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A unique study praised for its rigor finds numerous upsides to deactivating your Facebook account

JANUARY 31, 2019 12:30AM (UTC)

Many of us have become so accustomed to social media that it is hard to remember when it was not intrinsic to our lives, though in reality it has not existed in a meaningful sense for more than 20 years. Over the last decade, the amount of time spent on social media and in front of screens has slowly yet steadily increased, arousing the interest of many health professionals trying to understand its impact on human health. A new study, which is being hailed as the most trustworthy scientific assessment of social media’s effects, suggests that quitting Facebook is unequivocally positive for one’s mental health.

Researchers at Stanford University and New York University who led the study — which was posted on an open access site called the Social Science Research Network — recruited 2,844 Facebook users via Facebook ads. Those users were initially asked to fill out extensive questionnaires about their overall well-being, political views, and daily routine. Half of the users were then randomly assigned to deactivate their Facebook account for four weeks in exchange for payment. Researchers regularly checked the Facebook accounts during the month to make sure they weren’t reactivated, and regularly received text messages to asses these users’ moods, creating a real-time evaluation.

Overall, researchers concluded that not using Facebook reduced online activity, including other social media use, and increased offline activity such as watching television and socializing with friends and family more. Those who deactivated also observed a decrease in political polarization and news knowledge, and an increase in subjective well-being. The one-month cleanse also led to a reduction in time spent on Facebook for several weeks after the experiment.

“Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,” the authors wrote. “Effects on subjective well-being as measured by responses to brief daily text messages are positive but not significant.”

As the authors of the study explain, “there may be no technology since television that has so dramatically reshaped the way people communicate, get information, and spend their time.” The social media behemoth has nearly 2.3 billion monthly users. According to data from 2016, the average users spends 50 minutes per day on Facebook and its sister platforms Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

This is not the first time researchers have looked at the effect of Facebook and other social media platforms on human health. However, researchers of this study say their findings debunk previous research suggesting Facebook is good for its users. As the researchers state: “We find little evidence to support the hypothesis suggested by prior work that Facebook might be more beneficial for ‘active’ users—for example, users who regularly comment on pictures and posts from friends and family instead of just scrolling through their news feeds.”

The authors do advise that there are caveats.

“First, effects could differ with the duration or scale of deactivation,” the researchers state. “A longer period without Facebook might have less impact on news knowledge as people find alternative news sources, and either more or less impact on subjective well-being. Furthermore, a larger-scale experiment in which a greater share of the population deactivated could have a different impact due to network effects and equilibrium adjustments.”

The paper is being praised for its rigor by other academics.

“This is impressive work, and they do a good job sorting out causality,” Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on the Digital Economy, told the New York Times. “This is the way to answer these kinds of questions; it’s the gold standard for how to do science. A lot of what we’ve heard before about social media’s effects was based on surveys.”

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Exclusive: head of Food and Drug Administration’s opioid advisory team says officials are manipulating process to benefit big pharma

The Food and Drug Administration is sacrificing American lives by continuing to approve new high-strength opioid painkillers, and manipulating the process in favor of big pharma, according to the chair of the agency’s own opioid advisory committee.

Dr Raeford Brown told the Guardian there is “a war” within the FDA as officials in charge of opioid policy have “failed to learn the lessons” of the epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years and continues to claim about 150 lives a day.

Brown accused the agency of putting the interests of narcotics manufacturers ahead of public health, most recently by approving a “terrible drug”, Dsuvia, in a process he alleged was manipulated.

“They should stop considering any new opioid evaluation,” said Brown. “For every day and every week and every month that the FDA don’t do the right thing, people drop dead on the streets. What they do has a direct impact on the mortality rate from opioids in this country.”

Brown, an anesthesiologist who chairs the FDA committee of specialists advising the agency on whether to approve new opioid painkillers, said he no longer had confidence in repeated assurances by the FDA leadership that it was taking the epidemic seriously and prepared to put public health above the commercial interests of drug makers.

“I think that the FDA has learned nothing. The modus operandi of the agency is that they talk a good game and then nothing happens. Working directly with the agency for the last five years, as I sit and listen to them in meetings, all I can think about is the clock ticking and how many people are dying every moment that they’re not doing anything,” he said. “The lack of insight that continues to be exhibited by the agency is in many ways a willful blindness that borders on the criminal.”

Brown’s comments echo criticisms by US senators who have condemned the FDA for what they say is its “complicity” in the epidemic, for approving the powerful painkillers that drove the crisis and then failing to use its powers to protect the public as the death toll escalated.

Four US senators wrote to the head of the FDA, Dr Scott Gottlieb, late last year urging him not to allow Dsuvia, a powerful opioid pill, on to the market because it was “to the detriment of public health”.

Dsuvia is a branded narcotic sufentanil pill, a more potent version of fentanyl, made by Californian pharmaceutical company AcelRx. The signatories included Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose state has the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country.

“This puzzling and unacceptable course of events is unfortunately reminiscent of previous FDA processes and practices that contributed to the opioid epidemic,” the letter said.

The FDA’s credibility has been badly damaged by the opioid crisis amid accusations that at times it behaved less as a regulator overseeing the pharmaceutical industry than a business partner of drug manufacturers. The agency helped unleash the epidemic two decades ago when it approved the sale of a high strength narcotic pill, OxyContin, as safer and more effective than other painkillers on the say so of the manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, and without requiring clinical trials. Since then the FDA has approved other opioids for wide prescribing even as evidence mounted the drugs were addictive, open to abuse and often not effective for long-term use.

The FDA was also embarrassed by revelations that officials responsible for opioid approvals were taking part in “pay to play” schemes in which manufacturers paid to attend meetings to draw up the criteria for approving prescription narcotics.

Donald Trump’s opioid commission identified the failure of the FDA and other federal institutions to properly regulate opioids and their manufacturers as an important factor in the epidemic.

After Trump appointed Gottlieb, the new FDA chief admitted the agency “didn’t get ahead” of the crisis and promised “dramatic” action. He said he favoured examining not only whether an opioid worked but whether it was needed and whether the risks of it feeding the epidemic outweighed benefits for patients.

But that commitment has been called into question by the slow pace of introducing new practices and regulations – and by the approval of Dsuvia, a potent pill developed with the US defense department.

An advisory committee rejected the drug in 2017 over safety concerns. The senators said that they were “deeply troubled” that when Dsuvia was resubmitted for consideration the following year, the FDA excluded members of the agency’s drug safety committee from the hearing. The senators also said they were concerned because the decision was made when Brown, a strong critic of Dsuvia, was absent at a professional conference in San Francisco.

“There’s no question in my mind right that they did that on purpose,” he said. “The FDA has a lack of transparency. They use the advisory committees as cover.”

The FDA is not required to follow the decisions of its advisory committees but has been wary of going against their decisions since 2012, when the agency created a political storm by overruling a decision to reject Zohydro, an opioid 10 times more powerful than regular painkillers.

Doctors and specialists on the committee questioned the safety of the drug and the need for it given the epidemic. The senior FDA official at the hearing, Dr Bob Rappaport, who was head of the agency’s opioid approval division, angered other members by telling them there had to be “a level playing field for business”, which was widely interpreted as putting the right of pharmaceutical companies to make money ahead of public health.

Brown described a breakdown in confidence and trust between his advisory committee and FDA officials responsible for opioid approvals. He characterized them as out of touch with the consequences of the epidemic and locked into a view promoted by drugmakers that those who become hooked are to blame for their addiction not the pills or prescribing practices.

Brown blamed the problem in part on “cozy, cozy relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and various parts of the FDA”. Since a change to the FDA’s funding in the 1990s, the agency division responsible for opioid approvals relies on the drug industry for 75% of its budget. The agency denies the money buys influence.

The FDA declined to respond to Brown’s specific criticisms.

Gottlieb has previously defended Dsuvia by saying it is required for use in circumstances where other drugs cannot be administered, such as a battlefield. The FDA chief promised “very tight restrictions” on its distribution to stop the drug appearing on the illicit market. He insisted the FDA had “learned much from the harmful impact” that prescription opioids have had.

But Brown remains skeptical.

“Nothing is fundamentally being done to effect change in the regulation of opioids. If the FDA continues to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to turn out opioid after opioid after opioid, and the regulation of those opioids is no better than it was in 1995, then we’ll be cleaning this up for a long time,” said Brown.

Chris McGreal is the author of American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts

By Michael Gold

Between 2012 and 2018, 14 states and Washington, D.C., passed laws prohibiting “conversion therapy” for minors. Deep-blue New York was not among them.

That finally changed this month when the State Legislature voted overwhelmingly to bar mental health professionals from working to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

As jurisdictions across the country began solidifying protections for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, conversion therapy became part of the public discourse. In 2016, L.G.B.T. groups denounced the Republican Party for adopting a platform that seemed to lend support to the technique, which had long been discredited by the medical establishment.

Vice President Mike Pence has been particularly dogged by criticism; the groups say Mr. Pence had previously been in favor of conversion therapy, a stance that he has denied.

New York lawmakers had been proposing bills addressing conversion therapy since 2003. The measures languished until this month, when Democrats took control of the Legislature for the first time in a decade.

