Meeting Minutes - Chris Baldwin: What You don't Know About Your Mental Health - Jan. 25th. 2018
Today’s meeting, held at Trinity United Church was called to order by Vice-President Martin Alderwick at 9:58 am with 50 members in attendance. Martin welcomed all present and gave a special welcome to member Chris Baldwin who is today’s speaker.
Announcements Paster David from the church announced that a used book sale is taking place and at our next meeting (February 8th) used books will be on display arrayed across the front stage of the meeting room. The proceeds will be going to the North End Harvest Market to supply nutritional fresh food to people who couldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. A pot will be put out to collect cash or cheques. Please give generously.
VP Alderwick announced that Associate Member, Jack Pos passed away 2 weeks ago and his obituary is posted on our notice board. Please think of his family.
Secretary Kerry Gennings announced that John Sneyd has been recruited for the Speaker's Committee
Activities – Ray Biffis The Valentine's Day Dinner on February 14th is booked for the Mandarin Restaurant at a cost of $26 per person. Trips are being considered for the upcoming year TBA.
David Moller introduced Chris Baldwin on What You Don' t Know About Your mental Health. Based on his experience of working in facilities providing care for those with special mental health needs, Chris will share some very interesting facts about mental health and how it impacts the general public.
Chris Baldwin obtained his degree in philosophy and psychology from Carleton University and did his graduate work in philosophy at McMaster University and then obtained his BA from Ontario Teacher Education College. He then taught primary grades in Scarborough and then became a youth worker in downtown Toronto. In 1979 he became Executive Director of Scadding Court Community Centre in Toronto. In 1984 he took up General Manager of Waterloo Co-operative Residence Incorporated, a student owned residency for Waterloo and Laurier Universities providing low cost housing. In 1997 he entered a part-time management position at Oliver House in Caledon, a 15 bed residential facility group home offering 24hr supervised and supportive housing program for community residents with psychiatric disorders. He remains working there to this day. Between 1999 and 2010 he also managed specialized group homes for Christian Horizons, supporting individuals with developmental disabilities having cognitive psychiatric disorders and who are engaged in deviant sexual behaviours.
Chris Baldwin Chris’s work has put him in contact with over 200 individuals with mental health issues over the last 20 years. He mentioned that his own family members have experienced mental health issues.
According to the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, and the ICD, the International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organization, there are in excess of 450 classified forms of mental illness. He uses the terms mental illness, mental disorder, psychological disorder and psychiatric disorder without making a distinction.
Mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. Many people have mental health concerns, particularly elderly people, like memory loss or Alzheimer’s disease etc. A mental health concern becomes a mental illness when the ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress on our ability to function.
Signs and symptoms of mental illness are ongoing and they affect: thought, mood and behaviour; cause confused thinking and reduced ability to concentrate; the detachment from reality; paranoia; having audio/visual hallucinations, feelings of guilt, extreme mood swings, mania, depression; withdrawal from friends or family or activities that we would normally engage in; feelings of significant tiredness, low energy; sleep disorders; inability to cope with everyday activities; major changes in eating habits. All of these things affect our behaviour when we have mental illness.
There are also physiological changes that our bodies undergo when we are dealing with mental illness and sometimes things are misdiagnosed such as gastro-intestinal issues or back pain … things that are physical when there is a psychological disorder.
Mental illness is thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors alone or in tandem, or inherited traits that people have with blood relatives. Some people are pre-disposed to mental illness or the pre-birth environment that our mother were exposed to such as exposures to environmental stressors, toxins, alcohol, drugs.
Brain chemistry – neuro transmitters are highly complex brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin that send signals between our brain and other parts of our body. When our neuro networks are impaired in any way the function of the nerve reception changes and can cause mental illness. The average human brain houses over one hundred billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell has a connection to ten thousand other cells in the brain. So the average human brain has one thousand trillion nerve cell connections firing constantly.
