The Use of You in Client Engagement

What makes YOU a good social worker? How do YOU work with clients to bring about positive change and influence an increased quality of life? Engagement refers to the clients’ willingness to partake in the therapeutic process  and is therefore critical to change influenced by social workers. The therapeutic alliance is also known as the collaborative relationship between the client and the social worker, the strength and structure of which is often based on the clients’ level of engagement. If the social worker is unsuccessful in engaging the client, the client will not return to that professional, and the sought after change will not occur. So how do YOU do that?

One tool which has potential for increasing the strength of engagement, yet is one of the most controversial strategies, is the use of professional self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is bringing the core of what makes you a social worker, and the human that you are, onto the table for your client to engage with. This particular method of engagement risks extreme polarized results; in some cases self-disclosure made by the social worker is invaluable for developing the alliance, where in other cases it is damaging to both the client and the relationship. Damaging results are more likely to occur when the social worker confuses self-disclosing statements (which are primarily fact based) with self-involving statements (primarily emotional based), with damage most likely resulting from the latter. In other words, the feelings that make you who you are (opposed to the events) might not be of benefit to the client, and might actually make things worse, or influence the therapeutic alliance to go into a direction that is inappropriate when working with the client to achieve their goals.

This is an element of my own practice that is brought forward to me almost every day. You see, I wear an insulin pump, and have for most of my life. In every work setting, I have encountered clients living with some form of diabetes as well. As the social work professional with a positive therapeutic relationship, many clients want to discuss their own relationship with diabetes with me. As a diabetic, I want to support my people (those who also live with different forms of diabetes), but as the professional social worker I cannot do this. This use of self-disclosure is too risky in many situations both for myself and my client. Were I a registered Diabetes Educator, then sure, I would have the professional competence to discuss and advise on such matters, as well as the ethical duty to do so as a result of the training and continued education in the field. But as a social worker living with diabetes, I know my disease, and my disease management plan, and that is it. How I manage my disease  and feel about living with diabetes could be the opposite of another diabetics disease management plan, which would easily lead to detrimental and harmful conditions should I advise based on my own experience, especially while wearing my social work hat. Note: I do use the term disease management plan as I am proud that I live with this chronic condition and am proud of who I am, which includes living with diabetes. Though I do caution all the non-diabetics, there are those who are adverse to being called diseased, so please respect their position as well, so as not to get “diabetic punched” (which is when you get punched and we say our diabetes made us do it. In reality, your commenting on our diabetes made us do it).

There are many other elements in all of our lives which influence who we are, how we work, and why we are drawn to social work. The key to using yourself in a therapeutic context is maintain fact based statements, and not to cross the line of emotion based statements. Driving the internal discussion of whether to use professional self-disclosure at a given time should be the Canadian Association of Social Work (2005)  Code of Ethics. CASW clearly states that in ethical practice, “social workers place the needs of others above self-interest when acting in a professional capacity” (p. 6), and “social workers establish appropriate boundaries in relationships with clients and ensure that the relationship serves the needs of clients” (p.7). Self disclosure (especially when confused with self-involving statements) risks professional misconduct. If the social worker believes that revealing personal information or opinion is in the best interest of the client, then the motivation behind the disclosure has an ethical foundation. A case example is if a social worker were to disclose to a client who had just lost their brother in a car accident that he had also lost his brother, and can appreciate how the client must be feeling. This disclosure is both client-centred and fact-based, therefore having potential for strengthening the alliance through common experience. If the social worker were to not acknowledge the client and continued to detail their own emotional experience in their own story, this disclosure loses the client focus and becomes emotion-based, which can be damaging to the therapeutic alliance and the client.

Self-disclosure can be an invaluable tool when employed ethically and purposefully in establishing a collaborative relationship and engaging the client in further working with the social worker, yet if not employed properly it can cause incredible and irreparable  damage to the client. So keep this in mind: bring your best self, because it 100% is not about you :D

Reference

CASW. (2005). Code of ethics. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Association of Social Workers.

Public Good or Public Image?

Here is one of my favourite questions to ask social work students, and I sadly recieve the same response. “I don’t get what you are asking.” What I ask is simple, and I believe once you are able to answer honestly you will be a stronger social worker, a stronger representation of our field. The answer itself does not matter, but the honesty does. So the question is this: Are you interested in social work for public good, or public image?

