Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Disclaimer: This post is not related to training or racing at all. It is a glimpse into how passionate I am about my work and shows a little of my fiery side. It may make some people upset but that’s OK, I feel a need to vent and advocate for a population and agency that is unfairly discriminated against.
I love Boulder for it’s natural beauty, abundance of healthy food, the active lifestyle being the norm, the list goes on and on really. What I’ve grown to not like is the “Not in My Backyard” Ignorance that is taking over this town. After reading in the paper today about community outrage over the location of a Community Mental Health Center I’ve been on edge all day. The issue is being raised by parents of a local elementary school who oppose the opening of a new office for Mental Health Partners. I completely understand that parents want to keep their children safe but what kind of message does it send to kids when we as a community and parents stand up and essentially say “it’s great to help people with mental illness but not where I can see them”. The argument is that Mental Health Partners serves low-income clients who have moderate to severe mental illnesses and “these people” will create a safety risk to the kids playing on the playground. Parents are also under the false impression that mental illness =sex offender. Having worked for Mental Health Partners in the past on the Emergency Psychiatric Services team I have intense real experience with serious cases of mental illness. I went into Emergency Rooms at all hours of the day and night to do assessments of people experiencing a mental health crisis to determine if they needed inpatient care. Not once in my year and a half with MHP did I ever feel threatened or scared, even when dealing with actively psychotic clients. Now, I knew they were not Jesus like they told me and that the FBI was probably not listening to us but I didn’t judge them and as hard as it may be for some people to do, I treated them like a human being and friend. We talked and planned what was in their best interest. Sometimes this was more challenging than others but I believe that clients trusted me and felt safe because I was calm and respectful. I realize I have more developed senses of safety than a child and can more easily be cued into what is an unsafe situation. But I do believe that parents can educate their children about differences and help them learn to keep themselves safe. I grew up in inner city Denver and my parents taught me from an early age about what is safe versus unsafe and what to do if you ever felt unsafe. My parents took the opportunity to teach me about differences when I saw people in our community who were homeless, addicted to drugs, or maybe even mentally ill. Sometimes this lesson was after seeing something that was shocking and confusing at first but better understood after my parents talked about it. My family volunteered at the Soup Kitchen in downtown Denver and I clearly remember my dad setting an example for me in the kind way he interacted with the people we served. He would laugh and joke with people who came to enjoy a hot meal like they were his friends and never once did he make a stereotypical statement or discriminate. I know I’m not a parent (yet) but I have strong convictions about teaching your children about diversity of all kinds and how to embrace it rather than fear it.
Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, races, socioeconomic classes and in all communities. The entitled wealth of Boulder doesn’t realize that maybe their neighbor is mentally ill but they are actually able to afford treatment and therefore, you may never know that they are managing their illness. While MHP does treat some clients with more serious mental illness it has been my experience that most clients are no different than “normal” people who may have some anxiety issues, be managing situational depression or working through a traumatic past. Mental illness is treatable. On some level it’s no different than diabetes. Medicines, lifestyle changes, and other therapies can keep it under control. We hear so much about mental illness because people with serious mental illness who have no access to treatment are less able to make rational choices and end up in the news. The situation will only continue to get worse as funding to provide mental health services is regularly being slashed from state and federal budget.
I wish the Boulder community could start taking the time to become educated about issues before they jump to conclusions and make assumptions. I’m sure some people would be shocked to learn that Mental Health Partners also sees children and adolescents with mental illness and has a whole team of dedicated family therapists. Yes, like I said mental illness does not discriminate, it’s our “not in my backyard society” that does.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Website with more pictures to get an idea of just how great the trails are:
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Working with adolescents with substance abuse issues is challenging to say the least. I see kids faced with intergenerational substance abuse, serious traumatic histories and less than appropriate family dynamics. Research shows that increasing protective factors for kids increases their potential to maintain positive changes. My hope is that my kids can connect with something positive and I have a strong desire to introduce them to sports and outdoor recreation, both of which can be protective factors. Most are not exposed to these activities and those that are lose their connection when drugs take over their lives. I have kids as young as 15 who use cocaine 3-4 times per day. How on earth do you help someone so young change these behaviors? There are some days I feel hopeless and discouraged. This week is different. I have connected with an amazing organization, Trips for Kids, and will be taking some of my kids on a mountain bike adventure on the local Boulder trails this Saturday. The number of kids attending has dwindled due to needing inpatient care, being in detention and being on the run. However, if only one kid has a positive experience and connects or re-connects to mountain biking and the outdoors it will all be worth it!