We have all heard of some form of mental illness, some are very common… depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, PTSD, eating disorders, ADHD, personality disorders, addiction, autism, Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone either has or has had or knows someone with some form of mental illness.
There' s a great stigma attached to mental health. Part of the stigma attached to mental health is the language used in our everyday parlance. We are familiar with the terms like: someone is crazy, they’re a lunatic, mad, insane, nuts, cracked, cuckoo, whacky, baffed, flaky, etcetera. The terms that we use to describe people with mental illness are pejorative and they are universal and cross-cultural. If someone has many other types of disease, for instance, cancer, and you go to the dictionary, you won’t find a list of terms for that particular disease. Mental illness is one of the few diseases that carries the such a stigma. We not only call people by these terms but we also use these pejorative terms to describe people that we don’t like or that we don’t agree with because of believes or politics or practices. This language is so pervasive that people with mental illness talk about other people using these terms in the same pejorative way. One of the reasons that this happens is because of our own fears, our own prejudices and our own stereotypes around mental illness.
We know that many diseases are curable and we would probably prefer to get a diagnosis of one of these formally incurable diseases than get a diagnosis of mental illness. Our fear with mental illness is that if we get it, it’s incurable. This is a myth but the fear is there and when we fear something we tend to stigmatize it, stereotype it and discriminate against it as well as have shame about it.
In psychology, philosophy and religion there is this belief that there is a great connection between mind and body. Some people have argued that the mind and the brain is are separate corporeal entities. This argument is ongoing. Others argue that there is only material things and the mind is the brain and the brain is the mind. There is no misunderstanding that there is a connection between the mental and the physical and that disease that takes place in one can affect the other and vice-versa. As a result it’s clear that our thoughts have a connection between our mind and our body.
We have developed a lot of myths around people afflicted with mental illness. It is believed by many that people with mental illness are dangerous and unpredictable. The fact is that only three percent of people with mental illness engage in some form of violent behaviour. Another myth is that mentally ill people are incompetent. It is also believed, incorrectly, that people with mental illness are to be blamed for their own condition. Now it is true that people can engage in things that will contribute to mental illness such as abuse of alcohol or drugs. Our behaviour of how we live is far more likely to produce organic conditions that are less healthy than with the mentally ill. The biggest myth is that there is no recovery from mental illness.
What you should know about your own mental illness. As we get older there is an increased likelihood that we could get some common disease that requires us to go to the doctor. This generally leads to taking some form of medication. The problem is that many of the prescription drugs we take for organic diseases can produce psychiatric side effects. Drugs that we take for allergies, like antihistamines can induce confusion, memory loss, hallucination or paranoia, in some cases in the elderly or children if taken in high doses. Anti-inflammatory drugs can induce psychosis, mania, or depression. Antibiotics can induce acute psychosis, hallucinations, mania or turret-like symptoms. Deet, used excessively, can produce mania and hallucinations if used over a prolong period of time. All of these things that we take to keep ourselves healthy in one spirit can, in certain instances and in certain people, give the occurrence of a mental health disorder. So, when you go to the doctor be proactive and ask what are the side effects and can you get any of these symptoms.
We tend to categorize things by putting them into little boxes in the world that we live in. Mental illness is not something that fits into the neat little boxes that we use to order our lives. All individuals have certain idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. It’s a fine line between something that’s idiosyncratic and mental illness. Normal behaviours can be abnormal compulsive behaviors and cross the line. With the right trigger you can cross the line between being a collector and being a hoarder .
Recovery is possible, one need not fear having a mental illness. It is something we can learn to live with. It, like many organic diseases, is treatable. There are positive outcomes. It is something we can overcome and cope with. Don' t make the mistake of defining yourself or someone else by their mental health. You aren’t mentally ill, you are someone who has a mental illness. Knowledge leads to understanding. Understanding gives power. Power leads to action and action leads to positive outcomes.
At the conclusion of Chris’s presentation, David Moller thanked Chris for his most informative talk.