We all deal with stress. And it is worth thinking about how we feel it and what we can do about it.
Harsh experiences – all of us have had them. In childhood or after.
When a person living with a mental illness reaches the point of hospitalization, those who care sigh a breath of relief.
“Thank goodness,” we say to ourselves, “our loved one is in good hands.”
And that is true. The mental health professionals both inside and outside the hospital setting do their jobs well and ensure that within the structure of our health care system the most vulnerable and unwell receive the attention they need.
But once outside the institutional system, mental health patients fall off a cliff and enter a revolving door of inside-outside. Allow me to give you an example, from personal experience.
Someone I care about deeply lives with bipolar disorder, a devastating illness that requires constant monitoring and assertive treatment.
Hospitalization has been a frequent feature of this person’s life, but beds on the psychiatric unit are scarce. Six beds serve the whole of the Sunshine Coast. So, when acute medical needs were deemed to have been addressed, this loved one was let out – without a formal discharge plan or follow-up.
The inevitable happened.
Still unwell with her mood cycling dramatically, and with new medications not yet having their effect (psychiatric meds typically take weeks to work), my friend entered the twilight zone between care and chaos.
Homeless, because her landlord did not want her around, and without social support because her behaviour estranged her friends, this incredibly bright and caring woman fell into life on the streets, bush, beaches, and dark alleyways of Sechelt.
In through the out door.
Predictably, after causing a rumpus, she was arrested and again taken to hospital. Released again, she is back on the street – unwell, and vulnerable to the predations of (mainly) men with unfriendly intentions. It’s only a matter of time when the revolving door will once again deliver her into care, eventual release, and back into the cycle.
One does not have to read this sad story all that closely to realize that there is a large and perilous gap between structured, acute care and outpatient well being.
Vancouver Coastal Health funds mental health services. As few as eight years ago, there were several mental health social/outreach workers who attended to the needs of recently discharged patients. Now, I think there is one for the entire Sunshine Coast, though I hear this may change for the better.
Until a few years ago, the Homelessness Project (modestly funded) connected with patients while in hospital to help them find stable housing upon discharge. Yes, the organization that now runs the Upper Deck homeless shelter has, in its remit, the task of finding homes for the homeless. It is a daunting task, as there is no affordable housing on the Coast.
As a caring community, we must do what we can to address the bottom, most fundamental level of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs, which is safe and stable shelter and the basic elements of comfort.
Perhaps you have a spare bedroom you can let out to a person in need. I did, and I did.
If there is anything you can do to help bridge the gap between care and nothingness, then drop by the Arrowhead Clubhouse in Sechelt and talk with staff. Shelter. Clothing. Camping equipment for folks living rough. Anything.
Caring for those in need is our moral imperative.
Note: This regular column on mental health and social issues will appear 11 May at www.coastreporter.net
As I write this, sitting on the wharf with my ancient laptop on a sunny day in Gibsons, looking at so many moneyed folks buying everything in sight, I know that not a stone’s throw from where I am are 30 people – with hearts and souls just like you and me – without a home.
Last night, some slept under rowboats pulled up on the beach. Some didn’t sleep, because the little shelter they sought from last night’s rain – a garage, perhaps, or maybe just a big tree – was made unavailable by a property owner who didn’t want them there.
I’ll keep banging this drum. We have a moral obligation to help and support our fellow community members who are homeless and, quite often, live with a mental illness.
It is important to understand this: Not one of these folks has made a choice to live this way. Not one wants to wait each week for the food bank. Not one would prefer to live without love, support, and happiness. Not one would not embrace the chance to express the talent, spirit, and energy she or he has.
It comes down to us. We who have more than we need.
I ask this: Is it possible that you have ten hours a month to volunteer to support your fellow community members? Think about it. Ten mere hours a month away from Netflix.
It it possible for you to talk to the guy who plays John Prine for dimes on an out-of-tune guitar outside your fancy food market? Is is possible for you to buy him a sandwich – maybe even take him to lunch? Is it possible for you to accept him? (Or her, of course.)
Reject the objections to social housing or shelters that so many don’t want in their neighbourhood. Stand up for what it morally right and true. Share your abundance.
To my Sunshine Coast friends, you might listen to a recent podcast (link handily provided below) and express your support to John Gleeson, my fine editor, and the Coast Reporter, for running my column.
To the creator of the Sun and the Moon, stars and sky, fire and rain, tides and winds and cloud, the birds, forests and seas, animals and plants and the soil and water that gives life to all – hear my prayer for Kelly.
Know her kindness and heart, and give her the strength she has given your earthly creations. Give her your understanding of her soul, which is big and deep and generous. And allow the cedar rain forest, the plants there that she like no other knows are good, and the animals she dearly loves and can talk to, to protect and nourish and guide her to safety. Give my forest girl peace, love, and happiness.
There are times when someone we love and care about becomes unwell – falls down and is harmed, and frequently embarrassed, by the behavioral symptoms and consequences of illness.
There is a new menu item atop the main page called “Local Links.”
As a child, lying awake in my bed, I thought about the never-ending. About time and space, and how it had no conclusion. I was a weird kid.
Nobody sees the world and takes pictures like Janice.
Well, maybe Paul Clancy does.
This is just a great shot and, dare I say, has a scent of love in it.
Eighteen years ago, on a stormy November night at our place in Roberts Creek, a debate was raging. Eve and I were not settled on a name for the child that would be born in a couple of weeks at St. Mary’s Hospital in Sechelt.