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Tag Archives | stigma reduction

Tomorrow is “Bell Let’s Talk” Day

Bell Let's TalkI’m going to put in a plug for Bell Let’s Talk Day tomorrow because…this is my blog, and I can. 🙂

And it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. Bell Let’s Talk is a charitable initiative spearheaded by Bell Canada to support mental health organizations in Canada. Its goals are to reduce stigma, increase care and access, support the mental health of its own employees and show organizations how to do the same, and to invest in research.

As someone who quite possibly wouldn’t be here without access to professional mental health services when I was at the lowest points of my lifelong struggle with chronic depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, I wish for everyone that they had the opportunities for healing that I did. Even the therapists that I cursed on a regular basis pulled me through, I see now. And while I’ve been fortunate enough not to experience a huge amount of stigma because of mental health diagnoses, I certainly know that it exists. I know that stigma is a huge problem.

I support any initiative that increases access and decreases stigma for people with a mental health diagnosis.

Bell Let’s Talk Day – January 27, 2016

Bell has already committed $100 million in funding. However (from website):

“On Bell Let’s Talk Day, for every text message, wireless and long distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, and every Facebook share of tomorrow’s Bell Let’s Talk Day image at Facebook.com/BellLetsTalk, Bell will donate 5 cents more to Canadian mental health programs.

Bell’s donations are made at no extra charge to Bell Let’s Talk Day participants, though normal long distance or text charges, if any, apply. To learn more about the campaign, or to download the Bell Let’s Talk toolkit and help get the conversation started, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

Thanks to the response on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015, Bell committed a further $6,107,538.60 in funding for Canadian mental health – bringing the Bell Let’s Talk total to $73,623,413.80.”

Bell Let’s Talk – Add Your Voice!

Please support Canadian mental programs tomorrow (January 27) and be sure to check out the Bell Let’s Talk website to see the work that Bell Let’s Talk has supported since 2011, a list of Canadian resources, and 5 simple ways to help end the stigma around mental illness! Thanks!

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Ontario School Board Changes Lice Policy Because Inclusion

Mother treating daughter's hair against lice

Hello everyone! Happy New Year! Let’s talk about lice.

Yes, lice – the nasty little bugs that live and lay eggs in the hair of especially schoolchildren, making costly shampoos and treatments and complicated disinfecting regimes in the house a necessity. In my province, Ontario, most school boards have “no nits” policies that require that children on whom lice and/or nits are found stay home until they no longer have signs of lice. As a result, some children miss multiple days or even weeks of school.

Several Canadian school Boards have decided to rethink the way they deal with lice, in part due to a recent ruling by the Canadian Pediatric Society that lice are not a medical condition, but a “social nuisance”. They do not cause disease and aren’t a barrier to learning. Richard Pollack, an entomologist, told the Toronto Star that “generally speaking, one out of every 100 kids has lice, regardless of the type of policy the school has toward the insects” and that “the only real thing to fear when it comes to lice is hysterical parents running students out of school.” Read More About The New Head Lice Protocol in the Toronto Star

Mark Fisher: “Public Education is About Equity of Access for Everybody”

In Ontario, the Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board is the latest board to move away from the “no nits” policy. According to its new policy, children with nits and lice will be welcome at school to continue their learning and so that they can avoid the stigma of being sent home because of lice. Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio’s “The Current” interviewed Board Superintendent Mark Fisher on Jan 14th. The CBC doesn’t provide transcripts of their interviews that I can find, so here is one that I did of that portion of the interview:

AMT: Your school had a “no nits” policy, meaning kids with lice had to stay home. Why did you decide to drop that?

MF: Over the past couple of years I was getting a series of phone calls from parents concerned about the amount of time they were missing work and having to come up and pick their children up and not able to return to school…and we decided to take a look at our procedure, which is something that we review every few years. And when we dug into the issue a little bit we realized, ah, that the medical community said that this was a social nuisance and not a medical concern. And at the end of the day public education is about equity of access for all, and we don’t don’t believe in exclusion anymore for something that we don’t consider to be a serious issue.

