We’re all aware of it, and it seems that almost weekly now we’re presented with yet another account of a mass shooter wreaking havoc among innocent civilians. We talk about gun control. We talk about mental illness. We talk about religious extremism. But we always seem to skirt around the underlying issue. By doing so we often cause harm to more innocent lives.
There’re so many “red herring” distractions to mass shootings, but the real issue lies much deeper in our society. Through our language, the media, our laws, and our acceptance of gendered norms, we manage to allow these massacres to continue and instead place undue pressure on mental illness. Sufferers of mental illness are often the target, although statistics show they are rarely violent people. The issue lies elsewhere: within toxic masculinity and the need to seek control.
Another Mass Shooting, Always One Group to Blame
Mental illness is commonly brought up after a mass shooting. News anchors will emphasize the importance of mental illness awareness, and will suggest laws to evaluate the mental stability of gun owners. It’s an easy target to paint: those that kill others must be crazy.
The word “crazy” is used so loosely in our society, but it’s with this type of language that we perpetuate the stigma around mental illness. Entertainment and television were large perpetrators of spreading harmful stereotypes for a long time, but that is slowly changing in fictional media. News-centered media is still behind the times, however.
It’s taken us a long time to get where we are today in mental illness treatment and care. According to Bradley University’s research about 18% of the American population admits to suffering from some sort of mental illness. Of those 43.6 million people, only 6.7 million sought and received treatment for their varying ailments. Those who did seek treatment found that it was extremely beneficial, but still only a fraction of those suffering seek out the help they need.
Language and negative connotation are one of the main reasons people avoid seeking help. Despite that fact that only 3-5% of violent acts are committed by sufferers of mental illness, the issue is always brought up around cases of murder and shootings. The mental health of the shooter is put into question, and the media is quick to jump on the blame train; to distance themselves from the “crazy” or “unstable” population.
I’ve spent most of this summer in and out of the psychiatric hospital parking lot. My husband spent most of it behind the metal detector where they make you strip out your pockets and take the laces out of your shoes. It has not been Barbie’s Dream Summer™. Knowing how the craziness (both medically and vernacularly) can be overwhelming, I wanted to write a quick help list to keeping your head above water for any of you who also find yourself in this situation.
All storylines will be different but there are elements of my particular situation, a spouse with Major Depressive Disorder and multiple suicide attempts, which would and could also apply to other mental health inpatient situations. This is focused on caretakers. Your loved one will be under the care of professionals in the hospital setting. You did your job getting them to help and now you need to survive the storm. Here are some things that kept me afloat.
1. For the staff, this is just a Tuesday. They will seem horrible and cruel and surprisingly unbothered by what is most likely the second most terrible day of your life. Checking into a mental hospital is a bizarre combination of going through airport security, checking into a motel, and entering a nightmare world where people calmly respond to the most important person in your life explaining that they planned to buy a gun. Without any irony, one doctor (via webcam because the process took so long that it was three hours past normal office hours when we got to the “see a doctor” step) mimed placing a pistol in his mouth and the resulting explosion with hand gestures.
Another doctor referred to a patient who committed suicide as “breaking his winning streak”. There are stupid procedures and passwords and rules and regulations about everything. This is not their fault. Their job is to provide a dampening effect on the raging emotions of patients and caregivers by casually indicating via body language, tone, and word choice that everything is acceptable and that there is a calm and rational solution. You are still allowed to hate them for it.
(I really wish this was a joke, or exaggeration, or poorly executed satire but it was the literal reaction of the secretary at the hospital.)
It’s been a little over a month since the shootings of Alton Sterling, Phil Castile, and the police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and I still don’t have the words to describe my emotions. I can say that I am still hurting, angry, terrified, and confused. But it’s more than that. I grieve with my black brothers and sisters across the nation and I wonder about my future here in the States as a black woman.
What’s going to happen to me if I am ever pulled over by a police officer for something I didn’t do? What’s going to happen if I’m out walking in my neighborhood and someone calls 911 on me because I look “black and suspicious”? What’s going to happen the next time I’m in a store and a clerk sees me wandering around?
After Sterling and Castile were shot, not one of my friends asked me how I was doing or if I was affected by the news. I’d even been posting about my pain and confusion on Facebook. But do you know what happened after the police officers were killed in Dallas? Family members and Facebook friends jumped on their keyboards typing out “Pray for Dallas” and “Blue Lives Matter” as fast as they could. I respect law enforcement and was hurting for the policemen’s families too but what does that mean to me when people do that? How do you think that makes me feel? Continue reading →
I have attempted to rewrite this article about my experiences with online dating a couple of times. The first draft sounded like a how-to, which felt dishonest because I haven’t been particularly successful in online dating or dating in general. The second draft was an attempt to be comical because of the plethora of ridiculous experiences I have had. However, this draft started to sound bitter. Noticing the difference between what I attempted to write and the actual tone of the writing allowed me to step back and evaluate.
