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Seamy Underbelly, Part II

Visiting the Downtown Eastside (DTES) has churned up some contradictions for me, and resolving those contradictions requires re-thinking some questions I thought I already knew the answers to:

1) To what extent do people choose to live in the DTES, and to what extent are they stuck there?

2) Does the DTES community strengthen its residents or [...]

The lowdown on substance use

Last night I attended a free session at our local mental health facility. It was called Getting the Low Down on Substance Use, and was presented by Michael Coughlin, a registered nurse with the Royal’s Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders program.

I was interested because I have a young friend who uses heroin. He was kicked [...]

Ottawa Citizen outs mentally ill man

On Saturday the Ottawa Citizen ran a story called Pleas to help mentally ill son ignored, mother says. It was in Hugh Adami’s column, The Public Citizen.

Complete with names and a photograph, this article provides detailed personal information about a 22-year-old man who lives in Ottawa’s shelter system. The information was supplied by his mother.

The [...]

Jack is not his real name

I’ve known Jack (not his real name) a long time. We were room-mates when I was still in high school and he was in university. He was never a shining example of robust mental health, but he always maintained at least a half-hearted grip on his sanity, despite his contention that sanity was over-rated.

I used [...]

A novel approach: Doing what works

Years ago, when my criminology degree was fresh, I did a volunteer stint as a court worker for the Ottawa Elizabeth Fry Society. My job, one morning a week, was to show up at First Appearance Court, keep an eye out for women who looked like they needed some help, and try to match them [...]

Mental Illness and Stigma

The keynote speaker at the Mental Health Symposium* was Dr. David Goldbloom, a psychiatrist with a succulent C.V. The subject of his address was mental illness and stigma.

In terms of how we talk about and treat people with mental illnesses, we’ve come a long way since the days of lunatics and asylums,but we still have [...]

Welcome to My Back Yard

The Shepherds of Good Hope just purchased a hotel about two blocks from my house. It will provide supportive housing for about 50 clients, including frail elderly people, people who are succeeding in the Managed Alcohol Program, and people living with mental illness.

Carlington has reacted with the predictable community rallying cry of “Not in My [...]

Last Shift at Shepherds

If you’ve ever driven past the Shepherds of Good Hope, on Murray Street near King Edward, you might have felt a little intimidated by the clusters of ragged street people who live on the fringes of society and who congregate outside the shelter. Some of them smoke and talk amongst themselves. Some talk to themselves. [...]

It’s not about the bus

I made the mistake of reading several hundred comments on the Yahoo Canada News site yesterday, as people responded to the gruesome decapitation on the Greyhound bus.

The right-wing redneck racists were out in full force with their appalling opinions and atrocious spelling. They were clamoring for the guy’s head. Literally. They were blaming immigration [...]

Greyhound Bus Decapitation

I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the horrific beheading of a sleeping passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba. The stranger sitting next to him just suddenly started repeatedly stabbing him and then hacked off his head and carried it around.

I can’t even imagine how traumatized those poor travelers must be. I felt [...]