AMT: You have also mentioned issues around the stigmatization of students. What’s that?

MF: Yeah, part of my portfolio was promoting positive mental health and well-being. I mean, this is an issue prevalent in  society. So think about how stigmatizing it is, for students to be identified as having head lice, sent to the office, and then having to wait for the parents to come and pick them up, and then not being able to return to school for days or weeks. So really, this is not something that promotes well-being in school, and it’s not a policy we’re comfortable with anymore.

AMT: Are you worried that they’ll be stigmatized if they stay?

MF; I think what we want to do is we want to be very culturally respectful of everybody’s needs. So, it’s not that we are allowing lice to be rampant in our schools – we still have management plans at each school, we’ll still do regular checks, and we’ll respect the rights of the individual by letting them stay for the remainder of the day, sending notification home to parents, along with resources about how to effectively treat this. And if there are some families that are unable to treat this, which has been the case in the past, we have set up mechanisms where they can access  get support, financially and  human, to resolve the issue.

AMT: And what kind of support, then? Like, you would actually pay –

MF: {muffled} counselors that could go into the home, work with the family…and if for some reason, and there are some families really struggle with resolving this issue, we have a charitable arm of our school board which they can make application for funding for some of these agencies to come in and take care of the issue for families.

AMT: You know, in a few minutes I’ll be speaking to Kristy Sinclair, one of the parents who does not want kids with lice attending school. Can you understand the fear some parents have, that their kids –

MF: Oh, I absolutely understand it. I’m a parent myself. I can understand why  parents are worried about this issue, but I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there. We did a lot of research, we checked with a lot of different health units, with the Canadian Pediatric Society…and really what we found was that there’s no evidence that “no nits” policies actually reduced the overall prevalence of nits. And in fact, Anna Maria, we have never excluded students from our high schools for this issue and we don’t have any different rate in the high school versus the elementary school, so…

AMT: Hmm. What kind of rate do you have in your schools?

MF: It’s about, just under 1%, which is I think pretty consistent with the information that we found when we looked at on a larger scale.

AMT: Okay. So what are you doing to help parents understand this decision?

MF: We definitely agree that there’s an education role for us as educators, so we really…we sent home a lot of information about a lot of the health units in our area. We’ve also talked about best practices, about how you actually treat and remove head lice…all of that information is available on our website, for anyone that wants to google “Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board”, and we also have support staff available in those kind of really problematic cases.

AMT: Just take me through it one more time. You say you’ve done research, and the Canadian Pediatric Society says as well that it’s not a medical condition.

MF: That’s right.

AMT: And it’s not a health problem?

MF: Right. It doesn’t spread disease, it’s not infectious. The information that we have says that it’s a social nuisance.

AMT: Okay. And how much pushback are you getting?

MF: Well, I would say that we’re having a loud but vocal minority. I think, you know, change is difficult at any time, Anna Maria, and at the end of the day, public education is about equity of access for everybody. It’s a great equalizer. And you can’t have equity of outcome for our students when they graduate if you don’t provide equity of opportunity, so if our most vulnerable students aren’t allowed to come to school to learn, to participate, and to resolve the issue with support, I think that’s kind of counter to what we stand for.

Tremonti went on to interview Kristy Sinclair, creator of the “Stop the New Head Lice Protocol” Facebook group, and Richard Pollack, the entomologist that also talked to the Toronto Star. Listen to the full interview here.

The New Head Lice Protocol and Supporting Inclusion When It’s Easy

Here’s the thing.

I have some gut feelings on this on this issue that I admit are based on a very small amount of research and probably more on the idea of having lice than anything else. I think that Fisher makes some valid points. I think that Sinclair ‘s points about how life infestation *can* become a medical issue when children scratch to the point where they break open skin and give themselves infections, and that the cost of treating lice can over and over and the time at work lost for parents makes the policy economically punitive for families, are also valid.

And for the record, I’ve got no problem with any initiative that reduces stigma for children who get lice. I’m not sure that this policy change will do it, but I could be wrong, of course,

But the main reason that I wanted to comment on this story, and why I wanted to include a transcript of Tremonti’s interview with Mark Fisher, is that I’m fascinated by the co-opting of the language of inclusion as a reason for the policy change.

