Bell Let’s Talk Day – What’s missing as we fight mental illness?

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

 

 

So today (January 31st), is Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada. It’s a one-day national campaign to help promote conversation around the stigma of mental illness and to encourage understanding of emotional health.

I applaud the four pillars that Bell Let’s Talk are built around: fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting research, and leading by example in workplace mental health.

People across the country are starting to take to their phones and social media accounts in bigger numbers each year to talk about mental health. The idea is that for every tweet, text etc., Bell donates five cents to mental health. Since the campaign began about 8 years ago over 85 million dollars has been raised.

While this type of movement is way overdue, we really need more than one day a year to bring attention to what I would call an epidemic.

I am grateful for the Bell Let’s Talk initiative and those who support it, but as someone who has witnessed people suffering from anxiety and depression, I can tell you that more – much more is needed. Since I am an Ontario resident I will refer to the condition of mental health care in this province, although it isn’t much different in other provinces.

Ontario & Mental Health

Research suggests that the burden associated with mental illness is 1.5 times that of all cancers combined and we all hear about the heavy toll cancer takes on our healthcare system. Ontario has a 54 billion dollar health budget, but did you know that the province only devotes about 3.5 billion to mental health and addiction? Doctors are always saying that our “mental health is just as important as our physical health” so why is that not reflected in budgets?

If you or someone you know has a mental health issue, don’t expect quick medical attention. Right now, mental health advocates tell me that the average wait time to see a counselor in Ontario is about five to six months. About one in four Canadians has serious enough depression to require treatment.

Bell Let’s Talk is having an impact beyond the annual campaign day. For instance, last year, Choices for Youth, in St. John’s Newfoundland received a grant from the Bell Lets Talk Community Fund. Staff from CFY have said that without the funding, the demand for a safe place to talk about mental health would not be possible. There are many other examples of how Bell Let’s Talk has helped community groups focused on mental health, but I would like to see people talking about mental health issues, the way they talk about any other health problem – openly and often.

The Canadian Mental Health Association states that “mental and physical health are fundamentally linked.” The World Health Organization contends, “There is no health without mental health”. I think it is clear that we all need to highlight the need for better mental health care on a daily basis, not just on Bell Let’s Talk Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 The Good

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

The year 2017 was crazy – a year of natural disasters, political shock, and horrifying terrorism, yet good things still happened.

A Voice

After Donald Trump, who has been accused of being a “sexual predator”, was inaugurated as U.S president, literally millions of women and men around the world took to the streets to stand up for women’s rights. Some suggest that the Women’s March in Washington was the largest single-day protest in recorded U.S history. There are even those who speculate that this type of demonstration lead the way for women to speak out about sexual abuse that they have kept quiet about for decades.

Women who have been harassed or assaulted in the workplace have been speaking up in recent months and people are actually listening to their stories. In 2016 the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted a workplace harassment study and reported that anywhere between 25 and 85 percent of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work. In the past, women did not come forward due to fear of retaliation. The pressure to push harassment under the carpet has been lifted, perhaps opening up a window of opportunity in 2018 to find ways to address the problem.

Hope

Where there is despair, there is hope and humanity. Hurricane Harvey dumped unprecedented amounts of rain on Houston and the Gulf Coast. Irma battered the Virgin Islands, St. Martin and other parts of the Caribbean then barged into Florida. Of course, Maria peeled roofs off buildings in Dominica and devastated Puerto Rico. So what is so good about this? In the darkest of times, people showed compassion to perfect strangers. Harvey took 77 lives and yet people put themselves at risk by using their own boats to rescue families, standing in the streets to flag down police and emergency personnel to help those trapped in vehicles, and forming human chains to guide people away from rising water. Lets not forget, strangers from around the world stepped up to offer supplies for those who were left with nothing.

Medical Advancements

There were many medical accomplishments in 2017, including the development of gene-altering techniques and immunotherapies to treat cancer. Ohio State University researchers developed a technology this past year called “tissue nanotransfection”. The technology is embedded in a tiny chip and can reprogram skin cells to repair organs and blood vessels. Thanks to medical advancements you can get electrocardiograms using a small device that attaches to the back of a smartphone. Analysis of results can be sent directly to your doctor. Before long, we will be able to get EKG’s by just placing a finger on the band of an Apple Watch.

