Private citizen and spokesperson for no one but herself Rita Smith commends the province of Ontario on announcing the first-ever Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in its June 20th cabinet shuffle.
“I hope that in the hours and days ahead we will see the entire community of mental health professionals and organizations step up to congratulate the province and the new minister on this important step forward in Ontario’s history,” says Smith, who was part of the launch of the Mental Health Commission of Canada under then-Health Minister Tony Clement in 2008.
“This announcement by Premier Doug Ford is welcomed and appreciated certainly by individuals caring for family members and loved ones suffering mental illness and/or addiction issues,” says Smith, who has a considerable amount of non-professional experience in supporting folks who have been thrust unexpectedly into the chaotic maelstrom of attempting to find care for loved ones who urgently need it.
“While we are thanking and congratulating those who deserve it, I would also like to commend the Ontario Provincial Police for providing Mental Health First Aid training and De-escalation Training as part of its Mental Health Strategy.
“Every Canadian can take Mental Health First Aid training through the MHCC and local partners, and everybody should,” Smith goes on to nag. “The current mental health crisis is not something we can pay police and healthcare workers to make go away, or to deal with on our behalf while we do other things. It is incumbent upon every one of us to be as informed about mental health first aid as we are about physical first aid.”
Smith offer special congratulations to Ontario’s first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo who, she says, “is the most perfect person on the planet to serve as Ontario’s champion for mental health supports.”
“I am pretty sure I can speak for anyone who ever ran late in a meeting with Michael Tibollo while he went off on a mental health tangent: this Ministry could not be in better hands. God help the staff that stand in his way or tell him ‘no,’ but it will all be for the greater good, I am sure.”
And while she has your attention, Smith wants to re-iterate what she has learned in all the years of hoping to help loved ones struggling with mental illness.
“As important as it is to get a professional diagnosis – and it is crucial to have a professional in your ‘circle of care’ – following these five basic life rules will help you cope, recover and get back on track no matter what your diagnosis is:
- Eat healthy food;
- Get 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, in the sunshine if you can;
- Get a good night’s sleep – work on your sleep routine
- Avoid substances like alcohol and drugs
- Spend time with family members who love and support you.”
“Thank you, Premier Ford and Minister Tibollo for this long-overdue appointment. Your work will help a lot of people.”
I actually wrote up the process for Brandied Fruit in response to a Facebook request – short and sweet, but this is basically it. Start in June! There is no “making Brandied Fruit” at Christmas.
“Sue, it’s not a recipe so much as a process. It is different every year, depending on what berries I can get and when I find the time!
Basically a cup of rum or brandy and a cup of sugar poured over berries in season, start with that. 3 or so cups of berries.
The lid is left on loosely, not sealed. Sit it in a cupboard or counter (not in bright sun) until new berries come into season.
By then the first batch will be sitting in a pile of liquid, sugar, brandy, fruit juice. Wash the new berries and add to the jar. Every now and then you might slosh in some more brandy and more sugar.
As the summer goes on I have to dump everything into a giant mixing bowl and divide it out into MORE jars as I add more berries. These 4 jars will grow to 8 or 10.
Generally the order of the summer goes:
- peaches (skin removed, cut in big chunks).
You can add gooseberries and wild blueberries if you can get them.
Some people add pineapple, I did that once it was good but not “Ontario.”
In a perfect world all the fruit is local but I got great raspberries and blackberries on sale Sunday so I started an impromptu batch! Still waiting for local strawberries.
Use cheap brandy, I usually use Ontario Small Cask brand. Rum is also good. The liquid starts to get fizzy and ferment-y, that’s fine, just don’t seal the jars tightly to allow the gas to escape. (These jars are never heat processed; the preservation is in the brandy and the sugar.)
When you are done adding fruit, pack the jars away until Christmas….you won’t believe the flavour! It’s quite magical.”
(I researched and wrote this article five years ago. Recent reports show that many parents have still haven’t gotten the message – which means, Science has still failed to deliver it.)
In February, there were news reports of California families hosting “Measles Parties” to intentionally expose their children to the potentially fatal disease in order to gain immunity while avoiding the measles vaccine.
Here in Canada, a recent poll by Angus- Reid showed that nearly nine-in-ten Canadians say vaccinations are effective at preventing disease for the individual who receive the vaccine (88%) and for the community as a whole (86%); and yet, the same poll found that two-in-five Canadians (39%) agree that “the science on vaccinations isn’t quite clear.”
In attempting to understand what vaccine-doubting or even measles-promoting adults could possibly be thinking, Landmark Report spoke with Canadian virologist and post-doctoral research fellow Dr. Logan Banadyga, and Dr. Baruch Fischoff, professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
Neither man could fathom what such parents were thinking, but both pointed squarely at communications by the scientific community – or lack of such communications – as a major contributor to the incredible, entirely preventable situation North Americans now face.