The Legislature this month also passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or Genda, which would add gender identity as a protected class under New York’s discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The bills were the first pieces of L.G.B.T.-specific legislation to pass the Senate since lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2011, State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, said.

“It was a quantum leap forward,” said Mr. Hoylman, who is the only out gay lawmaker in the Senate and who sponsored both bills. “I hope we can build on that.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he would sign both bills.

“So-called L.G.B.T.Q. conversion therapy is a fraudulent practice that has done untold harm to too many young people,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

Conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, has been widely denounced by medical professional organizations as traumatizing and harmful to minors. The American Academy of Pediatrics warned against it as early as 1993, saying it reinforced anxiety and shame. In 2009, the American Psychological Association condemned the practice in a report, saying that conversion therapy was predicated on the idea that homosexuality was a mental disorder.

But despite the consensus that conversion therapy was unsound, it has remained fairly common, said Mathew Shurka, who underwent conversion therapy and works as an activist fighting against it.

An estimated 698,000 L.G.B.T. adults in the United States have received conversion therapy, according to research by the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, which studies L.G.B.T. issues. About half of them underwent conversion therapy as teenagers.

Mr. Shurka was among them. He was 16 years old in 2004 when his father took him to a therapist who said he could make gay people straight, and he spent five years undergoing the purported treatment.

Conversion therapy assumes that everyone is a heterosexual, Mr. Shurka said, and that same-sex attraction is caused by childhood trauma. The therapists say, “If you can just heal that trauma and understand what your role is as a male or female, you will naturally start to be attracted to the opposite sex,” he said.

Mr. Shurka said he was told to separate from his mother and sister for three years to make sure that he did not look at women as his peers.

Mr. Shurka worked with Mr. Hoylman and Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who was New York’s first out gay legislator, when they introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy in the state in 2013.

At that time, only California had passed a similar law, a year earlier. Months after the New York bill was introduced, New Jersey passed its own legislation barring conversion therapy.

Yet New York stood still. The bill cleared the Democrat-led Assembly, but was blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it never received a floor vote.

For years, Mr. Hoylman kept reintroducing the bill. Each time, his efforts met the same result, while laws were passed in traditional liberal bastions, like Connecticut and Washington, D.C., and also approved through a bipartisan effort in New Hampshire. There, a Republican legislator sponsored the bill and a Republican governor signed it into law.

“New York most certainly lagged behind,” Mr. Hoylman said.

Over the years, Mr. Shurka and other advocates worked to educate state lawmakers about conversion therapy. Many of the people he spoke with did not believe conversion therapy was a modern problem, Mr. Shurka said. He blamed that lack of awareness on the stigma associated with the practice.

“If your parents are putting you into it, they’re not telling their neighbors or friends,” Mr. Shurka said. “It’s not really talked about, and even for the person that’s in it.”

Mr. Cuomo addressed the issue in 2016, when he prevented conversion therapy from being covered by insurers. A number of cities and counties in the state also passed bans, including New York City in 2017.

This year, Mr. Hoylman’s bill was passed as part of a slate of policies that Democrats are seeking to enact now that they have full control of the Legislature after winning a majority in the Senate in November.

The conversion therapy ban received strong bipartisan support, passing the Assembly 134 to 3 and the Senate 57 to 4.

Mr. Shurka, who was in Albany for the Senate vote, said he was “shocked” by the result, which he said was pivotal.

“For me, conversion therapy is the source of all L.G.B.T. rights,” he said. “It’s still that question of ‘Can someone change?’”

Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) – The former chief executive of Insys Therapeutics Inc (INSY.O) pleaded guilty on Wednesday to participating in a nationwide scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe an addictive opioid medication and has agreed to become a government witness.

Michael Babich, who resigned as the Arizona-based drugmaker’s CEO in 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to conspiracy and mail fraud charges after entering into a cooperation deal with prosecutors.

His plea comes less than three weeks before five former Insys executives and managers including John Kapoor, its onetime billionaire founder and former chairman, face trial after being charged with participating in the scheme.

Babich, 42, faces up to 25 years in prison. But the Arizona resident could receive a more lenient sentence by testifying at Kapoor’s Jan. 28 trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak in court said Babich committed his crimes at Kapoor’s direction.

Kapoor and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy. Beth Wilkinson, Kapoor’s lawyer, had no comment after attending Wednesday’s hearing.

Prosecutors allege that from 2012 to 2015, Kapoor, Babich and others conspired to pay doctors bribes in exchange for prescribing Subsys, an under-the-tongue fentanyl spray for managing severe pain in cancer patients.

Fentanyl is an opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.

Prosecutors said Insys paid doctors kickbacks in the form of fees to participate in speaker programs ostensibly meant to educate medical professionals about Subsys that were actually sham events.

Prior to working at Insys, Babich had worked at Kapoor’s venture capital firm.

Insys in August said it had agreed to pay at least $150 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The company has said it has taken steps to ensure it operates legally going forward.

Sears chairman prevails in bankruptcy auction

Prosecutors called the case a major example of their efforts to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017.

Babich’s plea comes after Alec Burlakoff, Insys’ former vice president of sales, pleaded guilty in November and agreed to testify as a government witness.

Babich is married to a former Insys sales representative, Natalie Babich, who in 2017 pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay kickbacks.

She testified last month at the trial of Christopher Clough, a former physician assistant in New Hampshire accused of accepting kickbacks from Insys. A federal jury in Concord, New Hampshire, convicted Clough on Dec. 18.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot

Quietly dump those who are dragging you down.

While many are charging hard towards those newly made resolutions for eating healthier, losing weight, and working out you may want to consider something a bit different. The New Year is always a great opportunity to make a fresh start, but the real question is how to make that fresh start stick. 

One of the greatest hurdles we encounter when trying to make a change is the people we surround ourselves with. Our social circles do matter. Social support has long been demonstrated as one of the leading indicators of happiness and one of the greatest buffers of stress. However, not all social circles are positive and many of us suffer from the influence of toxic “friends” who always seem to find a way to drag us down.  

Ivan MisnerSource: “Ivan Misner, used with permission”

As the New Year gets into full swing you may want to consider a different kind of resolution: Taking stock of your circle. When it comes to our social circles Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI and author of the newly released Who’s in Your Room? The Secret to Creating Your Best Life believes we could all stand to do a little house cleaning and the New Year is a great time to start.  

Misner believes we should all take a hard look at our social circles and consider who among those in our social circles may be dragging us down or getting in the way of the life we want to live. Misner notes that, “while you can’t quite kick anyone to the curb without causing a substantial amount of drama, you can however box them up and put them on a shelf, so to speak.”

First, See Who’s in Your Room

Misner defines the “room” as your mind. Misner believes that everyone you meaningfully encounter does end up living in your room in some way, so we all have pretty big rooms. That is not to say that everyone you meet ends up in your room. Some studies suggest it takes 50 to 90 hours of interactions to establish a meaningful relationship that really sticks with you even if that relationship is far in the past. As he puts it, “people may be out of your life, but they’re still in your head.” So, you have to ask yourself, who are the folks in your room that still wield some sort of negative influence over you? It’s important to both understand how they got in and why they seem to have such a negative impact on your life.

The good news is that as you move forward you can learn from your reflections and be more thoughtful about how you continue to curate your circle of friends, so as to keep your “room” more constructive. The challenge is what to do about the ones who currently reside in your circle and have become toxic. According to Misner there are two simple, yet effective strategies for minimizing the effects of negative influencers: Benign neglect and homeopathic does.      

Apply Benign Neglect

When collaborating and cooperating with a toxic person just doesn’t seem to work, you have to find a way to minimize the negative influence of that individual. Benign neglect is about finding ways to push that person to the back of your room so as to make room for those more positive influences to find their way to the front of your room. “I’m not a burn the bridges kind of guy,” explains Misner, but you have to find ways to move toxic people to the back of your room.article continues after advertisement

Misner believes that sometimes it’s just easier to ice people out. “Start intentionally distancing yourself by increasing the time between your responses,” says Misner. “With a co-worker, suggest virtual meetings once a week instead of in-person ones. With a friend, speak when he/she calls, but only initiate a call once per month. Take more time between your responses to calls/emails, and increase this time a little bit each month.” Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away, but minimizing your contact with the negative people in your circle can’t hurt.  

Prescribe Homeopathic Doses

Another approach to minimizing the influence of negative people in your circle is to deliberately structure how and when you interact with these individuals. Misner describes these as homeopathic doses or guidelines for minimal, but critical exposure. This can be a valuable approach to dealing with loved ones who also drag you down. As an example Misner shares, “instead of telling them weeks in advance that you’ll be in town and can meet, tell them shortly before you arrive and keep your available window specific and small. Or, when they call, say you’re so glad they called but you only have 5 minutes to talk before you head into an appointment. Another way, instead of meeting one-on-one, set group outings to water down your dose of this person.”

Ask yourself who is in your room and are they helping or hurting you? Make 2019 the year you clean your room and clear a path to a more positive life! As Misner believes, “the best part is, doing this will free you up to spend more time with people that add value and joy into your life, thereby making you happier and more fulfilled.”