In combining a number of social work experiences I have come to wonder if it is possible to have public good without public image. Many issues addressed by social workers are stigmatized within the larger society. I will go as far as to suggest that all areas of social work are to some degree stigmatized by the public. This question became very real during my first year of Grad school wherein we took a field trip to the local Children’s Aid Society where we sat in on a presentation provided by the largest child welfare institution in the country. With the presentation relaying a hyper-awareness to their public image, and being primarily focused on this as opposed to more interesting topics such as organizational structure, current systemic challenges in child welfare, or other interesting information addressing the underlying causation necessitating the agency, I started to think maybe it would not be possible for such an agency to achieve their goals and objectives without support of the public. Therefore, without a positive public image, is it possible to achieve public good?

I am starting to think it is reasonable to suggest this is true. A superficial observation I made of my classmates at the time (2010) was that there are roughly two groups of students: one group who have an emotional commitment to social work, with a deep appreciation for how elements of this program are interrelated, and a second group who may still be developing at the emotional level and are possibly more caught up in the affiliation level of social work. There have been many conversations overheard focused on ‘noble, selfless volunteer experiences’ followed by complaints of workload. Now this only fostered my curiosity as to whether social work is truly about public good or public image. Are there students motivated to be here because they liked the movies Precious or Freedom Writers, and want to affiliate themselves with the public’s positive regard and sense of importance of such stories? I know we all have been asked at some point questions regarding how we cope with the type of work we do, and there is often a moment of attention given to whoever is answering, as if the wisdom from seeing marginalization firsthand satisfies the need for others to feel involved. So when answering the questions in this respect, I wonder for how many it is about seeking good or seeking attention?

There are many roles a social worker may be required to fulfill which evidence-based practice suggests is public good, but the layman may not regard as positive. But without the support of these individuals (financial and otherwise) is it possible to achieve that good? Two work experiences which contribute to my curiosity are my experiences with a Canadian Federal women’s prison and camp for kids with cancer. The program I facilitated at the former was sound, produced results of reducing recidivism rates, therefore creating safer communities, and I have been told by my non-social work colleagues is very hard for them to understand. This program has a difficult time gaining public support to the point where the program is at risk for folding because they cannot raise the funds required to sustain themselves. The latter of my comparison is not run by anyone with social service education or backgrounds, and has far less data to support the effectiveness of their program, but supporting kids with cancer makes for a really good sound-bite, which stimulates a lot of positive public support, enabling the largest program budget I have ever had to work with. Yet, in suggesting that some managerial practices change for greater program effectiveness or efficiency, I am seen as the bad guy for not supporting a camp for kids with cancer.

After all this back and forth from which is the correct answer for a social worker, public good or public image, I don’t know if one is better then the other. And I don’t know that the answer we give as students will be the same we give at every stage of our careers. But I do know that it is a question that we should be using to continually reflect on our practice. The diversity of practice and professionals in our field requires a diversity of answers.

A funny thing happened at work the other day…

Earlier this month I started a new job, hence the lack of recent posts. I love my job because I am exposed to and working with a community that is geographically and culturally isolated from the mainstream, and as a result every day I have been inspired by my clientele’s resiliency, perseverance, and dedication to one another. Every day I meet someone who will give up everything for their family; the love I have witnessed in the few short weeks in this community is unparalleled in any other setting or population I have worked. But I hate my job because at times I feel like I cannot help my clients build on this strength. If anything, the work that I do feels more like stretching, contorting, and chipping away at this love – the most powerful resource a family can have. And this feels aweful. I know it is early days with this agency, but reflecting on what I have been asked to do so far has led me to pose some deep questions, and I open this discussion to dear readers: what do we do when we cannot always work to promote social justice, but must sustain marginalization as is mandated by public policy? Where does the hope and motivation come from?

I have been pondering these questions for a few weeks now, and would like to share a few ideas that I have been implimenting. The first is to play dumb. Where I am new, I “nievely” delve deeper into the therapeutic process than my payscale suggests I should. This thankfully does not add hours to my day, but is as simple as a small debrief question or an emotional validation that may otherwise go unattended to within this position. Exercising basic respect such as not hanging up when the phonelines switch at the end of the day, which might mildly inconvenience the receptionist, but it could also prevent a major stress-induced crisis to my client, is another thing I “nievely” practice when nessesary. Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize we had to get off the phone by 5… ;)

Second is to have a copy of the agency’s mission statement within view at all times. I believe in our mission statement. I also believe that provincial funding priorities impede our ability to achieve our mission. By having copy of the mission statement taped into my daytimer, onto my desk and tacked on my corkboard, I am reminded at every turn what we are trying to accompish, and I find this reminder nessesary on a daily basis so I don’t lose myself to the dark side of my job. With this reminder I can either justify to myself that the conversations and team meetings we are having do fit with our agency’s goals of community development, or justify to others that my new wacky idea fits within what we are trying to accomplish. It also helps me filter out the needless, anxiety invoking excess work that doesn’t have a point except to take up my time.

