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The Song and the Sorrow: Film debuts this weekend

 

October 10 is World Mental Health Day and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association: “Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague. By age 40, about 50 percent of the population will have or have had a mental illness.”

The National Film Board will be releasing this Saturday at the Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax The Song and The Sorrow. Through the lens of Canadian filmmaker Millefiore Clarkes following Juno award winning musician Catherine MacLellan, the film is a journey to understand Catherine’s father, Canadian folk legend Gene MacLellan’s mental illness which led to his suicide.

Produced by Rohan Fernando and Paul McNeill, and executive produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio, The Song and The Sorrow contains archival footage and intimate interviews with friends, family members, and musicians who knew and played with Gene—including Anne Murray, Lennie Gallant, and the late Ron Hynes. The film reveals a troubled and loving man who was never at ease with fame and money. The land and people of Prince Edward Island inspired Gene MacLellan’s music and are a vibrant presence in Clarkes’ documentary.

In an interview both Catherine and Millefiore talk intimately about the film.

How did you both collaborate in making this film?

Millefiore: “Focusing The Song and the Sorrow on Gene’s struggle with mental health was Catherine’s initiative. When I first approached her about making this film, the focus was more on the creative legacy between a parent and child, about the complex relationship and inspiration derived from a parent with a large personality and artistic temperament. I was also interested in how sadness and loss can precipitate creative expression. However, I was nervous to ask her about his suicide. I didn’t want to exploit her personal tragedy. But Catherine was at a point in her life, 20 years after Gene’s suicide, where she was looking for ways to talk about her experience. She got back to me immediately suggesting that we focus on Gene’s struggles as well as her exploration of how that has affected her and her family.”

How many threads to this film are there?

Millefiore: Quite a few. A daughter’s story of her father’s legacy of mental health struggles and suicide; Catherine’s story of her own struggles as a result; Gene MacLellan’s rich and enigmatic musical and personal legacy; and a bit of Canadian music history woven in there. It could have been a much longer film. There were so many paths to follow. It was always an endeavour to contain the film and keep it focused while touching on all these threads.”

What is the message the film wants to deliver?

Catherine: “The biggest message I’d like people to get from this film is how important it is to talk about mental health, and how in doing that we can all be a part of reducing the stigma that keeps so many people from finding the help they need. I hope that people get a sense of the lasting effects of a suicide and how we really need to continue the conversations surrounding mental health to help the people all around us who may be suffering.”

What did you enjoy the most about the making this film?

Catherine: Interviewing Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes and Marty Reno was a really nice experience for me. They were all close to him and had interesting experiences and thoughts to share. Getting to visit with Anne Murray was a bit intimidating for me at first, she’s such a legend and I hadn’t met her since I was a little kid. She shared some really great stories and was very kind and generous with us.

Showing at the Atlantic International Film Festival on Saturday, September 15.

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Febel

“You are not broken.”

That is Jennifer Febel’s personal, and professional, mantra. When she was 19, Febel was diagnosed with a multitude of mental disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm. “In other words: broken,” she says. In fact, one of the many doctors Febel saw on her road to recovery actually used that term to describe her condition.

Those words had a deep impact. For years, Febel thought she had to live with “being broken”. She was given medications and coping options — but nothing helped. Eventually, her anxiety grew until she couldn’t leave the house.

That’s when she took a chance on a wellness coach, who was able to convince her to look past her scepticism and try some alternative mind-body tools. “The most powerful moment from me was when my coach told me “You are not broken”. To have someone say that was profound.”

“After 13 years of struggling and medication and therapy, I was able to come off meds and I never looked back. I was able to feel how I wanted to feel.”

Febel has an incredibly bubbly personality and a genuine smile. Invite her to your party and she may bring her hula hoop and perform an impressive dance routine. Her fast wit and positive outlook on life is contagious — and if she didn’t open up about her past, no one would know how much she struggled.

Her decision to see a wellness coach shaped the rest of her life and inspired her to go into the field herself. Febel is now a certified wellness coach and master hypnotherapist operating out of Bradford, Ont., with clients across Simcoe, York, and the GTHA. Her business, whose name Live Life Unbroken is inspired by her own personal experiences, helps those with phobias, anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, and general wellness goals. She emphasizes that she is not a medical doctor and cannot treat these disorders, but she can help relieve the symptoms.

“Basically, my job is to help people figure out what they actually want and then chart a path to get to it,” she said. “We often know what we don’t want –  I don’t want to be anxious or stressed all the time – my role is to help them find out what they actually want and how to go about getting that.”