Simple psychological tricks could boost confidence before STEM-subject exams


At a large Midwestern high school, almost 40 percent of low-income biology students were poised to fail the course. Instead, thanks to simple measures aimed at reducing test anxiety, that failure rate was halved

Psychological interventions that improve grades could ultimately help keep more low-income students in the sciences, says Christopher Rozek, a psychologist at Stanford University and lead author of the study, which appears online the week of January 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Low-income students are much less likely than high-income students to complete four years of high school science. That leads to those students being less likely, or unable, to major in science and math in college or to pursue related — often lucrative — careers in adulthood. One of the many factors underlying this achievement gap is low-income students’ internalized feelings of inadequacy in such fields, Rozek says. Those feelings often translate to high pretest anxiety and worse grades.   

In previous, smaller studies, researchers have shown that reducing performance anxiety can improve test scores. To scale up that work, Rozek and colleagues recruited 1,175 freshman biology students at a public high school in Illinois; 285 of those students came from a low socioeconomic background. At the school, slightly over half of low-income students fail their final biology exams compared with just 6 percent of high-income students. 

Rozek’s group investigated whether 10-minute-long reading and writing prompts before an exam could improve test performance. Students were placed in one of four groups. A control group was simply told to ignore anxiety. Another group of students wrote about their fears, a method intended to clear up the headspace needed to focus on an exam (SN: 2/12/11, p. 9). A third group read a statement explaining that the physiological responses to stress, such as a racing pulse or sweaty palms, can actually be beneficial and help with attention. Students in a fourth group participated in both activities.

Of 205 low-income students in the three experimental groups, 168, or 82 percent, passed their exams, compared with just 49 of 80 students, or 61 percent, in the control group. The three types of interventions all worked equally well. 

Higher-income students, though, experienced no benefit. Rozek suspects that these students were already more adept at emotional regulation. 

Robert Tai, a science education expert at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, questions the study’s emphasis on passing exams. “Improving a student’s test scores will not improve the rate of them pursuing the sciences,” says Tai, whose research has shown that students’ interest in math or science matters more than grades when it comes to later career trajectories. 

Psychological interventions of this sort don’t close the achievement gap, Rozek says. But the study illustrates that at least part of a test score has less to do with knowledge of the material than mind-set. And tipping scores even slightly has real-world implications. “You can imagine students who are failing science courses maybe can’t even register for additional science courses,” Rozek says.

Dr David Marjot
 on the anti-boredom effect, and Dr Ian Flintoff on the damage done by a materialist society

I am a retired consultant psychiatrist who specialised in the field of addiction (Constant craving: is addiction on the rise?, G2, 9 January). My conclusion was that most, perhaps all, drugs of addiction were very effective ways of passing time with minimum distress – the anti-boredom effect. Even “unpleasant” experiences will pass time very effectively. Similar experiences are achieved by shopping, TV and sexual activity etc. I thought that heroin and tobacco were the best anti-boredom drugs. Nicotine is not intoxicating, the withdrawal symptoms are severe but not obvious to the observer, easily relieved by the next fag, and disease and death are delayed until towards the end of working life, thus saving the public the expense of a pension. The ideal drug?

Dopamine is incidentally involved in addiction. The function of dopamine appears to be in a system or systems for the initiation and maintenance of our behaviours – the way we think, feel and act. These systems could be called systems for iteration.Advertisement

Lack of dopamine in the brain, Parkinson’s disease, shows up as a gradual loss of the ability to initiate actions at will, so progressively you are less and less able to will your movements – a failure in the system of iteration. Parkinsonism is often accompanied by tremor or shaking; its other name is paralysis agitans. The drug L-dopa increases the availability of dopamine in Parkinsonism and enables iteration and movements to return.

The increase in, and perhaps excess of, dopamine in addictions and some other behaviours may assist their initiation and use, often overuse, but the upstream effect would be, in my eyes, that the drugs etc activate the anti-boredom effect. You might say you take the drug etc and this relieves your boredom so you take or do it again, thus involving the dopamine iteration system leading to addiction by an as yet unknown mechanism. We must escape from oversimplification, even if the current dopamine story offers a satisfying morality tale.
Dr David Marjot
Weybridge, Surrey

• Implicit in the extensive analysis of current addictions is a possible way of seeing the problem in a light which might promote coordinated and effective action. We are rightly concerned about the possible consequences of our physical environment and its pollutants. It is only a small step from this to understand that our mental, social and cultural environment may have an equally devastating effect on our lives.

Professor Terry Robinson is quoted as noting how our ancestor hunter-gathers sought sweet foods as natural sources of energy, and in this there is much to be learned from understanding the evolved realities of what we are in essence – as opposed to what we are cajoled, bullied or conned into believing that we are or must be. Junk food, in today’s culture, leads to the obesity and worse which the “evolved realities” of our (natural) diets would avoid.

Similarly, if the criteria of human wellbeing are predominantly reduced to money and materialism, our minds and personal inspirations atrophy or even vanish. Drugs, gaming, porn or sexual obsession substitute as distractions. We need to focus on, and be critical of, the cultural-social environment in which we live as much as we do on the physical environment which we now know can be so harmful.
Dr Ian Flintoff

By OMAR MOSLEH   StarMetro Edmonton Thu., Jan. 10, 2019

EDMONTON—To Larry Anderson, the poppy flower is a double-edged sword. While on one hand, it represents the valour of fallen soldiers, it’s also responsible for the anguish of thousands of Edmontonians who find themselves in the grips of an opioid addiction.

But unlike veterans who die in war, few remember those who lose their lives to drugs, Anderson says.

“Opioids serve a purpose. They were created and designed to heal pain. But because they’re so powerful, they become addictive,” Anderson says while reflecting on his poem, My Poppy, featured in a new book by the Bissell Centre focused on raising awareness about the effects of the opioid epidemic on Edmonton’s inner city.

“The people who are in chronic pain, they didn’t do anything to get that way. You can’t blame them for being in pain. So the opioids on that side help them. On the other side, they hurt them.”

Anderson’s poem is featured along dozens of others in Cycles & Circles, a compilation of stories, poetry and art about addiction created by the Bissell Centre in collaboration with clients, local artists and authors.

In addition to raising awareness about the opioid crisis and destigmatizing addiction, the book puts a strong emphasis on harm reduction, and includes a resources section providing information on supervised consumption sites, how to access and use naloxone kits, needle exchange services, and more.

Kaitlyn Beaton, Bissell Centre’s director of community programs, said the organization saw a need to highlight how the opioid crisis was afflicting the inner city due to the sheer prevalence of opioid overdoses on site and the increased number of people they see facing substance use disorders.

“I would say over the last five or so years, we have seen a real change in the inner city around addiction with opioids … A decade ago, I had barely even heard of fentanyl. Now it’s like you can’t go through the day without talking about it,” she said.

But instead of presenting the opioid crisis in stark numbers, they aim to present a more compassionate view of addiction through stories and art.

“I think the book, to me, really highlights the humanness of it, and really I would say the addictions, whether it’s opioids or some other substance, it really comes down to the experience of pain. And that’s a common ground any human can relate to,” Beaton said.

“For us, it was really about how do we give an outlet to express the pain, but also the great beauty and triumph they have faced in their lives?”

Pain and triumph is something Mary-Jo Dion knows well. She has battled alcoholism throughout her life and kicked a heroin addiction in 2013.

Through her three pieces of art accompanied by words in the book, she chronicles her lifelong struggle and what it took for her to get to where she is today.

She remembers the days she would spend numbing her emotions with a bottle in Edmonton’s alleys, until a brush with death forced her to get her life in order.

“It took a drastic part of me to admit I was defeated because I just about froze to death one day,” Dion says while putting the final touches on a dreamcatcher she is making.

“I had to change. I lost everything. I lost my self worth, I lost my kids, I had nothing. I woke up with an empty heart, empty pockets … I had to get out of that lifestyle,” she said.

With the help of faith in a higher power, a 12-step program, friends, family and organizations like the Bissell Centre, she’s now been sober for over a year and has no intentions of looking back.

“In that book, I wrote about my addiction … and I fulfilled my destiny kind of thing. I can say, ‘Hey, I’ve done it.’ I don’t need to cry anymore, I’m happy. I don’t need to be drunk. I can be me.”

She said she chose to participate in the book because she wanted to tell her story, but also because she wants to show others facing addiction that there’s always hope.

“We didn’t have to do this. But I had to be heard. I wanted people to know the struggles and the destruction my life had went through. And how I changed it, and how people helped me change it,” Dion said.

Anderson, who helps facilitate a poetry workshop at Bissell Centre, has also battled addiction. He compares his contributions to the book to a candle that helps illuminate the disorder people in the inner city are facing.

“We can shed light on misconceptions, biases, prejudices and all those things we don’t typically think about. And especially down here, because there’s so many stereotypes about us. You’re down here because you’re stupid, you’re lazy, all these kinds of negative things. And people down here have all kinds of reasons for being here,” Anderson said.

What brings those people together is the emotional, spiritual and physical pain they have endured. He hopes to encourage more individuals to channel those emotions into art, in order to inspire others.

“There’s so much raw talent here, whether it’s in the opioid book, or in general … My intent is to discover, encourage, promote and publish unknown authors,” he said.

Beaton said the Bissell Centre also recognized the need to shine a light on the immense talent that exists in the inner city.