The Environment

Despite climate change deniers, including Donald Trump, governments of all levels across the globe made commitments in 2017 to reducing their carbon footprint. In Montreal a ban on the use of plastic bags went into effect January first with fines ranging from $200 to $1000. A number of other jurisdictions around the world have decided to enforce similar bans. Led by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, the One Planet Summit was held with 20 international companies announcing that they would phase out coal. Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg helped introduce the We Are Still In coalition, a network supporting climate action, despite Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Bloomberg also announced in 2017 that he would donate 64 million to the retirement of U.S coal plants. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation announced that it is awarding 20 million dollars in grants to 100 environmental organizations. According to the Global CCS Institute there are about 22 significant carbon-capture and storage projects on the go as of 2017 in North American and around the world.

Love & Tolerance

I am not a royal family follower, but I am including the engagement of Britain’s Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle because Markle is divorced, biracial and American. Any one of these factors would have eliminated her from being considered a member of the British royal family just a few short years ago. This tells us that there has been progress in this traditional institution. If the Royals are willing to bend, perhaps there is hope for progress and tolerance elsewhere.

To put it mildly, 2017 was an interesting year. We can only hope that 2018 will bring more good, the world over.

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Heroes vs. Scammers

Writer: Teresa Madaleno 

 

Hurricane Harvey took at least 70 lives that we know of at this point. That’s too many. One life is too much. However, as authorities work through what is expected to be a very long recovery process, they say they are “surprised” that that death toll was not higher.

The fact that weather forecasters were following and reporting storm activity as it made its way toward land and people heeded the warnings, made a huge difference in lives saved. If you have been watching or listening to news over the last few days, you have likely heard the stories about near-drownings and dangerous rescues. You have also likely heard about the real heroes. For example, the veteran Houston police officer who died on a flooded highway while trying to report for duty so he could help during the crisis. Of course, there were also the two volunteer rescue workers who drowned carrying families to safety. The people of Houston are broken, but they are proud – proud of their resilience and proud of their efforts to help their fellow man.

What is very hard to hear about amid all the tragedy and sadness is that this horrible weather event has stirred up much more than your typical storm debris; it has awakened the scammers. Sadly, there are people who take advantage is cases of tragedy. The Washington Post reports that scammers are using robo-calls to try to “fleece” hurricane Harvey survivors. Here’s an example: the scammer dials the phone and when the homeowner answers, they hear that their premiums are past due and they must send money “now” or have their flood insurance cancelled. How awful! These disaster parasites are in a class of their own, called “the lowest class”.

If you know anyone in Houston and Florida who is recovering from Hurricane Harvey or Irma, please talk to him or her about these parasites. One of the biggest scams experienced by storm survivors in recent years has involved dishonest contractors. They get survivors to sign a contract for repair work on a digital tablet; however, when they print out the work sheet, the bid is thousands of dollars higher than what the person originally signed. In some situations, survivors unknowingly assign FEMA disaster aid over to the scammer.

While we would all like to focus on the heroes, it seems it is the constant barrage of parasites that we have to keep watching for. They should be severely prosecuted.

A side note to anyone reading this – give generously to hurricane recovery efforts. There are different ways you can donate, including through the Red Cross and the United Way, as well as other organizations listed below.

http://www.redcross.ca/about-us/red-cross-stories/2017/red-cross-responds-to-devastation-caused-by-hurricane-harvey

https://www.unitedwayhouston.org/flood

https://secure.americares.org/site/Donation2?df_id=22188&mfc_pref=T&22188.donation=form1&_ga=2.27797372.1946876975.1503855566-771809081.1503855566

http://texasagriculture.gov

https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/feeding-texas

 

 

Reversing Brain Trauma

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

If you are familiar with competitive sports then you know that TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is real. TBI ranges from a mild concussion after colliding with a teammate to something severe, such as a blow to the head when you are slammed into something with great force. These jolts to the cranium can lead to permanent brain injury and even death. Now, there is hope for traumatic brain injury patients.

As the mother of an avid hockey player, I have witnessed multiple head traumas at the rink so I was pleased when I heard about the recent discovery by scientists at the University of California in San Francisco. If you haven’t already heard the news, a team of researchers found that a new experimental drug could restore normal brain function in mice following two types of TBI’s.