How does she do that? Febel likes to think of the mind like a computer, and her job is cognitive tech support.

“Nothing needs to be fixed. Sometimes, over the course of your life, you download a virus. You call in the geek squad — that’s me! Someone who can manoeuvre the system.”

The current medical model sees mental health as a hardware program, Febel says. Instead, she thinks of things like anxiety and depression as software programs that need to be uninstalled. To do that, she uses advanced mind-body tools that are practiced in 38 countries around the world to find out what’s happening at the subconscious level.

“The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know. The problems are at the unconscious level,” she says. While most cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on the “why”, Febel focuses more on the “how” in order to relieve the symptoms of the “virus”. “In my mind, who cares about the why. It just satisfies curiosity. We focus on how the problem is created– then we can change it.”

Febel respects and encourages the skepticism associated with hypnosis and personal coaching. “That was me,” she said. “When I saw my coach I thought it was a hoax.”

“If you want to freak people out at a party, tell them you are a hypnotherapist. You get two reactions –‘ cool, can you hypnotize’ me or ‘I can’t be hypnotized. ‘I see it as my job to educate. Skepticism is the doorway to the wonder of change – just avoid letting it get in your way.”

In addition to one-on-one coaching, Febel runs a number of workshops through Live Life Unbroken, the most popular being a one-day workshop called “Reboot Your Inner Spark.” This course allows participants to tap into their own intuition and learn how to start healing naturally.

Last year, Febel began a new program called “Leadership Alchemy,” which touches upon communication and connections in personal and professional situations, or how Febel describes it, “how to be a true leader in your life.” She is also co-running a women’s wellness weekend where she will be leading some classes on revitalizing your chakras. During that weekend, women will be taught to find balance and centering in their daily lives, as well as participate in other wellness activities like yoga and magnified healing.

In addition to her workshops, Febel is also a regular presenter at a number of conferences and events. She is currently working on a presentation that will encourage women to stop being so nice. “When I’m “nice”, I have no boundaries. I’m doing what everyone else wants,” she says. “It creates “angry nice girls” who on the surface doing well, but on the inside they are angry and sad. Banish [the word nice] from your vocabulary. Be compassionate. Be kind. Nice doesn’t help anyone.”

When Febel isn’t working, she sings with York Harmony Chorus, an award-winning acappella group of over 40 women that sing in four-part harmony. The chorus competes regionally once a year and Febel helps with choreography and PR, as well as performs. “Every week I get to spend a few hours with these wonderful women and that nourishes my life in so many ways.”

Febel is someone who constantly loves to learn and try new things. She works with her own coaches and uses her own mind-body tools on a regular basis, starting each day with a grounding or energy-balancing exercise like tai chi. She loves to curl and is constantly reading or ordering books online. The one book she returns to on a regular basis is Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine by Deepak Chopra.

 

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People with mental health continue to suffer in Toronto

Imagine yourself sitting in the house alone day after day, jumping at every noise and wincing at bright lights.  You finally get up the courage to step out the house and go to the hospital to ask for help. Getting there is painful. You have to deal with the crowds of people on the subway and the constant fear of being watched walking down the street. Finally, you get to the hospital and wait for several hours before seeing a physician. You are given a list of phone numbers and then asked to leave. Clutching the piece of paper, you retreat back to your home and close the door.

In Toronto, people are turned away every day at hospitals and health centres and sent home with a list of contacts to call, only to be forced to sort through the maze of mental health on their own, oftentimes ending up on long waitlists with no aid. The issue in part has to do with the history of mental health in Canada. In the 1980s, mental health reforms across the world deinstitutionalized people from mental hospitals and many countries failed to provide a strong alternative. Many sick people fell into chronic homelessness, and a lack of replacement funding was offered.

In Canada, this is certainly the case. Other countries worldwide did implement strong healthcare systems that work to this day. Trieste in Italy created a network of 24-hour mental health facilities with inpatient beds and group home facilities for people with mental health in need of housing support. Because of constant access to mental health care, Trieste is known worldwide as the example to follow in managing the mental health needs of a population adequately.

It is no longer acceptable to place mental health as a secondary concern in health care. In Canada, mental health is a leading disability and affects one in five Canadians annually. According to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), by the time the average Canadian reaches 40, one in two having been diagnosed with a mental illness. Finally, mental illness burdens individuals 1.5 times higher than all cancers, and more then seven times of infectious diseases. This is due to the number of years living with mental illness and a higher rate of early death.