“I wanted to showcase it in a way that really honoured them, but also because people in our community don’t get a lot of recognition for the art that they do,” Beaton said.

“It feels really special. That’s how we see the people we work with and we wanted something they could be proud of as well.”

For Dion, the obstacles she has faced are just one chapter in her life. But she hopes that by sharing her struggles, she can ultimately help others overcome their challenges with addiction.

“That books tells you the feelings. The drawings and paintings, the wording itself, it doesn’t come easily,” Dion said.

“This book will be here after we’re gone. But I hope people will read this and read it kindly. And think, not from the mind, but from the heart. Because what’s in there might help you — it might change you.”

The Bissell Centre will be holding a book launch for Cycles & Circles at its west building on Jan. 18 from noon to 2 p.m.

By ERIC W. DOLAN  January 9, 2019

People with low self-esteem are more likely to seek support from an intimate partner in a manner that tends to backfire, according to new research in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“We were interested in studying social support seeking because a large body of research demonstrates that social support has important consequences for mental, physical, and relational well-being, but only a few studies had previously examined the determinants of how people seek social support,” said study author Brian P. Don of Clackamas Community College.

“By drawing on self-esteem to understand the roots of support seeking behavior, this study makes an important advancement in understanding why people are sometimes unsuccessful in their attempts to seek support from intimate partners.”

The researchers were particularly interested in a phenomenon known as indirect support seeking — meaning sulking, whining, fidgeting, and/or displaying sadness to elicit support. People are believed to engage in this type of indirect communication because they fear being rejected.

In two studies, with 176 couples in total, the researchers found that those with lower self-esteem were more likely to engage in indirect support seeking. This type of support seeking was, in turn, associated with a greater chance of a partner responding with criticism, blame, or disapproval.

Those with low self-esteem — but not those with high self-esteem — also viewed their partner as less responsive to their needs when they responded negatively to their support seeking.

“People with low self-esteem tend to seek support in ways that actually hinder their partner’s ability to provide support, which in turn is has detrimental consequences for how support seekers feel about the relationship,” Don told PsyPost.

“Theoretically, this occurs because people who are low in self-esteem tend to be wary of social rejection, but this fear of rejection ironically results in behaviors that tend to elicit the very rejection that people who are low in self-esteem fear.”

“One caveat is that, although the pattern of findings was consistent across both studies, the results did not fully replicate for all of the paths we tested. Thus, future work should look to continue to replicate these findings,” Don added.

“Given that support seeking is a relatively unexplored area, there are many questions still left to be tested, like how the support provider’s self-esteem may play a role in this process.”

The study, “Low Self-Esteem Predicts Indirect Support Seeking and Its Relationship Consequences in Intimate Relationships“, was authored by Brian P. Don, Yuthika U. Girme, and Matthew D. Hammond.

The new rules follow a ban on electronic cigarette sales at pharmacies that took effect in late August.

New York City pharmacies won’t be allowed to sell cigarettes or other tobacco products starting Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reports the ban also includes businesses that contain pharmacies, such as supermarkets and big-box stores.

The city’s health department says the change will affect about 500 pharmacies currently selling tobacco products.

The new rules follow a ban on electronic cigarette sales at pharmacies that took effect in late August.

The owner of the St. George Pharmacy on Staten Island says cigarette sales had drawn customers who ended up making other purchases. Al Gentile says the government shouldn’t ban certain stores from selling tobacco products that can be purchased elsewhere.

But a deputy health commissioner, Sonia Angell, says it’s important for pharmacies to promote health.

Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

Every now and then, in the course of this disquieting year, a book landed on my desk bearing a classic self-help title – something about kicking a**, winning at life, getting everything you’d ever dreamed of – and I felt a twinge of pity for the author, for being so out of step with the times. This doesn’t feel like an era of ass-kicking or dream-realising. Instead, it’s an era typified by the genre I’ve come to think of as Coping.

Mindfulness, in its popular form, is Coping. So, too, are hygge, lagom, and whatever other Scandinavian word someone just decided is the secret to happiness: they’re about turning toward the domestic and appreciating what you’ve got.

Psychology books with “f***” in the title – on which I’d politely request a moratorium – are a different way of Coping: dealing with life’s problems by telling them to get screwed. So is “self-care”, which involves reading tips on the internet about how not to go crazy spending all day on the internet. We seem to have given up trying to win at life; these days, we will settle for getting by.

This gets criticised on political grounds: if the reasons we’re so overwhelmed and anxious are social and economic, people shouldn’t be encouraged to retreat from the world, or find ways to live with a bad system; they should fight it. “The parlance of reassurance is a flourishing industry,” wrote Miya Tokumitsu in The Baffler. “An array of Virgils to suit various tastes stands ready to talk us through the many circles of neoliberal capitalism.” Even sneakier than regular self-help – which stands accused of blinding people to structural injustice – the Coping genre lets you acknowledge the awfulness of the world and still not do anything about it.

While true so far as it goes, this overlooks the fact that people have always been Coping. The Roman philosopher Boethius wrote The Consolation Of Philosophy while in jail, awaiting execution. He had lots to cope with, but swathes of philosophy and literature share the same consolatory goal. Of course they do. When you are human – with a finite life and abilities, but a mind capable of infinite wants and plans, plus an awareness of your own mortality – life can only ever be a matter of Coping.

Yet much misery arises from the fantasy that things might be otherwise. Half the anxiety of having “too much to do” stems from not seeing that there will always be too much to do – so you can stop struggling to get on top of it all. And as the writer Sam Harris notes, we make various everyday problems worse with our implicit indignation that we must deal with them at all – as if we imagined we might one day get to live a problem-free life. Christian Bobin, a French poet, describes an epiphany: “I was peeling a red apple from the garden when I suddenly understood that life would only ever give me a series of wonderfully insoluble problems. With that thought, an ocean of profound peace entered my heart.” There’s much that people shouldn’t have to cope with, and that we should fight. But Coping per se? That’s just life. Problems are all there is. I hope this Christmas brings you some lovely ones.

By Augusta Anthony, CNN

On a rainy Saturday in Philadelphia, as the partial government shutdown continued, volunteers picked up trash outside Independence Hall, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.Across the country, dozens of their colleagues in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association were doing the same at national parks closed or partially closed by the shutdown. They cleaned up litter, emptied garbage cans and swept the grounds — from the Everglades National Park in Florida to Joshua Tree, California and the Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio.

The group hit the National Mall in Washington on Sunday morning.”Service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam,” said Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of youth group, in a press release. “We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash. We will lead by example and dispose of this garbage appropriately and invite all Americans to join us in these parks and others across the nation.”Group members were joined by people from the general public who contacted the group through social media, spokesperson Salaam Bhatti told CNN, adding that the response to their efforts has been “overwhelmingly positive.”Bhatti said members regularly participate in community cleanups, carried out as part of their faith. The group has logged almost 200,000 hours in clean-up projects since 2016, according to Bhatti.The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is the largest of its kind in the US, with more than 70 chapters and 5,000 members, all males aged 7 to 40.Bhatti said more than 60 percent of Americans do not personally know a Muslim, and community efforts like these increase dialogue with members of other religious groups.

“I hope it shows that we’re not here just to talk about Islam the whole time,” Bhatti said. “We’re here to be part of America.”National Parks have been largely closed to the public since the shutdown began December 22. In a press release Sunday, the National Park Service said it had “explored a number of options to address the maintenance and sanitation issues that have arisen at a number of highly visited parks,” and will now use fee revenues to clean up trash and restrooms.”We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” the statement said.Bhatti told CNN that if the shutdown continues, they will be looking for other national parks to help clear and for more ways they can help community members affected by the shutdown.An important part of Islam is to help “wipe away the tears of our neighbors during time of distress,” he said. “We are humbly serving our nation at a time when many tears are being shed.”

The settlement stems from allegations that Career Education Corporation lied about job placement rates and misled prospective students.

By Associated Press

A company that owns two national for-profit college chains said Thursday that it will erase nearly $500 million in debt incurred by former students as part of a settlement with 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The deal with Career Education Corporation will resolve allegations that it lied about job placement rates and misled potential students to get them to enroll. State attorneys general began investigating the company in 2014 following complaints from students and a damning report by the U.S. Senate.

Company officials on Thursday said they deny any wrongdoing but called the settlement an “important milestone.”

“We have remained steadfast in our belief that we can work with the attorneys general to demonstrate the quality of our institutions and our commitment to students,” Todd Nelson, the company’s CEO, said in a statement.

Based in Schaumburg, Illinois, the company enrolls about 34,000 students across two chains, Colorado Technical University and American InterContinental University. More than 90 percent of its students are enrolled through online courses, according to the company.

The deal was signed by every state except California, which is negotiating a separate agreement of its own, and New York, which previously settled with the company.

Of the $493 million in debt being wiped out, the greatest share comes from borrowers in Florida, which will get $68 million in relief, followed by Texas, with $51 million. The debt stems from institutional loans the company issued to students.

Other terms of the deal require the company to pay $5 million to states to cover the cost of their investigations, and the company will now be required to give all prospective students a single-page disclosure with information including job placement rates, anticipated costs and the average earnings of graduates.

