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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 11 May 2012

Change Your View Of Mental Health

People of diverse challenges coming together to develop a shared message about hope for the future.

This is what it's all about; changing the view, consciously, so that together, we can build a better world.

Some amazing videos forthcoming.

The Conscious Society: Branding Tomorrow

Mitt Romney, Limbic Thinker

That's kind of the point, isn't it?  Young Mitt didn't think - he reacted to what he preceived (believed) to be a threat to the status quo, and reacted aggressively.  Based on Romney's own recollection, it could have been any kid that was different - it was the lack of conformity that caused Romney to act in an aggressive, offensive way.

This isn't the first time Romney's conscious cognition has been brought under scrutiny.  In fact, there seems to be a lot of "might makes right" in Romney's overall presentation, instead of consciously thinking ahead.  It's not a good basis for decision-making.

Leadership isn't about reacting - it's about careful contemplation and getting input.  This kind of approach leads to the best, considered, balanced decisions. 

The American people should think hard about what sort of leader they want in these variable times; the more they think about it, the clearer their option will become.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Selectionist and Collectivist Sports Songs

 Compare the lyrics and themes of these two sports-related songs;

There's Die Toten Hosen's FIFA winning-is-everything anthem:

There'll be the best of the rest
But there's only one number one
We will be heroes
And we're gonna win
No matter what you do
We're never ever giving in

and then Nikki Yanofski's Olympic ode to togetherness:

I believe in the power that comes
From a world brought together as one
I believe together we'll fly
I believe in the power of you and I

Biological evolution's selection of the fittest vs. social evolution's strong society built on a foundation of strong individuals.

Interesting, is all.

The Evolutionary Importance of Gay

Here's an idea to play with your head...

Supported, stable rearing.  Supportive, got-your-back hunting.  The traditional separation of genders in culturally specific groups, yet the continuous sexual drives.  Heck, there's even supposition of a "gay gene" - which would suggest that "gay" has an evolutionary advantage (which is why it's a gene that gets carried on).

The Future of Work + Professionalism

A brilliant read on what the future of work looks like:

Accountability, transparency, connectivity, psychology, a new model for work  – this article neatly ties up many of the connections I’ve been making.
There is a growing chorus of voices sharing the same vision; in a Conscious Society, the truth will set us free.

Don’t Panic: Diversity Is Good For You

Charles McVety speaking out against Gay-Straight Alliances in Ontario schools

M Jordan expressing his fear of “deaf genocide”

We’ve got leaders railing against the perceived threats from foreign students and foreign workers.  In Quebec, there are language laws to protect and maintain the authenticity of an evolved dialect of Latin.  In other parts of Canada, there are staunch opponents to national bilingualism, despite the evidence suggesting that knowing more languages provides greater opportunity and can reduce risk of Alzheimer’s.
To me, these are all variations on the position of not wanting a daughter because 1) she can’t carry on a family line and b) she’s going to be taken away from you.  They imply a fear of loss, of subjugation, of losing out to another.
They are all instinctual, reactive positions.  They might feel right, but they aren’t based in fact.
Having a son-in-law is not detraction; it’s an addition, a linking of families, a provision of new opportunities for partnership, expansion and growth.  Plus, if there are grandkids, your genes get carried on anyway.
Learning more languages doesn’t steal from the richness of mother tongues – it adds to one’s capacity to think in different ways, come up with better solutions and develop competitive advantages.  In a global economy, who doesn’t want multilingual employees?
Deafness is a condition of biology that getting cochlear implants doesn’t change, only accomodates.  Having assistive technology enhances your ability and can actually facilitate cognitive development (plus, you can still turn them off when you want silence).  There aren’t separate “deaf” and “aural” worlds – there’s just one world.  The only question is how much access to it do you have?
Foreigners are the embodiment of diversity – you can feel they threaten your genetic/culture superiority, but what they really do is challenge your stagnancy.  We’re all about innovation, right?  Infinite diversity allows for infinite combinations.  We want more diversity, not less.
Gay isn’t a contagion.  Hearing about or even seeing gays kissing doesn’t impose any physical “risk” or “contagion” (even if you feel that it does).  For that matter, science isn’t a threat to religion any more than religion as a concept is inherently an impediment to science.

And we can only move forward when we do it together.

What the World Can Learn From Ontario's Education Successes

In other words – move forward together.  Not just a cute political line, but a model that succeeds.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Let's not rest on our laurels, though - we can make one of the world's best education systems even better.  The current appetite for change allows for new ideas and structural changes that are long overdue.