Third, I went to the SPCA and got a cat.

I am officially a social worker now. And even when I hate myself for something I have done at work, or for not having enough time in my day to get everything done, my cat will still love me…because I feed her.

Vanier

“Fundamentally, when people start lamenting because there are people with handicaps in our world, the question is whether it is more sad that there are people with handicaps or that there are people who reject them. Which is the greater handicap? Is it that there are men like Jean Claude or is it that Mr. Normal has this barrier which renders him totally blind to the beauty of people?” ~ Jean Vanier

This is a question that I have debated since I was in elementary school, before I had ever heard of Jean Vanier. The world I grew up in, disability and chronic illness both had an unrelenting presence, and even today, as a 25 year old graduate with a Masters degree in social work, I still have moments where I feel like I wake up from forgetting that my life is very unique as a result of my health conditions, and the conditions affecting important people around me. It is a very strange feeling for those who have not experienced it, it’s not scary or sad, it is just an ‘oh yeah, I’m different’ moment.

So when I first heard of Jean Vanier and how he has dedicated his life to the disabled community, I was immediately enthralled. Jean Vanier (a Canadian I might add) is the man who founded L’Arche, an unprecedented, internationally recognised, residential community where persons both able bodied and not live together as equals, and all contribute what they can towards maintaining their community. The program philosophy as I understand it is one which prioritizes dignity, respect, inclusion, and love for all community members. This sounds pretty awesome.

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche in 1964

Excited by a newspaper article I read about L’Arche a few years ago, I invested in several of Vanier’s books, including Becoming Human (1998) and Befriending the Stranger (2005). I will be very honest here – at first I was adverse to the heavy religious presence in Vanier’s writing. Not being a religious person myself, I am not usually drawn towards subject matter which explicitly accounts for itself by any religious text. Yet, at the same time I was so inspired by what Vanier had done, his philosophy towards equality and his  international influence in promoting inclusion, dignity, and respect with some of the world’s most marginalized populations that I felt compelled to read beyond that.  I’m glad I did. Though Vanier speaks through biblical metaphor, the message he promotes is the same as the Canadian Social Workers Code of Ethics – person before illness, client centred approach, promotion of dignity and respect, etc. It is all the same. And he is doing it within a group normally excluded from social work discourse.

Individuals living with or are impacted by developmental or intellectual disability are dramatically underserved in this country. From a social constructivist standpoint, this perpetuates and intensifies the disability experience.  I hold a firm position that within ourselves, we are not disabled, but it is our access to society which influences the labels of able-bodied or not. If we as a professional field were upholding our own Code of Ethics, 14.4% of Canadians living with disability would not be living under the poverty line (compared to the 9.7% of the general population), 38% of children and youth with disabilities would not need to report experiencing physical or sexual abuse (compared to 17% of the general public), and 15% of youth living with disability would not have attempted suicide (compared to the 4% of the general public). Terrifyingly, these statistics are an improvement thanks to the work of organizations such as L’Arche and The Canadian Association of Community Living. Still, these statistics are shocking, mainly because they are ignored by our field, and no one is talking about it. The current resources and services for the disabled community are stretched beyond capacity, so much so they can’t even effectively ask for help or attention.

The bottom line is this: we as a field need to do better. When we exclude a marginalized population, where do they go to for support? Disability issues must make their way into regular social work discourse, education, and practice. We must not assume that someone else is supporting the developmental and intellectual disability community, because they are not. The few who are, people like Jean Vanier, have single handedly changed the very bleak world for those impacted by DD/ID, but as you can see, there is still a considerable need for supportin this area, and we need to take the lead to continue to make our communities stronger for everyone.