Until now, medical experts thought there was no way to reverse cognitive decline and memory loss for those with traumatic brain injury. As for surgery, well that has to be carried out within hours of an injury to be effective. However, the University of California research team gave mice a compound and those mice developed memory capabilities similar to mice that never had brain injuries.

The drug that was administered during the study is called ISRIB and is pronounced, “iz-rib”. It was actually discovered back in 2013 by a biochemistry professor at UCSF. Doctor Peter Walter calls the findings with the mice “extraordinary”. He recently stated the following: “We think that ISRIB may uncover an untapped reservoir in the brain that allows damaged memory circuits to be repaired.”

What is particularly remarkable about the discovery is that in one phase of the study, the researchers waited until several weeks after the mice sustained the injury before administering the drug. Co-author of the study, Susanna Rosi indicated that animals with these types of brain injuries normally never learn well again, yet the drug ISRIB could restore ability to form memories even when giving the drug was delayed for four weeks after the injury; something that was considered impossible before.

While more research is needed before human studies can be conducted, the researchers have publicly stated that they have “high hopes” that the drug ISRIB can one day help those who have suffered brain injuries.

According to the U.S National Library of Medicine concussions account for up to 14 percent of hockey injuries at all levels of the sport. While prevention should be the name of the game, we all know that every season there will be players of various ages that will experience head trauma, which means we must support the advancement of research, like the work being done at the University of California in San Francisco.

Finding Your Customers

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Most company executives understand that the better they understand their customers, the more likely their business will grow. The problem often becomes defining customer base. For instance, I often have clients who want me to “spread the word” about their products and services through both traditional and social media channels, yet I quickly discover they don’t have a good handle on who their customers really are.

You can have the best products and services. You can have the best messaging to explain those products and services, but if the right audience does not receive those messages then you haven’t accomplished anything.

Lets take an affordable cell-phone provider as an example – if someone asked executives at the phone company, ‘Who is your typical customer?’ they might say something like, ‘Well, our typical customer is Millennials and teenagers hooked on technology.’ I realize this is really general, but you get the point. Most people can define their target audience with some careful research. Knowing the age, gender, income, personality, likes, dislikes, and behaviours of the people who would most likely be interested in your product or service is crucial to your communication efforts. Of course, the wider your customer base, the better chance your message will do what is it supposed to do – encourage people to act.

Some companies are lucky in that they deal with a specific sector, but have a wide customer base. I will take up and coming energy company, Sparta as an example. Sparta focuses on advancing the capture, conversion and optimization of energy. If you asked their executive team, ‘Who is your typical customer?” They would likely say, ‘Almost anybody’. This is because Sparta is about more than one product or service; it is about using various tools and technologies to address the needs of customers in many different industries when it comes to reducing their energy consumption. This is the great advantage Sparta has – there is no limit to the Corporations potential market as the vision has been to constantly adapt and add products and services that clients need in order to help them remain competitive – be sustainable. When Sparta spreads their message they have a massive customer base to target.

No matter what sector you are in or how broad your customer base may be, giving careful thought to exactly who your customers are is more important now than ever before. We are living in an increasingly competitive world so it makes no sense to spend time, energy and money on crafting a message that doesn’t get seen or read by the right audience.

While there are many ways to examine your typical customer, one of the best ways to start is by looking at your current customers and asking yourself, what do they like, dislike or what works for them and what doesn’t. From there check out the competition, who is buying from them? Soon you will start to build what is referred to as an Avatar; a representation of what your client looks like.

Grounding – The impact on the human body

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

A few years ago I wrote an article for a health industry client on the subject of “Grounding.” The research I conduced at that time was really my first foray into examining the process of removing excessive charge from an object by releasing it into the ground. Walking barefoot is an example of grounding. Since that article I have learned a lot more about electrons playing a significant role in the cellular process that takes place in our bodies.

As reported in the U.S National Library of Medicine, multi-disciplinary research has indicated that electricity contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth produces interesting effects on our health. Studies show the effects relate to inflammation, immune responses and wound healing. Some research even suggests that grounding can prevent and treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. While this is still a relatively new area of research, what experts at the University of California and the University of Oregon have discovered is that grounding an organism can produce noticeable differences in concentrations of white blood cells and other molecules involved in inflammatory response. Physiology professors say grounding reduces pain and alters the number of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes. Neutrophils are white blood cells important in the defense against infections. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. The B cells produce antibodies that are used to attack invading viruses, bacteria, and toxins. Lymphocytes are high if you have an infection.