State attorneys general called the agreement a victory for students, saying it will provide debt relief to more than 179,000 borrowers across the country. In Illinois, where $48 million will be cleared, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said it’s a fair outcome for students who were deceived by the company’s schools.

“Today’s settlement ensures the company treats students the way they should have been all along — with honesty and respect for their futures,” Madigan said.

At its peak, Career Education Corporation ranked among the largest for-profit college companies in the nation, enrolling more than 100,000 students at several chains including Sanford-Brown College and Le Cordon Bleu, a group of culinary schools.

But after years of government scrutiny and deep enrollment declines, the company announced in 2015 it would begin closing or selling most of its schools.

Aside from the state investigations, the company has also been the subject of a Federal Trade Commission inquiry since 2015, according to company records filed in September with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The FTC has been examining potential deception in advertising, according to the company, which says it is cooperating with the inquiry.

The for-profit college industry faced a heavy crackdown under President Barack Obama but has seen a shift in its favor under President Donald Trump. Over the last two years, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has sought to loosen regulation and reverse policies created under the previous administration.

But the sector has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks following the abrupt closure of Education Corporation of America, which was one of the nation’s largest chains before it collapsed amid deep financial trouble. Democrats have cited the closure as evidence that the industry needs sharper oversight.

Mental illness can strike anyone at any time in their life. In fact, more than 350 million people across the world – of all ages and from all communities – suffer from depression. But half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And it is that shocking statistic which is the focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day.

The good news is we are learning to better understand and deal with mental health issues. Here are some key developments.

Early intervention

While half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, most cases go undetected and untreated.

Teenagers and young adults have many changes to deal with, including changing schools, leaving home and starting university or a new job. This can lead to stress and apprehension. In some cases, if not recognized and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness.

In some countries, the formative years of a child’s life have been dominated by conflict and upheaval, leaving these young people particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.

In terms of the burden of disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause, while suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. Harmful use of alcohol, drugs and eating disorders are also cause for concern.

Despite this troubling picture, the WHO says there is a growing recognition of the importance of helping young people build mental resilience at an early age. Parents and teachers can help young people build life skills that help them cope with everyday challenges at home and school. More schools are launching initiatives such as mindfulness and meditation, and some provide psycho-social support.

This does however require investment from governments. And that investment needs to work in tandem with programmes to raise awareness, helping peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students.

Mental Health Facts in the US

The role of genetics

Research has shown that 30-40% of the risk for both depression and anxiety is genetic and 60-70% is due to environmental factors, according to the National Institute for Health Research.

Now, the NIHR and King’s College London are calling for 40,000 people diagnosed with depression or anxiety to join what they say will be the largest ever database of volunteers.

The researchers plan to explore the genetic factors behind the two most common mental health conditions – anxiety and depression.

“It’s a really exciting time to become involved in mental health research, particularly genetic research which has made incredible strides in recent years – we have so far identified 46 genetic links for depression and anxiety,” explains Dr Gerome Breen of King’s College London.

“By recruiting 40,000 volunteers willing to be re-contacted for research, the study will take us further than ever before. It will allow researchers to solve the big unanswered questions, address how genes and environment act together and help develop new treatment options.”

Technology and the brain

Conventional wisdom suggests that spending too much time online is in some ways detrimental to the human brain and mental health.

And there is a growing body of scientific work pointing to the dangers of a digital lifestyle. For example, neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley has written a book The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World which explores how internet-connected devices degrade our attention, and have implications for mental health and stress levels in the workplace.

However, many scientists also believe that technology can be harnessed to address mental health issues, and there has been a proliferation of apps aimed at wellbeing.

For example, the Happify app promises to reduce stress and anxiety by providing happiness games and activities. The basic principle is that you can change and modify the brain by training it as if it were a muscle – a theory called neuroplasticity. By adopting new thinking habits, its users can overcome negative thought patterns and learn to cope with everyday stresses.

The app already has 3.5 million users, and claims to help people with schizophrenia, clinical depression and chronic illnesses.

There is also growing scientific evidence that points to the success of online therapy.

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence which provides national guidance on improving healthcare, has approved the use of online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is one of the well-established talking therapies, but now scientists recognize that it is sometimes easier for people to open up to a machine rather than a human being. CBT is also notoriously expensive and time-consuming, so technology may also allow for treatment to become more widely available.

A policy priority

World leaders have recognized the importance of mental health and well-being by including it in the Sustainable Development Agenda, which was adopted at the UN’s General Assembly in September 2015.

As part of Goal 3, world leaders have committed to the “prevention and treatment of noncommunicable diseases, including behavioural, developmental and neurological disorders, which constitute a major challenge for sustainable development”.

The then Director-General of the WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, explained the significance of the decision, saying it will help the world achieve greater fairness.

“The inclusion of noncommunicable diseases under the health goal is an historic turning point. Finally these diseases are getting the attention they deserve,” she says.

Specific goals include reducing premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by one third by 2030 and strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse including narcotic drug and alcohol use.

It is through this type of ongoing commitment, as well as the growing awareness of mental health issues, that progress can be made.

A picture with consequences.

So, what is “sexting”? Well, believe it or not, this is a new rage where teens are sharing sexually risqué messages and/or nude pictures of themselves or others via text or on-line. While many teens openly admit that they know it’s wrong to post these sexual photos, they feel the odds of getting caught are so low that they are willing to run the risk. 

Why are teen’s sexting? Peer pressure! This is the most common answer reported by teens.  They state they did it because someone asked them to. I know, it seems like they could easily say no, but imagine you’re a teenage girl or boy who has a serious crush on someone, yeah you remember those days.  You think you’re in love and you’ll do anything to keep your true love happy. So, you take that revealing photo and SMS it to the person you love.  The act is done in less than 30 seconds.  All it takes is a bad break up and that photo can be shared with more people than you can fathom in less than another 30 seconds. In fact, in less than a minute a teen’s life can be “virtually” ruined, no pun intended.

Another common reason for sexting is that it’s a great way to “hook up.” In case you’re not familiar with this term, it basically means anything from sexually connecting on-line to sexual intercourse.  Teens don’t have to be dating a person to “hook up.” This new type of quickie is becoming more popular with teens than traditional dating and “hooking up” on-line is fun and a great way to experiment with sex safely.  Safe from pregnancy and STDs, yes, safe from millions of pedophiles viewing their pictures, no!Sexting has also received a lot of attention in the courtroom.Take the case of Phillip Alpert, who at the age of eighteen emailed nude photos of his 16 year old ex-girlfriend and was charged with child pornography.  Now in his twenties, he is a registered sex offender (you can read more about his story by following the link in resources below.) Yes, in some states, sexting is a punishable offense and falls in with child pornography. It doesn’t even matter if it’s the teen’s own photo they posted or not. If it’s a picture of a minor, then there’s a problem.  In some states, if a teen’s found guilty of child pornography he/she will have to register as a convicted sex offender that can adversely impact their future (e.g., college admission and obtaining a job). 

Fortunately, some states are beginning to re-visit sexting charges for teens. Recently, New Jersey, realized that convicting teens of child pornography and labeling them as a convicted sex offender may not fit the crime.  As a result, they just passed a law that requires first time offenders to attend a diversionary program rather than face the consequences of a criminalrecord.  For a more extensive list of sexting laws in your state visit the website listed in the resources section.

How many teens are sexting? The answer may surprise you. One survey suggests, 1 in 5 teens admitted to posting sexually explicit pictures on-line. To help understand teen sexting behaviors,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl .com conducted a survey with 653 teens (ages 13-19) to explore the sexual use of sending or posting sexually suggestive messages or texts.  Some of their findings are listed below:

Teens who say they have sent or posted a sexually revealing photo or video:

  •  20% of all teens
  •  22% of teen girls
  •  18% of teen boys

Teens that have sent sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teens
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys
  • 48% admit to receiving suggestive messages

 Who Teens are sending sexually suggestive images and messages to:

  • 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen boys have shared sexual messages or pictures with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • 21% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys have shared sexual messages or pictures with someone that they were interested in or wanted to hook up with.
  • 15% of teen have admitted to sending or posing nude or semi-nude pictures to someone they knew on-line.

In another teen sexting study, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project (2009) surveyed teens ages 12-17, relating to texting sexual images via cell phone, below are some of their findings. 

  • 4% of cell-owning teens surveyed admit to sending sexual images via text messaging
  • 15% of cell-owning say they have received sexual photos on their cell phone.
  • Older teens are much more likely to send and receive sexting images; 8% of 17-year-olds with cells have sent a sexual photo via text.  30% of 17 year-olds have received a sexual image on their phone.
  • The teens who pay their own phone bills are more likely to send “sexts”: 17% of teens who say they pay for their cell phones send admit to sending sexually suggestive images via text
  • Results Concluded the three main scenarios for sexting: 1) exchange of images solely between two romantic partners;  2) exchange of images between partners that are shared with others outside the relationship 3) exchange of images between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where at least one person wants to be.

According to these findings it’s apparent that we all need to take a role in educating our teens about the negative consequences of sexting.  We also need to empower our kids with the ability to “just say no” if someone asks them to do something they really don’t want to or know that they shouldn’t do.  Below are some parenting tips to help you ensure your teen’s exercising good judgment on-line.For Parents

1.   Talk to teens about inappropriate and appropriate use of modern technology. One way is to outline your expectations by creating a computer/cell phone contract with your teen.