Social Justice

“It’s not that one issue is more important than another, but it is that for every issue there is a champion. If each champion doesn’t continue to do their part to create a better world, we’ll never achieve the global change we require … as every act adds up to solve the bigger, more complex issues.” ~ Jane Goodall

Dr. Goodall eases my anxiety. The world has many social and environmental worries, and humanity has diverse, often counterproductive ways of dealing with it. I’m sure if we all accumulated a list of social injustices we are passionate about resolving, our list may fill the internet to its own capacity. Terrifyingly, I also believe that should we compile such a list, we will find inter-dependencies and relationships amongst our issues. For example, The World Health Organization’s 2011 publication World Report on Disability clearly reveals how living in impoverished conditions reduces accessibility to health care service and education, which fosters living situations conducive to disablement and compromised health. At the same time, living with disability in most parts of the world also creates major barriers to accessing education, health care services, as well as steady employment, which further secures the individual into impoverished conditions. Here you can see the reciprocal relationships between disability issues and poverty.  How many other cases of social injustice perpetuating another social injustice can we find on the global, federal or local scales? My fear is too many.

Well that is depressing.  Sorry for contributing to Monday morning blues.

Not all is lost. Social and environmental injustice has been part of the human experience since we first moved beyond primal instinct. During my undergraduate degree I had the good fortune of taking a course in the sociology of deviance.  Deviance in this course was defined as an act that was inconstant with the norms and values of the greater group, therefore a social construction of humanity. Is this justification for apathy? Not in the slightest. But I do find it helpful to understand why things happen in our world. By understanding the roots we can plan a more effective and efficient model of change, one that is sustainable past the ‘fad’-phase.

So what is the answer, beyond possibly accepting the fact that there has always been injustice in the world and humanity is naturally conducive to perpetuating the concept of injustice? I spent a long time considering this question while completing my schooling, and it is one I find haunting. While looking for answers I discovered Dr. Goodalls quote (above); words I find quite consoling. In the overwhelming thought about how much sadness, danger, and injustice there is in the world, I find it quite comforting the notion that each piece of advocacy is not wasted. The envisioned change may be slow going, but it is not for nothing. I am hopeful and inspired by champions out there big and small: ranging from Terry Fox to the thousands of individuals who wrote him letters of encouragement throughout his marathon; from Jean Vanier to the lemon-aid stand I passed this morning run by two 10 year olds raising money to help kids with asthma go to camp. Yes there is a lot of social and environmental  hardships in the world. An intimidating amount. But there is also an intimidating amount of people challenging these injustices everyday in big and little ways. And every piece counts.

Art, Love, and Mortality

I had the great pleasure of acting as chauffer/ tour guide for some very old family friends recently. This couple visiting from Toronto were neighbours of my grandparents when they were younger, and they have remained good friends in the 40 years since. Having lived enriching lives in the Canadian performing arts scene, the two were the original set and costume designers for Charlottetown’s famous production of Anne of Green Gables – sets and costumes which were used for the first 40 years of production. Chances are if you have seen this show prior to 2010, you have seen their work.

At one point during their visit conversation turned existential. My grandmothers friend described his life-long love for paintings by Rembrandt, the Dutch baroque artist from the 1600`s who some regard as the most influential European artist of that period. (I have to admit that I needed to google the situation after our conversation, just to make sure we were talking about the same guy). What draws our friend to Rembrandt’s work is that the paintings, whether portraits or landscapes, reflect impending change. When looking at a character in his painting, there is a sense of understanding that this individual will not live forever, that they will grow old and eventually die. This is quite an accomplishment for a painter, depicting mortality within a handmade frame. It is the mortality embedded in Rembrandt’s work that our friend loved.

Rembrandt – The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633.

The progression of our conversation then became profound. At least I found it profound, not being a regular student of fine art and its relationship to philosophy. The general idea was this: without mortality – whether change or death – we would not be able to love. If we never died, we would not need to experience love. There would be no drive – or attachment – to the present state, no desire to foster dependant relationships with one another. Without death, there wouldn’t need to be, we would all carry the knowledge that things will remain the same for eternity, there would be no such thing as mortal danger, and no one would ever leave us. The absence of a person would carry a different meaning, as we would never reach a point of final goodbyes.

Being a master of ‘what if’ thinking (often to my own anxious detriment) this concept just about blew my brain out of my head. What if we removed the understanding and the concept of mortality from the human experience, how would that change our behaviour? There are clearly ways our own mortality influences our views and behaviours throughout our lives. This is not a new idea. But the ‘what if’ train of thought pushed me a little further into what this can truly mean about our relationships with one another. I finally understand the meaning of the phrase “variety is the spice of life.” Without change, without goodbyes, without determination to achieve a state of comfort and enjoyment for the here and now, without stress, would we be able to appreciate the important people in our lives?