How is turning people away from receiving help for mental health issues a proper response to a severe medical concern? If someone can’t leave their house due to aggressive anxiety, or is so depressed they are contemplating suicide, how is it remotely appropriate to put people on a waitlist?

CAMH alone has an eight-to-ten-week processing time once a doctor referral is submitted.  If someone has a debilitating mental illness, it is left up to them alone to make a mental health plan. It often falls to families and friends to help strategize what to do, and finding resources and filling out forms for long waitlists is exhausting.How many people simply fall off the grid and never receive the help they need? If the person who needs mental health aid does not have anyone to support them, they have to shoulder to burden themselves with no help in sight.

The federal government has promised to make mental health a priority, but has come under criticism as of late for cutting the Canada Health Transfer annual increase from six per cent to three per cent. Health Minister Jane Philpott has said she is committed to supporting mental health help, but the federal government has yet to provide any specific amount of funding.

Mental health needs to be a primary concern in Canada. It is no longer a conversation to have in hushed tones in the corner, but a public discourse that needs to be dealt with in the immediate future. There is nothing shameful about living with a mental illness. Can you imagine a society where each person living in Toronto had access to free counselling in every neighbourhood? It could be the change our society needs, to put people’s mental health first and foremost in a world that definitely needs it.

Top foods to boost your mood

Feeling down? Your diet could be a factor. Despite the everyday stresses of life, poor eating habits can also contribute to your bad mood. Lack of mental and physical energy is not something you want to deal with while trying to conquer the world. If you’re experiencing a case of the Debby Downer lately, try these mood boosting remedies:

1. Apples

They always say: an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Apples are one of the most valuable remedies for mental depression. The various chemical substances present in this fruit help the synthesis of glutamic acid, which controls the wear and tear of nerve cells. Try eating the apple with honey and milk. This combination makes an effective tonic that helps recharge nerves, gives new energy, and vitalizes the life.

2. Root of asparagus

The root of asparagus is highly nutritious and is used as an herbal medicine for mental disorders. Much like apples, it is a good tonic for the brain and nerves. One or two grams of the powder of the dry root of the plant can be taken once daily.

3. Bananas

There is logic behind the phrase ”going bananas,” you know! Eating bananas facilitates the cross-talk among the brain cells and affects the mood. To prevent recurring minor depression, a banana- a – day therapy will help.

4. Cardamon

Add some cardamon seeds to boiling water along with a teabag. These seeds will add a very pleasant aroma to the tea, which can be used as a medicine in the treatment of depression.

5. Rose Petals

Feel like a queen by infusing half a cup of rose petals in two cups of boiling water. Drink it occasionally, instead of the usual tea and coffee, and get the benefits. If you wish, leave it to cool off, place it in the refrigerator and drink it cool.

6. Cashew nut

The cashew nut is another valuable remedy for general depression and nervous weakness. It is rich in vitamins of the B group, especially thiamine, and is therefore useful in stimulating the appetite and the nervous system.

7. Herb lemon balm

The herb lemon balm has been used successfully in the treatment of mental depression. It alleviates brain fatigue, lifts the heart from depression, and raises the spirits. A cold infusion of the balm taken freely is excellent for its calming influence on the nerves.

8. Peanuts

Peanuts are good sources of trytophan, an essential amino acid which is important for the production of serotonin, one of the key brain chemicals involved in mood regulation. Surprisingly, peanuts may have good affects in lowering depression.

 

Remember: In addition to eating healthy, daily exercise and a positive attitude is also highly important. If you’re experiencing depression and anxiety and are having trouble completing day to day activities, be sure to also visit your doctor for more information on how to improve your mental health.

Good luck!

What do you eat to boost your mood? Tell us in the comments below! 

 

Too far? Drag queens make fun of mentally ill Amanda Bynes in new Blurred Lines parody

Warning: This video features some seriously sexy men in some seriously tight underwear. 

While these girls have a history of making fun of current events with their covers of popular songs have they gone too far this time by making fun of mentally ill Amanda Bynes?

The video, a cover of the already questionable summer hit Blurred Lines, features references to the former child star’s meltdown, Twitter rampages, and arrest that led to her psychiatric evaluation along with images of the three drag queens in straight jackets and suggestions that the actress has been abusing drugs.

What do you think, has this comedy trio gone too far by picking on someone suffering from mental illness?

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.