2.   Have your teens take an internet safety class. Just like many kids have to take Driver’s Education in order to prepare for getting their license, have your teen take an internet safety course.

3.  Know who your teen is hanging out with both online and offline.

4.   Make sure your teens on-line profiles don’t have private or personal identifying information (e.g., phone numbers, addresses, etc.)

5.    Randomly, have your teen share with you any photos in their phone and computer gallery.  Also, make them make you a friend on Face Book or share their username and password with you to any of their social networking sites.  This way you can periodically check to make sure everything their posting is acceptable. 

6.   Teach your teen to not respond impulsively to anything on-line or via text.  Filtering can help a trigger happy teen from making a permanent, potentially life altering mistake.  Encourage your teen to evaluate the consequences of posting their thoughts or pictures before hitting the send button. 

7.   Make sure your teen understands that once pictures are out there, there’s no way of getting them back, even if they’re deleted from their phone or computer.  This is a scary reality about operating on-line.  Let your teens know that www not only stands for “World Wide Web” it also stands for “Whole World’s Watching.”

8.  Most importantly, encourage an open dialogue between you and your teen.  Set aside some time each day to just listen and talk with your teen about what’s going on in their life. 

Parents are not the only ones who have a responsibility in educating youth about sexting; Educators, Community Members and Business Leaders also play a vital role.  We need to offer programs that help teens realize the consequences of abusing technology.  Our programs need to be tailored to both the teen and parent, as both parties need to be made aware of the repercussions of internet abuse.  We need to teach teens how to safeguard themselves in a techno savvy world.  If we join our forces together we can prepare and equip our teens to make good decisions about what they post and share on-line.

The distractions of the digital era are upon us: Most American tweens and teenagers now have access to mobile devices and they spend an average of nine hours per day on entertainment media. This development has enormous implications for schooling. Educating children at a very high level is hard even in the best of conditions, particularly when they bear the burden and stresses of poverty. Addiction to screens makes this job even harder; indeed, as a leader of a large charter school network that serves many low-income children, at times I find it to be an even more pernicious obstacle than poverty itself.

To become educated to the level they need for college success, students must be well-rested and focused during the school day. Precious hours after school and on weekends must also be well-spent. Much of high school learning takes place through homework, independent reading, and extracurricular experiences like clubs, sports teams, volunteering, and interning. When kids have on-demand access to 24-hour entertainment without even leaving their beds, however, their motivation to engage in more valuable activities plummets.

We watch this phenomenon playing out every day at Success Academy. Our kids submit their assignments online and we can see that many high schoolers, and even middle schoolers, are completing and handing in their homework at 2 or 3 in the morning. When probed about the late hour, they admit they were spending the evening hours texting or on Instagram or Netflix. Scholars who were passionate readers in elementary school have lost interest as teenagers, thanks to the unyielding grip of “apps” that have been ingeniously designed to grab and hold the attention of even the most self-disciplined adults.

Social-emotional learning also suffers. When kids socialize online, they miss opportunities to practice essential speaking, communication, and conflict resolution skills. Ensconced safely behind their devices, they are more likely to engage in bullying behavior that tends to be more constrained in real-world interactions. In the old days, a bloody nose was concrete evidence of a conflict that needed solving. Today, school staff are forced to become cyber security sleuths, monitoring and investigating seemingly endless incidents of online bullying.

These developments are even more concerning when placed in the context of the vast inequities between rich and poor children that continue to plague our nation. A recent New York Times article chronicled a growing awareness among affluent parents about the adverse effects of excessive screen time. In wealthy enclaves like Silicon Valley, parents are flocking to “tech-free” private schools, restricting their kids’ device usage, or prohibiting it altogether.

Meanwhile, poor and middle-income parents aren’t getting the message. On average, their children spend two hours more on screens each day than those from affluent backgrounds. For kids who need robust academic and extracurricular experiences to close gaps with more privileged peers, every minute is precious. Growing dependence on screens threatens to pull  them further behind.

Schools have a critical role to play in closing this “knowledge gap.” At Success Academy, we work to educate our parents on the dangers of screen time, outlining its harms and potential impact on their scholars’ academic readiness for college. There are now many applications available to monitor and limit device use, and we explicitly recommend that parents employ these to restrict the time their children spend on smartphones and tablets.  

Educating parents must start early: As elementary school educators know, children are bringing mobile devices to school as young as kindergarten. France recently banned cell phones in schools, and while a growing number of districts — and even states — in the United States are also adopting this policy, most districts still take a laissez-faire approach. While teachers are free to impose a no-phones policy in their individual classrooms, it is almost impossible to uphold such bans when they are not in place across the school.

It falls on principals to take the lead, therefore, in requiring students to keep phones out of sight or at home during the school day, implementing clear and consistent consequences for violating the ban, and communicating early and often to parents about the “why” behind the policy.  

Schools are already burdened with myriad responsibilities and competing priorities when it comes to ensuring the well-being of kids in their care. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that actively working to curb screen addiction should rise to the top of those priorities. Mitigating this scourge will be an ongoing endeavor, but it will have a direct impact on schools’ capacity to fulfil the responsibility that is most central and sacred: ensuring children get the academic foundation they need for success in college, professional life, and citizenship.

Okay, so you’ve taken the leap and handed your child or teen a smartphone. You may feel like you’ve made the biggest decision already; but if you want to keep your child safe, you have many more decisions to make ahead of you. I hear a lot of chatter about how to keep kids safe on social media (which is a critically important topic), but there’s not as much guidance when it comes to one of the iPhone’s simplest features: text messages. In addition to keeping kids and teens safe while texting, we need to make sure they understand texting etiquette. Here, I’ll touch on the five most important things you and your child need to know to stay safe, secure, and polite when it comes to texting. 

1. Know the Number

If your child receives a text from someone who is not saved in their contact list, the unknown number will be displayed on the phone rather than a name. This is probably a harmless situation, but it’s important that your child confirm the person’s identity. Coach your child to save a person’s contact information in person and then send a confirmation text to ensure that they’ve saved the contact information correctly. This is the best way to make sure that the number belongs to the right person!

2. Don’t Be a Group-Text Gatekeeper

Group texts are inevitable. That said, it becomes tricky to navigate the social dynamics as peers are asked to join or are “kicked off” a thread. Coaching your child to avoid being the one who adds or subtracts people from a group chat will help avoid drama. If something is going on in a group text that’s uncomfortable for your child, they can decide to take the high road by opting out.

3. Remember, Texting Is not Talking

On a brain-behavior level, it’s critically important for kids to understand the distinction between talking verbally and texting. Talking involves your voice. Texting involves written text. As your child is communicating with you, take time to make this difference clear. Doing so will help your child develop an accurate perception of social interactions and avoid the trap of assuming a degree of closeness or inferring meanings that may not exist.

4. Keep Contacts Straight

Want to know how to create drama at the push of the send button? Just mix up two people who go by the same name. For example, maybe you wanted to vent to Jake Thomas about what happened at baseball practice, but you accidentally texted Jake Williams instead. Sometimes slip-ups can be funny and sometimes there will be serious social repercussions. The solution is pretty simple: Coach your child to keep their contact list in order by including everyone’s first and last name (and any other notes that will help with organization.)

5. Don’t Assume Texting Is Private

Exchanging texts with a friend may seem like a private, one-on-one interaction, but that’s simply not true. When your child texts, there’s no way to know who else is reading their messages. Worse yet, if your child has texter’s regret and deletes a sent message, the text still exists on the recipient’s phone and can be screenshotted and shared via social media with the world at large. Make sure your child understands that anything sent via text is documented forever—including pictures! There’s no erasing messages or turning back, so urge your child to text wisely and set ground rules regarding sharing photos, so there’s no confusion.

Government commitments to respect and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples were contradicted by the failure to address violations of treaty-protected Indigenous hunting and fishing rights by the planned flooding of the Peace River Valley in the province of British Columbia for the Site C dam.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued three non-compliance orders against the federal government for discrimination in services for First Nations children and families.

The Public Inquiry Commission on Relations between Indigenous Peoples and Certain Public Services in Québec held hearings throughout the year.

In June the province of Ontario agreed to fund the clean-up of a river system contaminated with mercury. In November the federal government agreed to provide specialized medical care for mercury poisoning as long sought by members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

In July the Supreme Court of Canada, in a case brought by the Inuit hamlet of Clyde River, ruled that the government has an obligation to intervene when regulatory agencies fail to protect Indigenous rights.

In August the UN CERD Committee expressed concern about Indigenous land rights violations and Canada’s failure to respect the right of free, prior and informed consent. The Committee asked Canada to report back within one year on measures to address the impacts of the Site C dam. In December the provincial government in British Columbia announced that construction of the Site C dam would continue, despite the objections of affected First Nations.

In November the government announced support for a bill to develop a legislative framework for implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In November, the Supreme Court rejected a potentially groundbreaking legal challenge by the Ktunaxa Nation in British Columbia which sought to apply constitutional protection of religious freedom to the preservation of Indigenous Peoples’ sacred sites.