Westerners may believe that measles and mumps are relatively benign diseases, because science has not made a concerted effort to communicate the more serious risks, Fischhoff believes.
“People view the diseases merely as an inconvenience because they don’t know of complications that can arise; the medical community knows these things, but other people generally aren’t aware… we haven’t provided them with the evidence, or communicated the risks. The risk of blindness and death, my guess is that very few people know about that,” Fischhoff points out.
“I can guarantee you that most scientists don’t think about communications at all, because they don’t trust communications people, or they don’t trust journalists,” Banadyga says. “Most scientists think it’s easier to avoid them in the first place; and then we end up in situations where people listen to Jenny McCarthy.”
Banadyga conducts research in virology in western Montana and has dedicated his life to fighting infectious disease; he is particularly concerned with children’s health.
“We know from decades of research that vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures that we have ever undertaken,” he points out.
“So rationally, vaccines are a great idea. We have the data to prove that. It’s not just a bunch of scientists or big pharma getting together and deciding that they could make money off this. We know how to improve quality of life and it improves children’s’ lives – that’s a FACT.
“When you think about these Californians who are having measles parties – people have been doing this with chicken pox for years – you think, ‘You are exposing your child to a disease to which that kid does not have to be exposed and sure, they’ll probably survive if they get measles, but they’ll still get sick, they could potentially get very sick, and they could potentially die.
“You’re exposing them to that virus for no other reason than the completely fallacious belief that you think vaccines are causing more harm than good.” Science, he believes, has not done enough to combat such emotional beliefs which often trump rational thought.
“Part of the North American challenge is that the current generation has no direct experience of diseases like measles and mumps,” he says. “Now we have the case of these parents who are considering vaccines for their children and they have no experiences of these diseases. So their decision is easier to make, because they don’t see the kinds of havoc that these diseases caused in the first place.”
Banadyga believes there has to be a concerted effort to get these messages across to parents. Currently, “the message isn’t strong enough; or it’s not being absorbed clearly enough; or perhaps not enough of an effort is being made to deliver the message.”
Fischhoff agrees that the communications effort has been found lacking: “Scientists, like everybody else, overestimate how much of what they know is common knowledge. This is called ‘the common knowledge effect.’ If you think people know something, you don’t bother repeating it. I think scientists have dropped the ball for a very understandable reason: most scientists don’t have access to the public, so everything the scientist says goes through the funnel of the media.”
“We also,” Fischhoff adds, “overestimate how well we read people’s minds.”
Both Banadyga and Fischhoff commented on the frustration and exasperation scientists and even doctors feel in attempting to communicate well-documented, factual evidence to parents who cling to irrational beliefs.
“Scientists generally communicate in situations in which they are the boss, such as the classroom. We get pretty good at communicating complicated material, but that doesn’t mean we listen to the needs of people who actually need this information.”
Banadyga stresses the importance of family doctors who will listen to parents’ fears and take the time to allay them: “I think physicians are beginning to learn that this you can’t approach this subject as a cold-hearted machine and say, ‘Vaccines are the only way to go and if you don’t vaccinate your kids, you’re stupid.’ That’s going to turn a lot of people off.”
Risk Communications Sidebar
Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University is one the pioneers in the development of Risk Communications, a precise process in which testing how a message is received, understood and acted upon is a critical component in decision-making. He was instrumental in assisting the Public Health Agency of Canada in developing its Strategic Risk Communications Framework, which was released in 2006.
“Tested messages really are the ‘gold standard’ in effective communications, and I don’t know if that is being done anywhere right now,” he says. “We’ve had 40 years of Risk Communications research in support of communications and decision making. I think we know how to communicate these things in a comprehensible and respectful way; I think what’s missing is simply use of the practice…people are just shooting from the hip.”
When public health officials fail to test their messages, Fischhoff says, “they are not doing their jobs.”
“If they don’t have message-testing procedures, then they’re just digging the hole deeper…they could do $500 million dollars’ worth of damage with a $50M campaign, if they don’t test their messages.”
Unlike one-way communications processes like DAD (decide, announce, defend) or persuasion campaigns, Risk Communications includes:
- identifying the risk information that is most critical to decisions about risk;
- characterizing the dimensions of risk that matter most to decision makers;
- helping people make difficult risk choices and weighing competing outcomes;
- communicating information about the magnitude of risks (and benefits), as well as the processes that create and control them;
- describing people’s mental models of risks, in order to identify the critical missing pieces between what they know and what they need to know;
- evaluating the success of communications programs.
“Although it would be nice to know more about all of these things,” Fischhoff wrote in the Strategic Risk Communications Framework, “this knowledge has limited value unless it can be translated into operational terms, usable by organizations with front-line communications responsibilities.”