Extending the school year is just one such example; very few kids need the tilling season to help on the family farm any more, which is was the point of that system.  Doing that (but including sufficient break periods throughout the year) means more education, could allow for teachers to have more normalized schedules (with a couple blocks of weeks off here and there for battery recharging) and make better use of our education infrastructure.  With an expanded suite of after-school programming, it can be easier for parents of all economic backgrounds to provide quality extracurricular programs for their kids and manage their own time better, too.

That's one idea - there are plenty more good ones out there.  When we choose not to settle for best, there's no limit to how far we can go.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

President Barack Obama: Leadership To Take Pride In

President Obama is someone we should all be proud of.  He's not just standing up for his constituents; he's providing an example for the world to follow.  Opportunity and the ability to commit cannot and will not be the perview of the few; not if we want to reach our fullest potential as human beings. 

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far - move forward together.

What Can ORNGE Teach Us About Proactive Mental Health?

Well, now this is interesting. 

Nationally, there is a call for an expanded, integrated mental health strategy.  By its very nature, this calls for a national general health strategy.  Study after study proves that the socio-economic impact of mental illness is huge – and therefore is contributing to our debt crisis, our training deficit and all other sorts of social woes.  Now, here's further proof of that - a fellow who is on suicide watch appears to have behaved in a socially irresponsible manner without thought as to consequences.  The financial consequences and public trust impacts of ORNGE are enormous - and rightly so, Premier McGuinty is worried about what else might be going on out there

It must be asked, as we look at proactive mental health, at improved training and opportunity and a focus on accountability - would a more proactive approach to mental health have prevented the challenges at ORNGE?  Could they have prevented "personality" problems that led to e-Health, or Walkerton, or the death of Dudley George?

There's plenty of evidence to suggest the answer is yes; given the right, proactive accommodations and conscious thought as to consequences, we could have planned better in each one of these cases.  Social-Emotional learning, EQ development, etc. can help foster consciously pro-social development.  But do we believe that, seriously?  Are we ready to accept that difficult personalities (and charming personalities) are reflective of neurochemistry and environmental factors?  Can we get past the “suck it up” and “get over yourself” mentality still prevalent and really invest in understanding who we are and how we exist as a societal system?

My guess is no.  Or at least, not yet.  Most (I say again – most) backroom political operators I know see mental health as a policy widget, period.  They fundamentally don’t believe in “move forward together” – they practice “every man for himself.”  A bit over a year ago, I had a chat with a guy in the know about what the next steps should be on mental health; the reply came back “we already allocated funds” as though that meant the right demographic had been assuaged, so it was on to the next thing.

Problem is, that kind of survival-of-the-fittest mindset is the exact same thought process that landed the system with Chris Mazza.  Mazza, by every account I’ve read of him, is a big-thinker, fast-talker, charming to the nines.  He’s the kind of person you just feel is somehow ahead of the curve – his very demeanour inspires confidence.

What if that demeanour, that behavioural pattern, is the exact same starting point for the mess that ORNGE got itself into?  What if Mazza has, like so many people in politics and business, an undiagnosed “mental health” condition that, because it caused him to excel, people were willing to overlook until the cracks started to show?

Political operatives can tell you countless tales about seeking the perfect candidate and apparently finding them, only to run into a whack of “personality-challenges” down the road.  You could sit in any Legislature in Canada and probably assess rather quickly a number of people who could be slapped with a diagnosis (and some already have one).  The problem is, these manic, delusional, obsessive people – when harnessed the right way – are the ones who move the ball forward.  They are our innovators, our social outliers, the people who think around corners and inspire other to follow.

Conversely, the ones who are quieter, less confident, or seek greater direction are seen as “dead wood” – without consideration ever being paid to the environmental factors of work.  Again, it’s subconscious “survival of the fittest” at play, meaning it’s the most aggressive and competitive, not necessarily the most talented, who rise to the top – until they over step themselves.  Our approach to proactive occupational mental fitness is feeding into our broader health and economic crisis.   It’s like we’re wringing our hands over the complexity and cost of treating lead poisoning without looking upstream for a leaky pipe.

We should watch what happens in the case of Dr. Chris Mazza closely.  How much his case will incite some introspection on the part of policy makers and institutional leaders will be most telling of how quickly we can start embracing the changes our society needs to keep growing forward.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Tear Down the Silos in Health Care

 - The Belleville Intelligencer

   - The Drummond Report

Everyone, every health service provider, teacher, politician and stakeholder I have spoken to wants the same thing – an integrated system that fully serves the needs of Ontarians.  This isn’t a pipe dream; in fact, it’s completely realizable based on the tools we have available, right now.  The only piece that’s missing is our willingness to give a bit of control to support something larger than ourselves.