By Marek Tkach

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) celebrated International Human Rights Day early, opening its doors to visitors for free on Sunday.

Dec. 10 marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), but because the museum is closed on Mondays during the winter, it offered free admission and activities all day Sunday to mark the occasion.

Festivities included a youth choir performance at 1 p.m. and a special exhibit called Turning Points for Humanity, which is dedicated to interpreting the UDHR, a document drafted in response to the devastation of the Second World War.

Participants in the exhibit were challenged to match dozens of photos with the 30 articles of the Declaration.

The museum also welcomed new Canadians to Winnipeg in a citizenship ceremony that took place at 11 a.m.

“These are people from all over the world, some of which have their own human rights stories of what happened to them in their own countries, in refugee camps or even here in Canada,” said CMHR spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry.

Visitors to the museum were also invited to explore the Mandela: Struggle for Freedom exhibition, which has been running since June.

NEWS PROVIDED BYPrime Minister’s Office

Dec 10, 2018, 08:00 ET

OTTAWA, Dec. 10, 2018 /CNW/ – The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Human Rights Day:

“Today on Human Rights Day, we celebrate the progress we have made as a global community to advance human rights. We also reflect on what more we can do as a country and as individuals to ensure that every single person – here in Canada and around the world – can live a life with dignity and respect.

“On this day, seventy years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This milestone document declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, no matter their identity, beliefs, or circumstances. Today, we proudly recognize the important contributions made by Canadian John Humphrey, who helped draft the original declaration.

“Canada is unwavering in its commitment to protect and promote human rights. We will not stand idle while hundreds of thousands of people around the world suffer gross human rights violations, nor will we hesitate to condemn violations of human rights, regardless of where they take place.

“At home, we are working hard to build a country where all Canadians are free and safe to be themselves, and can go as far as their dreams will take them. We continue to take concrete measures to fight racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. We will keep taking meaningful actions to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and continue to work hard to put an end to human trafficking.

“Last month, we also delivered an apology regarding the fate of the MS St. Louis and its passengers who were refused refuge in Canada. Measures like this cannot rewrite history or undo the harm of past actions, but they are vital for us to move forward together, as a more diverse, just, and inclusive country.

“On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I encourage all Canadians to join me to thank those around the world who work hard every day –often at grave personal risk – to advance human rights and protect the world’s most vulnerable.

“Standing up for human rights starts with our everyday actions – respecting people’s differences, speaking up for others, and speaking out against those who foment hate and seek to divide us. Human rights are universal and fundamental – and so is our responsibility to protect them.”

This document is also available at

By Nadia Kounang, CNN

Fentanyl is now the most commonly used drug involved in drug overdoses,according to a new government report. The latest numbers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics say that the rate of drug overdoses involving the synthetic opioid skyrocketed by about 113% each year from2013 through 2016.The number of total drug overdoses jumped 54% each year between 2011 and 2016. In 2016, there were 63,632 drug overdose deaths.According to Wednesday’s report, which analyzed death certificates for drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016, fentanyl was involved in nearly 29% of all overdose deaths in 2016. In 2011, fentanyl was involved in just 4% of all drug fatalities. At the time, oxycodone was the most commonly involved drug, representing 13% of all fatal drug overdoses.

Most common drugs found in overdose deaths in 2016

RankReferent drug1Number of deaths2Percent of deaths3

1 Ranks were not tested for statistical significance.
2 Number of drug overdose deaths involving the referent drug.
3 Percentage of drug overdose deaths involving the referent drug.
Note: Drug overdose deaths are identified using International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision underlying cause-of-death codes X40–X44 (unintentional), X60–X64 (suicide), and Y10–Y14 (undetermined). Only deaths with at least one specific drug identified are included in the analysis. The results for 110 deaths with an intent of homicide (X85) are not shown due to small numbers. Deaths may involve other drugs in addition to the referent drug (i.e., the one listed). Deaths involving more than one drug (e.g., a death involving both heroin and cocaine) are counted in both totals.

Source: CDC

From 2012 to 2015, heroin became the most frequently involved drug in overdose deaths. In 2011, the number of fatal heroin overdoses was 4,571, or 11% of all drug fatalities. In 2016, that number more than tripled to 15,961 deaths, representing a quarter of all drug overdoses that year.The authors of the new study also found that most overdoses involved more than one drug. In 2016, 2 in 5 cocaine-related overdose deaths also involved fentanyl. Nearly one-third of fentanyl-related overdoses also involved heroin. More than 20% of meth-related fatal overdoses also involved heroin.In 2016, over 18,000 overdose deaths involved fentanyl, and 16,000fatalities were due to heroin.

Although many experts have pointed to the overprescribing of prescription painkillers as the root of the US opioid crisis, they say it has evolved, first into a heroin crisis and now into a fentanyl epidemic.In the 2011-16 period examined, the number of drug overdoses involving methadone has dropped.But Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, cautioned against interpreting these findings as an end to the prescription drug problem. Kolodny, who was not involved in the study, pointed to states such as Oklahoma, where overdose deaths from prescription opioids still outnumber heroin and fentanyl deaths.”Fentanyl is so deadly, in the geographic regions where it’s been flooding in, deaths soared like we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Much of the emphasis of the drug overdose crisis has been on opioids, but there has also been an increase in the rates and numbers of cocaine- and methamphetamine-related deaths.In the same six-year time frame, cocaine was consistently the second or third most commonly used drug, and the rate of overdose deaths involving methamphetamines tripled.

Cocaine-related fatalities nearly doubled from 2014 to 2016, jumping from 5,892 to 11,316 overdose deaths.The authors of the study used text analysis to evaluate death certificates for specific drug mentions. They found that the top 10 drugs in the six-year period remained the same and belonged to three classes of drugs:

  • Opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine and oxycodone
  • Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam and diazepam
  • Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines

The study found that illicit drugs like fentanyl and heroin were the leading causes of unintentional overdoses, and prescription drugs were more likely to be involved in suicidal overdoses.


for your look into illustrations by Yacine Ait Kaci (YAK).

This illustrated edition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is published by the United Nations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

This illustrated edition of the UDHR was created and designed in a partnership between the artist Yacine Ait Kaci (YAK) creator of Elyx, the United Nations Regional information Centre (UNRIC), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – Regional Office for Europe (OHCHR).

This illustrated edition of the UDHR may be reproduced and/or translated in whole or in part without prior permission provided that it be distributed at no cost (free distribution). Publishers are required to remove the United Nations emblem from their edition and include proper credits. Translations must bear the following disclaimer: “The present work is an unofficial translation for which the publisher accepts full responsibility.”

All requests to sell excerpts, photocopies, reprints, translations of this illustrated edition of the UDHR should be addressed to

The drawings by YAK included in this illustrated edition of the UDHR are protected by copyright and can only be reproduced to illustrate the text of the UDHR.

By Liz Gelardi

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A homeless man used what little he has to give a selfless gift during a toy drive at a local Walmart.

Glen McCarthy walked to Walmart and got a cup of coffee. He was touched by the toy drive that was going on. He ended up buying a Barbie and a Hot Wheels set, but he couldn’t stop thinking about a bike he saw.

“And I looked at that bike, and the bike was marked $59, but the tag underneath it said $44,” said McCarthy.

It’s not a lot of money for some, but for McCarthy, it was nearly everything. He went back to the hotel where he was staying and paid for another night. Back at the hotel, he still couldn’t stop thinking about the bike.

He walked back to Walmart and asked about the bike since the tag listed two different prices. Once a clerk realized what he was doing, she told him that he could have the bike for $44.

“Another big reason I got to thinking, this is probably going to be my last Christmas. I’m no one, make some little kid happy,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy has always loved Christmas, and he realizes his time is running out. Doctors recently told him that his cancer is terminal, he has less than a year to live. 

“It took my losing everything to realize that I’m happier now struggling for everything in my life than I had when I had big money,” said McCarthy.

Despite being sick and homeless, he continues to volunteer at Senior Support Services in Denver. Staff at the center weren’t surprised to hear what McCarthy did at Walmart.

“Totally sounded like Glen, yeah totally. So it’s just amazing, he just has a real caring heart and willing to help people,” said Julie Romero, Day Center Manager at Senior Support Services.

In this season of giving, McCarthy knows it’s about the joy that comes with making someone’s day a little brighter. Thanks to him a lucky little girl or boy is sure to have a very special Christmas morning.

“I hope they enjoy the hell out of it,” said McCarthy.


(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai (mah-LAH’-lah YOO’-suhf-zeye) was honored Thursday by Harvard University for her work promoting girls’ education.

Yousafzai received the 2018 Gleitsman Award from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Yousafzai became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was recognized for her global work supporting schooling for all children.

As a teen in Pakistan, she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She later founded the nonprofit Malala Fund to support her work.

Harvard officials say her story has inspired a generation of boys and girls to follow in her footsteps.

Now 21, Yousafzai is a student at Oxford University in England.

The Gleitsman Award provides $125,000 for activism that has improved quality of life around the world.

A nine-year-old boy from the town of Severance in Colorado has successfully campaigned for the repeal of an archaic ban on snowball fights.

The rule was part of an old ordinance outlawing the throwing of missiles, such as stones, at property or people within the town.