Health Canada announced its new Food Guide in January, and first and foremost, I congratulate all the scientists, researchers and staff who worked for a decade to get the job done.
The rollout is an absolutely enormous project, a job I had the privilege of undertaking with a fantastic team in 2007.
The Food Guide – which is a GUIDE, not the law, not carved in stone, not meant to dictate the same diet for 35 million different people – has been part of life in Canada since 1942.
In 2007, our group of stakeholder scientists and nutritionists numbered over 600. The Guide had been researched, discussed and argued for 13 years. It was the source of much controversy and dispute; journalists were (and are) highly suspicious of Canada’s Food Guide ever since it was revealed in the early 1990s that the number of eggs recommended had been influenced by the egg lobby.
I can vouch for the intense desire food lobby groups have had over the years to influence the Guide: in 2007, brand new in my job as the Director of Communications to the Minister of Health when my phone rang. I picked it up; it was a man I had never met before. He introduced himself as the lobbyist for the soft drink industry.
“We are very disappointed that Health Canada has decided to label soft drinks as an “occasional item,” he blustered into the phone.
“We are very disappointed that childhood obesity has tripled in the last 15 years,” I responded without hesitation.
Not surprisingly, I never heard from him again; I still laugh thinking about that call.
In one meeting, as we wrestled with the fact that we were doomed to upset SOMEBODY no matter what the Guide recommended, I grew frustrated with the talk of “the meat lobby this” and “the egg lobby that.”
“Why are we worrying about the most expensive things people can buy, when really we should be encouraging them to eat more of the most nutritious and inexpensive foods? Who stands up for broccoli?!” I wanted to know.
Staff kindly humoured my fevered ideas about inventing Broccoli and Carrot mascot costumes and sending them to schools and sporting events. We never did any of those things, but it was a great rollout nevertheless.
The Food Guide is the second-most requested document the federal government provides. Only Income Tax forms are requested more often.
In 2007, the new Guide was in such demand, our first print run was 4 million copies. We had not only a printing press on stand-by, but a PAPER MILL on stand-by. The pressure to get the Guide finalized was immense. Scientists, nutritionists and journalists were still arguing the day we went to press (as they are still arguing now) but somehow, they were able to come to enough of a consensus to get the thing done and distributed.
In 2007, some of the big new changes included making fruits and vegetable the basis for a healthy diet. Now, in 2019, Health Canada is recommending fully half of “the plate” be fruits and vegetables. It clearly states that water should be the drink of choice; and that culture is important and we should eat together. These are great advances!
Of course, I disagree with the grain recommendations, but then, it wouldn’t be Canada’s Food Guide if we weren’t arguing about it.
Bon appetite, eh?
- I was never hungry, and have never felt in any way deprived, on the Keto diet.
- Our grain-based diet is a horrible, harmful lie.
- A high fat, low carbohydrate diet seems counter-intuitive and maybe for some people, it is. However, for myself and several others in my family (diabetes runs in my family) have found ENORMOUS success on this diet – including all measurable blood metrics including cholesteral, tri-glycerides, HDL and LDL.
- Once you get your mind around the idea of “no white” (no rice, pasta, bread or potatoes) everything else is pretty easy.
- Tons of green vegetables are a lot more palatable when you can flavour with fats (fry in bacon fat, top with butter or toss with salad dressing). You’ll come to enjoy it!
- You are probably already eating all the protein you need; once you start paying close attention to protein (as I did) it was not hard to make sure I got enough.
- For several months, I tried to keep my daily carb intake below 20 grams. This took effort and A LOT OF LABEL READING! You’ll be shocked at all the places you find carbs, which will surprise you. (Even in sugar-free gum? C’MON……)
- You will need to give up virtually every fruit except berries. Fortunately you can get those all year (fresh in summer, frozen in winter) so you’ll be OK. Apples, oranges, melon and grapes are out, full stop.
- Juice, pop, beer, wine, Gatorade….all forms of liquid sugar will be GONE from your diet. On the bright side, water from the tap is a lot cheaper! Herbal teas (hot or cold) are also flavourful and inexpensive. Coffee is still good! And you get to put real cream in it.
- When I lost 60 pounds and reached my goal, I looked around for something to add to my diet to maintain my weight and settled on seeds: roast melon seeds (which feel crunchy and salty, like chips) and Chia seeds in my breakfast shakes. This seems to be working.
On December 10th I made the five hour drive home from the United States. Switching to Canadian radio, I was flabbergasted to find we are still discussing the lyrics to the Christmas song, “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
Why, I wondered, is a 50-year-old song about two adults cuddling in front of a fire bothering so many people? I had just left Michigan, proud birthplace of Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem), who became a millionaire writing songs about killing women and raping their corpses. Ariana Grande is singing about wrist icicles. Eeeeeew.
