learn more.

La Pièce de Résistance!!! Incredibly moving presentation by Lt. Colonel Stéphane Grenier on the Importance of Peer Support as a way to achieve Mental Health, (and highlights of the conversation that followed).


Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna

Dr. Norman Doidge – Our Plastic (amazing) Brain

There is a revolution in understanding of the brain, away from the brain as a machine and hardwiring. 

Doidge got into field because he was hearing from colleagues about finalized, genetically pre-determined problems, yet when someone recovered the hardwire metaphor fell away.  His book has introduced revolutionary ideas about the brain and its abilities that stand in opposition to ideas about the brain that have been held for centuries.

To start Doidge recommends the metaphor of the brain as a machine should be reexamined. Let’s take a look at the whole notion of nature and our understanding of how the brain operates. 

People have gotten locked into a picture of biology that has self fulfilling prophecies.

We have probably underestimated our own brains, our client’s brains, in fact the whole human race has underestimated our brain plasticity and how our brain can change.  We need to learn new ways…

For some of the latest ideas and research about brain plasticity go to www.normandoidge.com

Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna

Friendship Centres and You

Turning Points of Friendship

Paul Lacerte, Executive Director of the BC Association of Friendship Centres was the lunch time speaker.  He asserts convincingly that right now is a time of hope for Aboriginal people, what is required is a love revolution.  “We are living in a love starved world…we are dehumanizing and legalizing people in our world. What a precious gift to work with a movement built on love and listening.”

Lacerte asked what we can do as organizations.  Profound institutional opportunity exists to reach out between CMHA and Friendship Centres. In BC CMHA and BC Friendship Centres are starting to work together on a joint project in three different communities.  Local CMHA and local Friendship Centres are bringing capacity together around mental illness.

How to get started working with a Friendship Centre?  Pick up the phone; that is how we got started in BC.  Look at UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, powerful and best read.  Present tobacco or an elder a gift and ask them, how do I get started?

If we are going to improve the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, says Lacerte, we have to take it on as a personal mission.

Contact a Friendship Centre today

Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna

Delivering Hope

The Canada Post Foundation has raised and granted $4.6 million in the past three years and distributed funds to agencies across the country.  Four CMHA organizations, were presented grant monies totaling almost $172, 000.

The new fundraising stamp (the online vote winner) has been released.  The goal for this year’s campaign is to beat last year’s total raised of $2.2 million.

Thank-you to Canada Post for their continued support.

Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna

Our Human Rights and Our Experiences of Mental Illness

Mental Health and Human Rights: A Panel Discussion

Discussion on the implications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Text of the treaty (Canada is a signatory) http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml

Harvey Goldberg, Canada Human Rights Commission of Canada

Too often human rights are aspirational for people with mental health disabilities.  Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities the objective was to interpret existing rights through the lens of people with disabilities.  The convention is base on a radical concept, a paradigm shift from a medical charity model to a rights based model.

–          People with disabilities have rights, are capable of making choices and are active members of society.

–          Liberty and security of the person, disability does not justify a deprivation of liberty

–          Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman of degrading treatment of punishment, including medical experimentation

–          Freedom from exploitation and abuse, independent monitoring of institutions

–          Living independently in the community

–          Right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health: same range quality and standard of health care as provided to others

–          Canada can be proud of our contribution to the convention in the concept of legal obligation to accommodate

–          Still early days as Canada implemented the convention a year and a half ago

Nicole Chammartin, MHCC Project

–          Opportunity for paradigm shift to reframe mental health issues as a human rights argument

–          Reality is most mental health legislation is not based on human rights

–          Project objectives: develop an instrument to evaluate the extent to which human rights are addressed in mental health legislation and real world action

–          This is a laborious process, we need to take the time and get it right to protect the rights of Canadian people

–          www.cmhawpg.mb.ca/mhcc for project information and a photovoice

Mark Stephens, Member of the MHCC Projects Consultative Group

–          Reviewing mental health legislation in BC – looking to narrow the definitions of acceptable use of restraint in psychiatric facilities

–          Told his personal perspective as a consumer of mental services in British Columbia

Panel Q&A from Audience(paraphrases):

Q: What is your response to skeptics

A: Harvey – People are right to be skeptical, Canada has a good record in the world, but Canada measures by our own standards and we have a long way to go.  Progress is slow, legislation will not be a panacea.  Movement building in society is important.