It’s time to break down the silos in our social service system, especially in health care.  As a society, we simply can no longer afford not to.

UPDATE: We have deficient diagnosis of special needs in our schools; these are people who the suffer a great risk of falling through the cracks of society, producing less, consuming more costly back-end health services and potentially ending tangled up with the justice system.  Our police and corrections officers are not equipped to deal with mental illness, because the how to has never been seen as important enough to rate significant comprehension and training. 

So, we are reminded of the atrocities still happening in our correctional institutions that are caused by a lack of coordination, training and support. You have upset teachers and disgruntled doctors each saying all they want is the ability to provide the best service to their patients/students and cries from all levels for systematic, structural change to the way services are organized and collaborated on.

What we need now is leadership.  We need someone who's willing to take the risk of putting the Public Good before personal interest, be it politics, profit or power.  None of those things matter when our silo-based institutions are cracking from the internal pressure of their own inefficiency.

Everyone keeps telling me there is only one way forward - if we believe that, it's time to start working together.

I Believe Deaf Kids Can Hear

"I'm deaf.  And I can play the piano."

Watch this amazing video and hear that anything is possible - when we believe.

Conscious Capitalism – The Future of Business

     -  Megan McIver, President of Verona Communications

     -  Rob Wilson, The Guardian

In the days of yore, people envied and sought to imitate those with land.  Owning property was seen as the social status symbol.  Having land meant possessing resources, which allowed the owner to attract mates and support large numbers of offspring.  As more people lived closer together (either on their own property, or someone else’s) the opportunity for individual gain through owning a specialized skill set or the means to employ it became the driver of social status.  Wealth became less immutable stuff and more liquid capital.  Personal legacy – the Horatio Alger myth of rags to riches – became the desired brand. 

Now, people live in a complex, multi-level web of social engagements both in person and online.  Everything we do has the potential to be scrutinized.  As the Kings of 20th Century Capitalism adjust to the reality that might doesn’t make right and there are troubles you simply can't ignore or buy your way out of, they are turning to a new generation of entrepreneurs, weaned on a Facebook culture of connectivity and accountability, to navigate this new social reality.  How do we leverage opportunity in a hyper-integrated global economy?  How do we tread the path between personal success and a growing social accountability?

What these entrepreneurs – people like Megan McIver, people like the Centre for Social Innovation’s Tonya Surman and everyone engaged in CSI – get is that this social accountability works both ways.  You will get caught, period, when you do something wrong, but you will be equally recognized when you do something right.  That recognition builds legacy, builds your brand and also leaves you with a stronger, personal sense of fulfillment.

Anyone whose business it is to make money should pay attention.  The social entrepreneur movement isn’t a passing phase - it’s the future of industry. 

Anyone in the business of making policy should equally pay attention – the solutions for today’s myriad of networked challenges won’t come from those pursuing narrow, partisan interests, but from those Conscious Capitalists looking to leave behind a legacy of a better tomorrow.

Welcome to the 21st Century; welcome to the Conscious Society.

Monday 7 May 2012

Taking a Bite Out of Original Sin

For me, “original sin” is a way of offering a pre-neurological explanation for selfish, reactive behaviour.  I therefore think that the most ardent religious extramists (of any religion, or any ideology for that matter) are actually the embodiment of that which they purport to stand against.  This isn’t reason to fight or ostracize them, though, but an opportunity to share the spark of understanding.  Sin, the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and the expulsion from Eden are all metaphors for the development of individual and social consciousness.

Does that make you feel uncomfortable?  Then you see my point exactly.  Answers are challenging, they force us to re-evaluate and to grow.  The truth was never handed to us – it’s up to us to discover it.

The truth will set you free – when you’re conscious of it.

Stephen Harper’s Opportunity for Legacy: A Centralized, Proactive Mental Health Strategy

I have been critical of Stephen Harper; I think he often takes a short-sighted, cynical policy track that favours his Party’s interest over his country’s.  Like most politicians, these two things have bled into one in his mind.  I don’t, however, think he does this out of malice – Stephen Harper genuinely feels that might makes right, that people left to fend for themselves fare best and that ideologies other than his own are threatening.  Harper’s heart is in the right place – it’s his head that needs to follow suit by seeking out and acknowledging the facts and making a conscious effort to develop evidence-based policy. 