I’ve never worked in the Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board, or any of the Boards that have moved away from the “no nits” policy in favour of the one that allows students with lice to return to school. I’d like to see how their inclusion policies for disabled children are working (acknowledging, of course, that perhaps the Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board has an exemplary record of providing equity of access to everyone, including disabled students). Perhaps all disabled students in the Board do get to attend school and get what they need at school to allow them to learn and participate to the full extent that they can, like their peers do.

If so, congratulations to Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board – I’m glad that this particular school board has been able to overcome all of the physical, social, and attitudinal barriers in all its its schools that prevent the full participation of disabled students, that they can now focus on making sure that non-disabled students with lice can fully participate while dealing with a (their words) non-medical issue that’s not widely understood socially.

I’m glad that inclusion for students with disabilities no longer seems to be an issue for them, that they can put all this focus on a non-medical issue that that affects one student in 100 at any given time.

I’m glad that all the challenges of families of disabled children in their school are being sufficiently met and in such an efficient way that the board, in its quest for inclusion and for making sure that all children can get an education, can provide counselors in the home and funding to help meet the needs of families of children with lice.

I’m glad that the Board feels that it’s the school’s place to work in partnership with community agencies to make sure families of children with lice are getting what they need, and that they’re willing to be part of education and awareness-spreading. I guess that they’ve got all the partnerships they need when it comes to disabled students and their needs. Good for them.

(In case it’s not coming across, I’m laying the sarcasm on fairly thick.)

Go ahead and call me a cynic, but I think we have a case of, “It’s easy for a school board to believe in  inclusion and providing “equity of access for all” when it doesn’t cost a lot them a lot of extra money.” Again, I have no idea about this particular board’s record on inclusion, and perhaps I don’t even have a right to be skeptical. But we’ve all heard stories and seen stories in action about schools subtly (and not so subtly) demonstrating that inclusion of disabled students and a commitment to equity of access when it comes to their education is *not* their policy even when it’s their policy. I’ve heard far too many stories. I don’t like that I’ve become skeptical, but there it is.

If I was the parent of a disabled child in a board replacing their “no nits” policy, I’d want some assurance that *my* child’s right to equity to access would continue to be preserved, or be preserved at least as well as, that of children with lice. There’s a lot in here that need to apply to *all* students as a general rule, on a daily basis basis – cultural respect of needs, respect for the rights of individuals, and preservation of all students’ rights to learn and participate. If you’re going to go on the radio and say that you stand for inclusion for everyone, you’d better be prepared to stand behind it.

 

 

 

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Deliciously Disabled – Accessible Sex Party Planned for Toronto in August!

the word "sex" in uppercase green-blue letters on a pink backgroundAnalyticsI live not-so-far from Toronto and visit there fairly frequently, so I know that it’s not on the cutting edge of accessibility. Only 34 of the city’s 69 subway stations are accessible, for Pete’s sake (but all the subway trains are accessible, so that’s something, I guess). So good on you, Toronto, for hosting Deliciously Disabled, a sex party that’s completely accessible.

Well, not that it’s a city event. More like it’s just being held in the city. But significant nonetheless.

Deliciously Disabled is a private event being organized by disabled activist and academic Stella Palikarova and Andrew Morrison-Gurza, disability activist and consultant. The event will be taking place at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, which is fully wheelchair accessible, on August 14.

Deliciously Disabled – What I Like

The thing that I really like about Deliciously Disabled is that it’s not just for disabled people, and that the organizers are really trying hard to get that message across. I’ve been to events for disabled people supported by specific agencies that were also supposed to be open to the general community, but really did end up being segregated events – the way it seemed to work was that community members wouldn’t be turned away at the door, but it wasn’t an issue anyway, because they didn’t know that they could come.  I love that there are actually 40 reserved spots for non-disabled to come and enjoy a sexy evening (which isn’t just sex, this article says – there’s a place for sex and nudity, but “guests can also don masks, watch a burlesque performance, or attend a toy workshop.”)