Mark – As an individual I like my civil liberties, when I think about personal decision making I see the application of policy is a bureaucrat on the other end of the line making a decision. The unreasonable thresholds a are put in place are a detriment to people living with mental illness.

The Canada Health Act had no mention in the 5 principals of mental health.

Nicole – Human rights approach has huge potential.  Human rights are relatively unstigmatized, Canadians value human rights. We need to let Canadians know that we violate human rights in Canada every day.  –

Q: Is it getting better?

A: Harvey – Yes it is getting better but it is extremely slow. 

Q: What is the potential of this paradigm shift (medical approach to rights based approach)?

A: Mark – Don’t think there was a course for professionals, go back to curriculum development – teach human rights aspects and principles to professional staff.  Change from the bottom, teach professionals and advocates the skill sets for empowerment.

Harvey- the paradigm shift is to remove the ‘article’ don’t define people by their disability, but as people first.

Everyone is one heartbeat away from being disabled.  It is not about us and them it is about us, if we live long enough we will all live with disability at one point.

Nicole – Change the conversation, to basic human rights and it becomes harder for policy makers to say not this year, not your particular human rights.  Who wants to be the person that denies human rights.

Steve Laurie (moderator): Is there real potential in this approach to make sure municipalities, and employers cannot discriminate?

A: Harvey – The largest proportion of complaints to the HR Commission is around mental health issues.  Approach is through alternative dispute resolution, we have had success with that.

Mark – Around housing and NIMBYism, oftentimes the big debate can be as simple as requiring 2 parking spaces for a home where people can’t afford homes.

Nicole – Governments have to monitor and develop policies, standards and more for human rights.  We have to figure out how to create legislation and policies that honour everyone.

Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna

Belong and Belonging

The Circle of Courage

Dr. Martin Brokenleg  moved many conference attendees to tears as he told his stories intertwined with his practical framework, the Circle of Courage.  Drawing on his rich heritage as a Lakota, Dr. Brokenleg used four quadrants of a circle to illustrate a comprehensive approach to develop resilience in young people.

He began with understanding resilience is not in a mind but in their heart. Belonging, mastery, independence and generosity are the qualities that need to be developed in order to create resilient people.

Headline ‘takeaways’:

Belonging – Nothing is going to happen until belonging happens.

Mastery- Fulfills the universal need to be capable.

Independence – Is self responsibility, not self sufficiency.

Generosity – Meets the universal need to know one’s goodness. Generosity is the first casualty after a crisis, but real generosity is necessary.

Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna

Have a Little Help From Our Peers

Lt. Col Stephane Grenier of the Canadian Armed Forces spoke about his work on peer support with the Mental Health Commission of Canada peer support project.

Quotable moments:


“We need to achieve balance in peer support without destroying the organic sense of what peer support is about…we cannot over-professionalize peer support.”

“At the end of the day it is about two human beings talking to each other.  Something we were probably better at 1000 years ago.”

“It is sad that we had to create program that allowed people to be nice to each other.”

“In many countries there is no clinical capacity, what do people have- they have each other.”

In regards to the workplace:

“How can we be that stupid to think that someone can disassociate from their home in the car ride to work.”

“It is the human phenomena we have to stop putting in different stove-pipes…ultimately it is all in one brain.”

“If 84 to 96 percent of your people don’t know they are sick then we need to literate them. (Increase mental health literacy.”

What happened to the military, with less people doing more only happened to the organization a decade before what has happening to business right now.

“What happened to me was I became mentally ill, and you start to feel ashamed.  So I started to isolate.”

“What I learned is that isolation kills.”

“It can be a lonely road to recovery.”

“My opinion is it is possible to achieve better results if you do it from within.”

“On the prevention side we recruit people with lived experience.  Pick the right guy. Pick your people very carefully.”

“Allow peer workers to share their story in controlled way.”

“I think everybody going through a mental health episode deserves the best clinical care possible. And each person should have a peer support worker.”

“We have tried to merge academic knowledge with experiential knowledge.”

“You see mental health every single day if you have the lens.”

Stress Injury

“There could be more connections (from the military) to the civilian work place than you want to realize.”

“How do we move forward is available every here.  I am thinking certification might be appealing to systems.”

Leave a comment

Filed under CMHA National Conference, Kelowna