I couldn’t ignore the feeling that I was avoiding something bigger and truer about my experiences. Did I feel bitter? As I came to realize the reality of my circumstances, I felt my back slump and I could only acknowledge what I had been fighting for so long- I was bitter, and felt defeated. I know this sounds dramatic, but I’ve dated a lot, with a relentless effort to find someone significant. Test-tasting everyone’s advice about dating and rarely turning off my search for the next potential partner was exhausting, and I came to realize that the bitterness stemmed from two areas.
First, was that all my efforts, worries, and work to have a symbol that I was lovable through having someone else in my life came to nothing. Second, was that I dealt with a lot of issues from the men I dated. Issues that weren’t mine to deal with, and so boundaries were often fuzzy. However, another feeling rose to the surface- thankfulness.
The Wonder Years
You see, I was that girl who had a crush on one guy or another throughout high school. When I was over with one crush I would intentionally search for another. It wasn’t so much that I liked a ton of guys at the same time. I was monogamous with even my crushes. I didn’t even like these guys’ characters or want to date them, but I was obsessed with liking guys (like most teenage girls are). Obsessed, I suspect, because I was bored in a small town. I had almost crushed on every guy in my year by the time I graduated high school.
It wasn’t the cute crushing either, where the girl blushes and tries to get the guys attention by smiling all the time. It was the perpetually embarrassing kind. I would blurt out inappropriate things or tell everyone how I had held my crushes hand during community prayer. Like everyone else, I was eternally grateful when high school was over. My crushes during my high school years never developed into anything. I avoided actually dating because it was a world I didn’t fully understand. And my weirdness around guys didn’t really help things.
It wasn’t until I was 21 years old that I had my first date. I know, a full three years later and still no date. To be fair, as much as I was weird, I was also a little petrified. A deer caught in the headlights to only bolt at the last second- which happened a few too many times- until my date on a train with a guy named Dave. The only reason this even happened was because I never thought that the people I would meet during this ride were going to be anything significant. And the train was moving, it’s not like I could have gone anywhere. He made his interest known and I went a little crazy. But just a little. Not psycho or anything, just borderline obsessive. I thought: this is my chance. He’s educated, good-looking, has strong values, and he rides horses like a cowboy! It had to work. But the relationship didn’t and couldn’t have worked. He lived in Montreal and I lived in Winnipeg. Yet, I couldn’t get past the fact that someone that awesome would like me, and thought I need to seize this opportunity the best I could.
That first date led to more dates with other guys- a lot of other guys. I was living in Winnipeg at the time, a place where (unlike Vancouver or Victoria) men actually ask random girls out on dates. I didn’t need online dating. Almost every weekend I was on a new date with a new guy. I had plenty of guy friends who could have been potentials. It was overwhelming, but I soaked in the attention. It was something I had never had in my life, not because I wasn’t beautiful before, but because I had “I’m too insecure to date” written on my forehead. I ended up dating a guy for three weeks knowing after the first date that he wasn’t a keeper. There was something comforting about knowing it wasn’t going to last with him. I finished things when it got a little too drama-filled. After the breakup, it was the first time I was unmotivated to date or even have a crush. I didn’t think about dating for three months and was quite relaxed about it all. But of course, things change…Continue reading →
When I first heard the term doula, I literally spoke the words: “a what-nah?” Fast forward two years and here I am: a practicing doula. The term ‘doula’ is ancient Greek and roughly translates as “a woman who serves.” For a professional movement that aims to empower, advocate and offer caring, non-judgemental support during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period, this definition, while providing the gist, falls short. (Oh, and there’s no rule that men can’t be doulas.) If you don’t know about doulas, or if what you do know makes you scratch your head in confusion or suspicion, do me this favour and bear with me as I hopefully debunk some common myths and share what I know to be true about the doula role.
A common doula image has been the hippy-dippy, placenta eating type (while the healing benefits of this practice can be argued) the bottom line is that doulas do not force-feed their clients placentas, a myth that can create real barriers to doulas being taken seriously in broader systems of care – someone who wafts into a room ripe with patchouli oil and is dismissive of doctor’s orders.
Art courtesy of the author, Rachel.
Here are some frank but concise things to know: 1) if a doula has been trained well, they will know the role is not a clinical one, and 2) that while a ‘hippy-dippy’ approach is often scoffed at, it seems clear that our culture is starved for what might better be termed ‘holistic care.’ I feel lucky to have attended births where medical staff and holistic practitioners worked symbiotically. The outcome was stunning. Our mutual respect and willingness to complement each other’s roles disproved the notion that ‘medical births’ and ‘natural births’ must be separate entities. This type of bridging is one of a doula’s most astonishing tasks and achievements. The doula’s role is that of an impartial diplomat, offering translations, support and conflict resolution if tensions may be running high. A doula also runs interference between expectant parents and well-meaning but occasionally overbearing family members.Continue reading →
My name is Jonathan. I am 26 years old and living a typical Canadian life. I can honestly say that I spent the majority of my life wanting “the dream”: money, fame, and fortune. I believed that everyone had a chance to get that dream, especially living in a Country like Canada.