Grounding is really any system that allows for frequent contact with the Earth. This includes while sleeping, sitting at a desk, or walking outside. There are conductive systems such as sheets, mats, wristbands, ankle bands, and even adhesive patches. These applications are connected to the Earth through a cord inserted into a grounded wall outlet or attached to a ground rod placed in the soil outside.

A couple years ago a group of researchers, including some from the University of California and University of Oregon, looked at the physiological impacts of grounding from various perspectives. Their work has led to over a dozen studies being published in peer-reviewed journals. A peer review is a process that subjects an author’s work or research to examination and scrutiny of other top experts in the same field, before a description of the work can be published in a journal. The fact that the grounding research has been peer-reviewed and the actual studies show grounding could be an effective healing method has opened up new and promising avenues for research, particularly in the area of inflammation. Some suggest that it could have broad implications for health prevention and public health.

Despite the current research, all of this may still sound odd to some people, but think about it this way: We are all living on an electrical planet and our bodies transmit many frequencies that help run our muscles, our heart, our nervous system and our immune system. Many years ago it was perfectly natural to sleep right on the ground, and it was common to walk the Earth in bare feet. In our industrialized world, we rarely walk around without leather shoes and we do not sleep on the ground unless we are camping. In reality we are all disconnected or ungrounded. Considering that this disconnection may contribute in some way to illness may not be as far-fetched as many of us think.

What Fake News Means to Future Generations

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Fake News might seem like just another voguish term, but its unlikely to slip from the North American vocabulary any time soon. The problem is that thanks to people like Donald Trump using the term inaccurately, there are a lot of people who don’t really understand the term.

Fake news is not the practice of well-trained, well-educated, competent journalists. Sure, at times things can fall apart in any news organization to the point where an editor or reporter exaggerates or leans too far to one side (left or right). While I would never condone this, it can’t be labeled as fake news. Fake news is the shift that has occurred in our social media era and it’s due to the dizzying speed of tweeting, posting etc. online.

As a former broadcast news reporter and journalism teacher, I can tell you that the majority of trained reporters take the golden rules of quality journalism very seriously. Those rules include being objective, focusing on the facts (just the facts), and using multiple, accurate sources to back up those facts. Fake news is the opposite – it is falsehoods, lies, subjective, and not backed up by any credible sources.

The problem with fake news according to psychologists is that the human mind only has so much time to process the myriad of information coming in and then make judgments about what parts of that information to keep. Humor, shock, and the unusual – all of these tip the scales in favor of being remembered and recalled, whether it is real or fake.

Here is where I find it scary. Fake news can be extremely damaging to all aspects of life. I have a daughter who is about to turn 20. She has grown up in the digital era. I think of her friends, as well as my nieces and nephews attaining and processing news. What they need to know is that fake news can hurt them. If they were to ask how? This is what I would share with them. Suppose someone said you were responsible for another person’s death and this was untrue. Can you imagine how this would impact your reputation, your career and your personal life? It has happened. A known trash magazine alleged that American Senator Tom Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. When Donald Trump talked about this allegation, the story spread like wildfire. There was no stopping it. The Washington Post and other reputable news agencies launched an investigation and determined that these allegations were “untrue” but the damage to Cruz was already done.

There are many other examples where fake news can negatively impact you financially, emotionally and physically. There have been a number of fake news cases that have led to civil unrest. Your purchasing of goods and services and your decisions about investing can have a devastating impact on your wallet when based on fake news.

Scientific studies show that when only 10 percent of the population holds a strong belief, the majority of society will always adopt this belief.

This is not meant to insult anyone, but the truth is that people are victims of their own ignorance, unwilling to fact check what they hear and read. Many will argue that they don’t have time to fact check and this may be true. Guess what? That is what we have trained journalists for. Unless we start speaking up to save real news organizations, your generation will have one of two choices: spend all your time fact checking so you can decide what to believe and repeat to others or live in a world where you make very bad, very damaging decisions about your life based on fake news.