For a man who left this earth 343 years ago, Rembrandt has certainly given us a lot to think about. Is that immortality?

Rembrandt – Self Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar, 1659. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Agency-Centred Approach to Practice: Part I

When it comes to practicing social work, I will be completely honest, I am a little weird. What I find the most exciting about our field is the organizational structure, management, and sustainability of the agencies in which we work. Trust me, I appreciate that this is not the traditional interest of most social workers, but I was very lucky to have found a small group of like-minded social work nerds during my graduate studies, so it is validated that I am not alone.

Here is why I love organizational management – Working within social services and the nonprofit is awesome, and so many good people come together to create, sustain, and develop these organizations which can make tremendous contributions to the communities we live in. I strongly believe that once we understand the social service agency in the same way we understand people using the time-tested ecological-systems theory, and how all the pieces of an agency fit together, working within the nonprofit community can actually get more exciting, and the services we are dedicated to providing can become more effective and efficient. Early on in my studies I was temporarily employed at an outdoor education centre in upstate New York where I was given a great piece of advice from my manager: happy staff make happy campers. It seems so simple, but he was absolutely right, and in the nonprofit sector in Canada I have observed too often that we justify unhappy (and therefore unhealthy) work environments due to community influences outside of the agency. I firmly believe this is unnecessary, and we can do better. By nurturing healthy social service agencies, we are able to provide more effective services to our clients, and thus contributing to healthier communities.

Yay for healthy Canadian communities!!

There is a tendency for social service and healthcare professional staff to look at an agency as their place of work, where their office is. There is nothing wrong with that because it is 100% true, that is what it is. My challenge to the social service sector is to look at your agency the same way you look at a person – using the ‘mission statement-centred’ approach if you will, and employing an ecological-systems perspective towards the agency. By respecting an agency as being similar to an organism, we can appreciate the complex relationships, cogs and wheels that keep it afloat. With a stronger appreciation for an agency in this light, I believe we can continue to do the good work we do, maybe even in a more efficient, or lean, manner. I will go so far as to suggest that appreciating a nonprofit or social service agency as being the product of interdependent, system of relationships, we as the staff within the agency will have an upper hand in serving our clientele.

At the most basic breakdown of how the systems that contribute to an agency’s functioning, there are four distinct parties involved with the organization who are brought together by the Mission and Vision of the organization. The Board of Directors, agency staff, clientele group, and the general community. In reality these four groups are not segregated into four separate boxes; board members can be general members of the community, members of the clientele population, or former staff. Members of the clientele population can be comprised of the same titles. There is significant overlap between these four groups, but for explaining their general relationships, I have (hypocritically) created little boxes for our general stakeholder groups. In a well run nonprofit agency, with the focus is on empowerment for all stakeholders, these four groups are on an equal plain, with many arrows explaining how they are all inter-related and basically one. We will get there.

Centre to the nonprofit systems model is organizations mission statement. In comparison to clinical practice, the mission statement is the person in the person-centred approach. A good mission statement is clear on the population the organization serves, and provides a sense of organizational culture. Therefore, in effect, the mission statement is also the heart of client-centred care, as the client group is central to the mission statement. There are thousands of resources available on the internet on how to write a strong mission statement, so I won’t get into that here much. I am empowering you with your knowledge of google to obtain information you may need to better understand the construction of the mission statement. The message that I am trying to impress upon you here is that the mission statement brings all of the stakeholders together.

This is as far as I will go today with this discussion. Not to worry though, it will be continued. As with most of my obsessions, this is a subject which inspires hours of thinking and writing and discussion. Like I said, I appreciate I am a little weird.

A Vow of Poverty?

Recently it was drawn to my attention that a well used resource of my Toronto colleagues, Charity Village, had announced that they were implementing fees for those who wanted email alert when jobs of their interest were being posted. To be honest, I didn’t really care. Charity Village does not have much of a presence where I live, and richer provinces, like Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia seem to be over-represented when it comes to community resources and searching for funding. It’s not something that affects me much so I ignored the information. But, for the sake of this post I went to http://www.charityvillage.com to see what the fee to register with them is, to find out it is only $37.00 CND. And there is still an option to remain a free user of their services. So again, I don’t really care.

