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).


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