Radio host Evan Soloman pointed out that many listeners feel “Baby, it’s cold outside” is “rapey.” Endless ink has been spilled discussing whether it flies in the face of the #MeToo movement; some station have banned it altogether.
I suggest, once again, that we are failing young women. Why are we engaged in this debate at all, in 2018? Last time I checked, women have the power to say “no” to men and it’s incumbent upon us to do so when the situation calls for it.
The woman in this song has the power to say “no,” get up and go at any time. Why are millions of intelligent people pretending otherwise? This is not a good idea to give young women – or young men.
Here’s a 2018, common-sense version of the lyrics to “Baby, it’s cold outside.” I doubt it will crack the Top Ten, but it will be closer to reality, and it’s good news for men and women everywhere.
“I don’t plan to stay (Baby it’s cold outside)
So I’m on my way (Baby it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (Nice that you chose to drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice).
I’ll call home so Mother won’t worry (Beautiful what’s your hurry?)
Father will unlock the door (Listen to the fireplace roar)
I’m not stressed by a little snow flurry (Beautiful please don’t hurry)
A drink? I don’t want any more (I’ll put some records on while I pour)
I know how to think (Baby it’s bad out there)
I said “no” to that drink (No cabs to be had out there)
I’m sure I know how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) (Why thank you)
I’m sure that you heard me say ‘no’ sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least you can say that you tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I’m not gonna stay (Baby don’t hold out)
I can handle the cold outside.
I am not a doctor – I have a high school education.
But here is a partial list of things I have seen in my lifetime that result in human beings taking part in behaviours which are completely out of character for them:
- extreme stress including bankruptcy or massive personal loss
- mental illness, mood disorder or brain disorder including brain tumour
- blood chemical imbalances including diabetes
- medications, new medications, or medication changes (brand or dosages)
- concussion & untreated concussion
- small stoke or untreated stroke
- Alzheimer’s, especially Early Onset Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia
- heart condition which includes reduced blood flow to the brain
- food allergies, undiscovered or developed later in life
- supplements and steroid medications. Creatine taken to build muscles, which is available over the counter, has caused enormous problems for some men that I know who have taken it
- Substance abuse
And, added after conversation with a very smart woman:
- Addiction, including addiction to social media
These situations occur so consistently in my life that I have learned that when someone does something utterly bizarre and out of character, I should just stand back and shut up until I can determine what is actually going on.
Through the mental health training I have been fortunate enough to take, I have learned that often the most devastating consequence of a breakdown or psychotic break is the shame with which the person lives afterward. I would hope never to add to such shame but only be patient and understanding until all the facts are known; I hope I would be afforded the same consideration in a similar situation.
“Alpha: The Movie:” Spoiler alert!
It’s not what you might think. It’s true that as a dog owner, I was surprised that the main character Keda had less difficulty taming an aggressive, fully-grown wild wolf than the typical Labrador Retriever owner has potty-training history’s most docile breed.
I was a bit bemused that a teen-aged boy who can’t start a fire, won’t kill a hog and doesn’t want to leave his mommy to go hunting with the men was being groomed to be Leader of the tribe; but it’s fiction, after all, so I suspended disbelief.
(“He’s not ready!” his mother frets. “He leads with his heart, not his spear!” Geez, I thought, I hope she’s ready to run fast if a hostile tribe descends under Keda’s leadership…)
The crucial plot turn – Keda lacks the good sense to get out of the way of a charging bison – leaves him wounded and abandoned to the elements. He rallies, tames a wolf in no time, and starts the long, cold hike back home. It’s a good thing he has Alpha, the tame wolf, to look after him, protect him, and provide him with food. Why, Alpha looks after him almost as well as his mommy did!
So that, by movie’s end, as Keda (who nursed Alpha back to health, cleansed his wounds, dried his fur, and spent months sleeping next to him) realizes that Alpha is actually a FEMALE dog only when she gives birth to a litter of puppies, it’s hardly a surprise at all. What teen-aged hunter WOULDN’T notice the extreme lack of penis and testicles on an animal?
So, “Alpha” is not the alpha-male, leader of the pack. Alpha is a female. That’s not the surprise. It’s 2018, after all.
The real jaw-dropper was watching the credits roll at the finish of the movie. Out of curiosity, I stuck with them right to the end – watching, watching, watching, watching, got a coffee, watching, went to the bathroom, watching, checked my email, tried to estimate how many dozens – no, hundreds, no THOUSANDS of people worked on the worst movie I’ve ever seen – watching watching watching until there it was: my suspicions were justified.
Funded by taxpayers.
I paid $17.99 for this movie. An episode of “The Littlest Hobo” would have been more entertaining, and more realistic.
Oh, and for good measure, Alpha the Female Alpha is played by “Chuck.”
Click here to view the credits. Get a coffee first.