Why blog about it? Because something that troubled me were the disappointing reactions of my former classmates. Particularly disturbing were comments along the lines of “[now that they are charging for registration] well I guess you even find GREED in social services”. Excuse-me-what-now?! (Queue scratching record sound effect and dramatic pause).

There are many elements I find sad about this comment made by a classmate after finishing requirements for completing a Master’s degree. What is greedy about asking for payment for service provision? Other service providers who save lives do it: firefighters, paramedics, doctors, lawyers, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, the list just goes on and on. Is it not then greedy to assume that this online service meant to promote professionalism in the nonprofit sector should be free? Basic economic theory implies that a higher standard of care is expected when a fee is incorporated into the social service provision. And I am a firm believer that in this field we need to take every opportunity to promote, encourage, and ensure the highest standard of care possible.

However, I can also appreciate the argument that imposing fees creates inaccessibility. This is an issue which is near and dear to those who want to promote social justice. But I do not think that this is an excuse for the field of social work to assume a position of lifelong poverty, an assumption which very often goes unchallenged due to our ethical code in combination with professional insecurities.

But what are the consequences to the field where a vow of poverty is the expectation? We know living in impoverished conditions compromises quality of life, physical and mental health, and is a stressor for interpersonal relationships. I also believe that in many cases, when accessible service provision becomes a concern, that there is an element of dignity and empowerment which can come along with individuals contributing something in exchange for service. But like all social work dilemmas, the most appropriate answer is, “it depends”.

Stop the ‘Crazy': Because it’s ‘Crazy’ not to talk about it

Because it is ‘crazy’ not to talk about it!

May 12th, 2012 was a very exciting day for many of us who are immersed in the mental health field. The very first Stop the ‘Crazy’ event took place in Toronto, hosted by very talented people who live with, work with, and face the stigma of mental health in various capacities every day. This event was inspired by the creative minds of staff and residents of Arrabon House, a small group home/community which offers a supportive living environment and aftercare services to young women. The need for supportive living communities for adolescents who can otherwise fall through the cracks of various healthcare and social service systems in Toronto is tremendous. The city’s current iatrogenic system does not bode well for young people (as in many other cities I am certain), and one of the largest social barriers known to accessing the support or treatment one may need is stigma.

So for Mental Health Awareness Week, Arrabon took to the streets, (well, Queen Street) and invited those affected by mental illness to stop the ‘crazy’, which in their definition is ‘silence’. This movement’s point: mental illness exists, it affects us all, and the real ‘crazy’ is that as a society we don’t talk about it enough. In a symbolic gesture, event participants clad in white t-shirts created a human chain along Queen Street with masking tape over their mouths. Some chose to indicate who in their life was affected by mental illness, some chose a specific diagnosis which is present in their lives, and these were written on the tape. To give mental illness a voice, the human chain removed the tape from their mouths, showing that it is ‘crazy’ not to talk about it.

This is awesome. It almost makes me wish I lived in Toronto. Almost.

Though not everyone agrees. There are some who publically announced their disapproval through the event’s Facebook page. The common concern was the word ‘Crazy’. Interestingly, there are some who believe that this word used in this context continues to stigmatize those affected by mental illness. I hold a strong conviction that those supporting this viewpoint did not quite absorb the entire situation or the message of the event, which is fair enough. With the amount of information thrown at us on a daily basis, I can appreciate information overload and compromised info-intake on occasion. One of the dangers of public internet forums.

But this does make me think about our use of language, and how it is an institutional form of oppression to so many. Look at the word ‘retarded’, once an official medical diagnosis, it has been so negatively misused by the general public that it is a term no longer used with respect in Canada, and the diagnosis has been officially retermed ‘developmental disability’. This is not the only word to have undergone a definitive transformation, a common occurrence within the evolution of language, but it does give an example of how language can promote stigmatization and oppression within our communities.

So congrats to the Stop the ‘Crazy’ participants and organizers. It took bravery and dedication to host this event, and you have successfully challenged society to pay attention to its use of language. Stirring up strong emotions on a subject is not bad, it means you have got people’s attention and they are starting to listen. As actress and founder of Bring Change 2 Mind Glenn Close recently stated, mental illness can bring on “a life and death battle…fighting to survive not only the symptoms of [the] illnesses but the terrible stigma that surrounded them.”

I can’t wait until next year :)

For more about the Stop the ‘Crazy’ movement, check out the following links:

Inside Toronto Article: http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/local/article/1352132–giving-voice-to-mental-health

Facebook Community: http://www.facebook.com/StopTheCrazy