I believe PM Harper really does care about mental health issues; it’s not an abstract policy file to him but something that hits home.   Like most people, though, he doesn’t fully get mental health.  If you’re tough enough, common wisdom suggests, if you’re focused enough and willing to do whatever it takes, you can bend reality to your will.  You can win the race, become Prime Minister, even will away depression and anxiety.  It’s a wishful theory, but it’s just not true.

Society, the “body politic,” is just that – a system of interconnected parts where minute hits felt anywhere impact everywhere, whether we recognize this or not.  Take post-traumatic stress disorder – what the mind does to get the body through conflict has long-term repercussions.  Whether it’s a soldier coming back from war, a child who has been bullied or someone who has faced discrimination in the workplace for any reason, the accumulative impact of these experiences doesn’t build resiliency and social/emotional empathy – it attacks confidence, fosters aggression and depression and significantly impedes performance - especially innovative performance. 

Multiply that impact across communities, cities, provinces, the world – you end up with people who can’t function in society and live on the streets, aggressive drivers who aren't mindful of the traffic around them, bitter bosses and under-performing employees.  You end up with people who only know how to solve problems through aggression, rather than compromise.  In a nutshell, that’s the root of the challenges we are facing globally; it’s a crisis that simply turning people loose or micro-managing them cannot solve.

Stephen Harper’s Legacy

This, then, is Stephen Harper’s true leadership moment.  What happens on the mental health front will define his legacy; either he can be the Prime Minister that builds a national solution that will positively and proactively assist generations of Canadians (and potentially be copied by other nations), or he will be remembered as the Prime Minister who saw a slide in civility, social cohesion and general mental health on his watch. 

If Harper is willing to look past some of his own concerns about firewalls and collaboration, he can go down in history as the Conscious Nixon who went to the China of mental illness.  He can align his fiscally conservative sensibilities not to cut and isolate services, but blend them together into an efficient, cohesive, centrally-coordinated mental health system facilitated by the best modern technology – and Canadian technology companies – have to offer.

A centralized national health and mental health system is good policy.  It makes for good politics, too.  Being the architect of such a system would also define Stephen Harper as one of the most visionary leaders in Canadian, perhaps global history.  A powerful legacy to leave behind, but one that can only be reached by empowering and connecting others.

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far – move forward together.

Sunday 6 May 2012

A Canada Consciously Touched by Fire: A National Mental Health Strategy

Canada is about to get its first-ever national mental health strategy – a massive report that may persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper that his government must return Ottawa to a lead role on health care.

Specifically, the blueprint wants federal and provincial governments to earmark nine per cent of their health spending for mental health – up from about seven per cent now.

It will emphasize recovery from mental illness, and urge for more prevention, especially when dealing with young people.

It will also stress the high cost of inaction. Mental health problems cost the Canadian economy at least $50-billion a year.

People from all walks of life are seeking the same thing – a reason to connect, to trust others, to have faith in a promising tomorrow.  Right now, that’s a tall order, but like a diet, when it’s hardest is when the impact starts to be felt.  Best part - the animosity, the anxiety, the ethnic tensions and social tensions and economic tensions - when we look at them the right way, these are all issues related to the expression of states of mental health.

Given the lonely path we've chosen, you may ask - Why Should I Care?  You need to care because this isn't about diagnosisng more individuals with problems - it's about empowering our society, from the soldiers coming home from Afghanistan to the average, frustrated desk worker to be at their best and have access to the tools they need to stay at their best.  You need to care because mental health matters.

We can only realize our full, true potential (Canada's first, best destiny) if we learn from the Drummond Report, from this forthcoming national mental health strategy and other seeds that have been planted:

-         You can’t have effective services if they aren’t broad in scope and centrally coordinated.  This is especially true in healthcare, specialized collabiration is the way of the future.

-         Putting all your eggs in one basket – be it a single ideology or a single economic resource – is folly.  IDIC – evolution is about maximizing diversity, as is social evolution.  That’s why from Greek Hellenism to Canada’s multiculturalism, the best in human history has come through expansion and inclusion, not isolation or dominance.
-          When you look at others as lesser-thans, you cut yourself off from our collective potential.

-      Mental health is everything - how we think, what we ignore, what makes us angry and what inspires us are all functions of how our brain manages that information.  We can learn to manage it better.

If you want to go fast, go alone. 

If you want to go far –

Personally, I believe in the power of you and I.  Do you?