November 22, 2017
Drugs and alcohol are not a problem in our society. Can you believe that I just said that? Bear with me.
It’s been two months since I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Gabor Mate speak on mental health and addictions at UBCM. The experience still resonates with me today. To quote Dr Mate, “An addiction is an attempt to make life bearable.” We all have addictions, or something we turn to that makes us feel better. Let’s consider three circumstances. I may have a stressful budget meeting for council, so I’ll go for a run to wind down. Another person’s car breaks down and they need $1000 to fix it, so to deal with the stress, they’ll have a half pack of cigarettes. A third person lost their spouse 2 years ago and still has trouble dealing with the pain and has turned to heroin as an escape. Is the running, the cigarettes, or the heroin the problem, or are they an attempt to make the problem bearable? Hurt is the problem.
I’m nowhere near qualified to speak on this subject. This is a very short glimpse of what I learned, but the information was bold, direct and unmistakable. Everybody has pain. One can go to the city and see the fallout of that pain and resulted addictions. Some of these people are sleeping on the street, begging for money and food. Just because we may not see this as much in our community, does not mean that the hurt does not exist. It is not reasonable to think that the same type of hurt that causes homelessness in the city, does not exist in Chetwynd. It is here, so what do we do?
A good start is to change the stigma of mental illness, and not to be judgmental of those that suffer from it. Again, to quote Dr Mate, “There’s nobody out there that wants to be bad.” He very boldly stated that early childhood trauma is the cause of most all serious substance abuse and mental illness. “In our childhood, 2 things will have negative effects on our life as adults. Stuff that should have happened but didn’t, and stuff that shouldn’t have happened but did.” We all need early positive childhood experiences. It is also important to note that childhood trauma does not always include illegal or reportable acts. Many traumatic experiences that our children face today, are very much accepted by society. Not to fear though. This cycle can be broken with professional help and the effects of these experiences can be mitigated.
We need to support our mental health and addictions specialists and advocate for more help. Mental illness is a slow killer that is affecting many people. People are apprehensive to seek help for a variety of reasons. Friends and family mean well but they are likely not qualified to give proper advice. Professional help is needed to break the cycle of passing on negative experiences to future generations.