I also think that it’s just a great idea in general.  Sexuality can be a bit more complicated for disabled people – potential partners can’t always handle talking about barriers, or their concerns that they’re going to hurt the person, or any questions that they may have. This seems like a great, inclusive opportunity for disabled people (and their partners, for those that have them) to explore sex and sexuality in a barrier-free environment. There are 25 spots reserved for wheelchairs., and a call has gone out to support workers to volunteer to provide assistance to those who need it.

Deliciously Disabled – What I Don’t Like

Actually, there’s nothing about the event itself that I dislike. What’s frustrating me is the icky ableism that the media coverage of Deliciously Disabled is bringing out in Jon Q. Public, and in some of the media coverage itself – the Toronto Sun in particular. I don’t know why I’d expect anything else from the Toronto Sun, but Mike Strobel’s article on Deliciously Disabled was…problematic.

First, it was inaccurate. This isn’t the first time Toronto has tried something like this – in 2007, organizers tried to get something similar, Acexxxable, off the ground, but it seems, from the limited information that I could find on it, that it had too much trouble finding an affordable accessible space. Second, Deliciously Disabled is not an orgy. It’d be nice if a national newspaper took this seriously enough to get its facts straight.

Second, while not outright mocking, Mike Strobel’s piece definitely edges on it.  This bothers me because…this stuff isn’t a joke. I like that there’s a really celebratory tone about Deliciously Disabled, but there are some serious issues prompting it, and a journalist skirting the edge of mocking it isn’t appropriate – it invites others to mock it, as we see in the comments:

“It must be a hell of a sight – someone with cerebral palsy having an orgasm! Hilarious!”

“Oh my, who will change the diapers?”

and this bit of “hilarity”:

Q: What is the most difficult thing about eating a vegetable?
A: Getting her back into the wheelchair after.

Granted, there’s a hearty of mix of comments from these very ignorant people and from pearl-clutchers who may be responding more to the word “orgy” than to the idea of disabled people participating in one. It’s difficult to say. However (and I acknowledge that this may be just me) I find the mocking more offensive than pronouncements that Deliciously Disabled is “disgusting” and an example of the world’s “depravity”, or just a step away from a “pedophile sex party” hosted by a “lady so sick she needs her head examined”. I can shrug that shit off, quite frankly, because it’s so profoundly ignorant. But mocking implies that a person know better and yet still making a choice to be ignorant, and that’s harder for me to take. Especially from a journalist.

And as for me…I really need to stop reading comments on articles, because between this, and all the Caityln Jenner hate (great article on that here, btw) and Duggar support last week, I’m worn out.

However, the poll on the same Sun article did say that people who responded were overwhelmingly in support of Deliciously Disabled. I don’t know if that means “Good on them, as long as I’m not involved” or “Good on them, I’d love to join in” or “I’m checking this because there isn’t a ‘I don’t care’ box”, but maybe it means that the negative comments are just coming from a small fringe of people who really are opposed and/or ignorant. It’s just unfortunate that sometimes those small fringe groups can scream really loud (look at the birther movement around Obama.)

Deliciously Disabled – How Can You Help?

Talk to people about events like Deliciously Disabled and why there’s no reason to be threatened by them.

Talk about the myths surrounding disabled people and sexuality. Let people know that the information that society gives them about disabled people and sex and the assumptions that people tend to make based on those assumptions (like, “Disabled people don’t like to have sex”) generally aren’t true.

Parents with disabled children in the school system, ask teachers what kind of sex education your child has already received and can expect to receive and why it’s differing from what non-disabled children are receiving (if this is the case). Disabled children, like all children, need sex education that teaches about boundaries, self-esteem, and safety, as well as the biology.

Make sure (whether it comes from school, medical staff, and agency, or you) that your child’s transition plan for high school to adulthood includes the education on relationships, sexuality, and sexual safety that they’re going to need to safely explore this part of life that most adults need to make them feel whole.

As Stella Palikarova said, “This is really going to take the co-operation of everyone in society,”

So, what are you doing on August 14?

 

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