After I graduated from high school, I moved to the city. I learned about myself and experienced new people and cultures. I partied, shopped, and socialized, then went to work so that I could go out and spend more money and time with people. I was living the life but something seemed empty about it all. Everything in my life felt like it revolved around spending money.
We may talk about things like homelessness, world hunger, climate change, environmental pollution, wars, and diseases, but as a whole, my society isn’t worried about this. We are concerned about making and spending money, we feel obligated to go out and work those 40 hours every week so that we could have the means to pay for our consumer lifestyles.
Currently, Canada is looking to introduce a bill that could have just as wide flung effects as the NAFTA agreement: The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
What is the TPP?
Right now our nation is at a crossroads. Recently, our government signed onto the The Trans Pacific Partnership. This agreement threatens many of our rights and freedoms. If it is ratified, we will be allowing corporations to make decisions for us, but with the priority of profit over the welfare of people.
This agreement is quite a bit like the North American Free Trade Agreement that Canada signed in 1994. NAFTA allowed a lot of wealth to be made, but by corporations, and not the people of the countries involved. The new Trans Pacific Partnership may have even worse consequences than NAFTA, as the video below highlights.
While the video explains the general problematic aspects of the TPP, I’ve addressed several aspects below that will directly affect us in Canada.
1. Canadian tax dollars are being spent paying lawsuits to Corporations
Policies that are meant to protect Canadians are being challenged just to boost profits. The health and job security of Canadians are not a corporate priority, and the TPP will only further threaten their safety. Canadian policies or decisions can be legal, fair and designed to effectively protect the environment or public health, yet they can still face corporate lawsuits demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. A powerful tool of corporate rule is already undermining our democracy. Why would Canada want to willfully sign up for more of that?
2. It threatens Canadian Food Security and Health Security
We live in a globalized world. We have a constant supply of food, a wide variety of options, and goods are cheap. The often overlooked problem with this system is that our world is not a stable one, there are wars, famines, droughts, floods. The Climate is changing dramatically and fast.
We are almost completely dependent on imports for many food and goods that could instead be grown and produced in Canada. At the same time we are exporting our natural resources. If global trade were to stop, Canadians would be ill-prepared to deal with the food and goods shortages.
The TPP also opens up opportunities for companies to challenge food labeling. Since labeling where food comes from, or how the produce was grown (i.e. GMO) could affect profits, companies could sue Canada for requiring labels.
Personally, I want my food to be labeled so I can know where my garlic is grown and whether my tuna was caught without killings thousands of dolphins. Consumers should have the right to know where and how food is produced. Cost shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.
3. It Threatens Canadian Socialism
Canadians think that we live in a socialist country. We have free health care, employment insurance, and we would like to think it’s a fairly even playing field when it comes to finding a rewarding career. We are told that we have opportunities to become successful, that there’s a piece of pie for everyone. We are told that our lives are best.
Canada, with countless resources, should be a country of bounty. We shouldn’t have widespread homelessness and poverty shouldn’t be such a problem. People shouldn’t have to decide between supporting themselves and receiving a post-secondary education.
Canadians pride ourselves on universal healthcare, but many medical services and products aren’t actually included under that coverage. This could get even worse if the TPP is passed, since it includes excessive patent protections and other intellectual property rights that are guaranteed to make medication much more expensive in Canada. Call me a socialist, but I believe medicine should not be a profit-focused industry. I think pharmaceuticals should be heavily regulated by the governments, with the goal of bettering mankind, not just the stockholders. The health and wellbeing of humans should not just be seen as an opportunity for profit. Unfortunately, Global News has already reported on certain Pharmaceutical companies dramatically increasing drug prices.
Canadians need to decide what we want our future to be like.
We can allow the TPP to be signed and continue the corporate and banking invasion of our country, allowing rich corporations to benefit at the expense of the rest of the population.
Or we could stand up to the corporate world and demand that our country protect our rights and freedoms. We could see our governments take down economy-destroying banking systems and regulate corporations to once again benefit humans before profits. We could work towards health and food security, only selling or sharing surpluses with other countries. With less focus on profits, we might be able to solve many of the problems plaguing our world.
It is not too late to challenge the TPP. It may have been signed, but it is not yet ratified. The recent election was a political shakeup; it could allow Canada to rewrite our embarrassing trade, environment, and social policies.
So what will you do? Say nothing, and allow the TPP to pass? Or stand up and contact your MP to let them know that you care about Canada’s future. You can tell Ottawa that Corporations have no right to rule Canadians. We are a free country, we are a democracy, and we will not go down without a fight.
The time to decide is now. You have everything to lose.
Courtesy of The Council of Canadians acting for Social Justice
JON Marks is a 26-years-young, flamboyant, micro-writer who works in the garden and irrigation industry. He is a hobbit at heart and loves a good cup of tea. He is often a quiet fellow, but some situations can cause him to voice his opinions. He has no problem dishing the T.