Dane Best says he took up the cause on behalf of his friends and classmates.

He delivered a presentation on the subject to a local town board, who backed his message on Monday night.

“The children of Severance want the opportunity to have a snowball fight like the rest of the world,” Dane said during his three-minute presentation, the Greeley Tribune reports.

“The law was created many years ago. Today’s kids need a reason to play outside.”

His mum said he first learned of the technicality ban during a visit to the town hall of Severance, which is north of Denver.

Kyle Rietkerk, assistant to the Severance town administrator, said “all the kids always get blown away” when they find out was illegal to throw snowballs there, AP reports.

“So, what ends up happening is [town leaders] always encourage the kids with, ‘You have the power you can change the law’. No-one has,” he said.

The law itself is thought to date back to the town’s founding about 100 years ago, although no-one is believed to have been charged with the offence.

After the young campaigner’s presentation, the result was unanimous from officials.

When the ban had officially ended, the town’s mayor handed Dane and his four-year-old brother Dax the first legal snowballs in the town’s history.

“We are proud of him for taking initiative to make some change, no matter how small it may be,” Derrick Best, Dane’s father, told CBS Denver.

The family are said to be now looking at the town’s other unusual laws – including one that only recognises cats and dogs as pets.

By JEF FEELEYBloomberg

Debbie Vitany is fighting a losing battle against Fortnite.

Her 17-year-old son, Carson, has been logging 12 hours a day on the video game, searching for weapons and resources in a post-apocalyptic world where the goal is being the last person standing. Teachers complain he falls asleep in class and his grades have plummeted.

“We’d made some progress in getting him to cut down his Fortnite hours and get better sleep, but he’s slipped back into his old habits,” Vitany, who lives near Saginaw, Michigan, said in an interview. “I’ve never seen a game that has such control over kids’ minds.”

Vitany’s anguish is echoed by an army of other parents, teachers and bosses around the world grappling with a game that sucks up hours of players’ time — sometimes to the detriment of other activities. More than 200 million people have registered to play Fortnite, which has become a billion-dollar business for its creator, Epic Games Inc. Some desperate parents have sent their kids to rehab.

“This game is like heroin,” said Lorrine Marer, a British behavioural specialist who works with kids battling game addiction. “Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.”

Epic has issued past warnings about avoiding Fortnite scammers, but it declined to comment on the addiction issue.

Video game addiction isn’t new: Parents and teachers have been carping about distracted children — and their joystick-addled hands — since the days of Atari consoles. But the ubiquity of Fortnite has created a more widespread menace. And it’s happening against the backdrop of broader concerns about social-media and smartphone overuse.

Fortnite, first released in its popular “battle royale” mode in September 2017, isn’t just causing problems for kids. An online U.K. divorce service says 200 petitions cited Fortnite and other video games this year as the reason for the breakup of marriages.

Professional athletes are getting hooked, too. The National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks had so much trouble getting players to meetings and dinners they banned Fortnite on the road. David Price, star pitcher for Major League Baseball’s World Series-winning Boston Red Sox, was scratched from a May start against the archrival New York Yankees because of wrist problems that may have been exacerbated by Fortnite playing.

Some pro-baseball players are so Fortnite-obsessed that they’ve hooked the game up to their stadium’s Jumbotron video system to play it while waiting to take batting practice.

What are the signs my child may have a problem with
cannabis or other substances?
• Ignoring responsibilities at work, school, or home
• Giving up activities that they used to find important or enjoyable
• Using more cannabis, more frequently
• Feeling unable to cut down or control cannabis use
• Changes in mood (e.g., feeling irritable and paranoid)
• Changing friends
• Having difficulties with family members
• Being secretive or dishonest
• Changing sleep habits, appetite, or other behaviours
• Borrowing money or having more money than usual
It is sometimes hard to detect a problem with cannabis use. Some signs of a cannabis
problem can look like typical youth behaviour. Talk to your child and find out if there’s a

What can I do to help prevent cannabis from doing harm
to my child?
Stay connected: Adolescence is a time when your child may want
to pull away. Respect their independence, but stay connected at the
same time. Build a strong relationship with your child by participating in
activities with them and getting to know their friends. Having a healthy
relationship will increase the likelihood that you can help them to make
informed and safer choices.
Talk about it: Have open, ongoing talks so your child understands
the effects of cannabis and the legal risks of having, using, selling, or
sharing it. Pick a time when you’re both calm. Let the discussion happen
casually or ask your child to let you know when they’re ready to talk.
Be positive: When talking about cannabis, avoid trying to frighten,
shame or lecture your child. Build trust with active listening skills, such
as repeating back what they say, using the language they use, asking for
clarification and thanking them for sharing.
Focus on safety: Let your child know about safer choices when
it comes to cannabis and work with them to establish limits and
understand consequences. Be there to help even if cannabis is
involved, such as if they need a ride because they don’t want to get in a
car with someone who has used cannabis.
Be informed: Your child may be learning about substances in school
and through other parts of their lives. Be prepared with facts about
cannabis so you can respond to questions they may have.

Be supportive: Youth use cannabis for many reasons: to fit in, to feel
good, or to cope with stress. Be ready to help your child find healthier
coping strategies or professional help if needed. See the next page to
find resources to support you and your child.
Be an example: Reflect on your own use of substances. If you use
alcohol as a stress reliever, you might be giving the message that
substance use is an appropriate way to handle life’s challenges. Try
using other coping strategies, like going for a walk after a stressful day.
If your child asks about your substance use, you can be honest but use
the opportunity to discuss why people use substances, the dangers of
substance use and how your child can avoid making mistakes you may
have made.

Where can I get more information and help?
The resources below offer more information and help for parents/caregivers and youth:
• For vital information on reducing harms of drugs and alcohol, visit
• For more ideas on how to talk to your child about cannabis, check out Drug Free Kids
Canada’s Cannabis Talk Kit with scripts and talking points
• To learn about Alberta’s approach to cannabis legalization, visit
• To learn about safer use of cannabis, see Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use
Guidelines – youth version or public version
• For information on safer use of alcohol, see Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
• For information about treatment options in your community, talk to your doctor or
contact the Addiction Helpline (Alberta Health Services): 1-866-332-2322
• Youth looking for help can contact Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

By HINA ALAM     The Canadian Press

BURNABY, B.C.—A coroner’s inquest jury is recommending the RCMP make changes to mental health programs for its officers and their families after the death by suicide of a sergeant in 2013 who was involved in a high-profile case in British Columbia that resulted in criticism of the department.

The inquest heard three days of testimony before the recommendations were made Thursday, much of it focused on Pierre Lemaitre’s role as the RCMP’s media spokesman after the death of a man who was in a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

The inquest heard Lemaitre released inaccurate information about the case of Robert Dziekanski that his superiors wouldn’t let him correct.

Lemaitre’s former family doctor and psychologist testified he had post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with victims of crime but the incident involving Dziekanski increased his depression and anxiety.

Atoya Montague, a former media strategist for the RCMP, said Lemaitre was used to tell a false story about the death of Dziekanski, a Polish man who couldn’t speak English and became agitated after wandering around the airport arrivals area for 10 hours.

After the incident, Lemaitre told reporters that officers approached a combative man and jolted him twice with a Taser, but two days later a video emerged that showed Dziekanski was relatively calm when the Mounties arrived and that they used the stun gun five times.

Sheila Lemaitre said her husband was transferred off the case after two days and eventually moved to the traffic division, which he compared to “being put out with the trash.” He felt belittled and disrespected by his colleagues, with one calling him “redundant,” she testified earlier this week.

The five-member jury made five recommendations that call on the commissioner of the RCMP to:

— Include mental health assessments in conjunction with the department’s three year mandatory physical assessment.

— Offer a “variety of learning methods” for mental health education for all RCMP members.

— Develop measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the RCMP’s mental health strategy.

— Make funding available to implement the jury’s recommendations.

— Provide classes to family members after an officer is hired to provide an overview of the potential mental health issues they could face.

The RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the jury’s recommendations.

The officer’s family doctor told the inquest Lemaitre was prescribed antidepressants and anxiety medication but he was not suicidal. Dr. Cameron Smith described Lemaitre as a stoic man whose mental health issues began improving, only to worsen after Dziekanski’s death.

RCMP Supt. Denis Boucher, who was Lemaitre’s supervisor when he was moved to the traffic division, broke down as he read the last few email exchanges between the two men. He described Lemaitre as an integral part of the team.

But John Ward, a retired staff sergeant who was Lemaitre’s supervisor in the media division, said the officer didn’t seem overly stressed about the inaccurate information he gave the media after Dziekanski’s death.

During the 16 Days, the Government of Canada is asking everyone to take concrete steps to question, callout, and speak up against acts of gender-based violence. As part of this year’s 16 Days campaign, get involved—and take action—by joining the conversation using the hashtag #MYActionsMatter and taking the pledge to end gender-based violence.

Throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, pledge your commitment to being part of the solution. Each one of us can lead by example. #MYActionsMatter

Please visit on tweets, hashtags and images you can share to join the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

Announced in June 2017, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence is the Government of Canada’s response to gender-based violence (GBV). It builds on current federal initiatives, coordinates existing programs and lays the foundation for greater action on GBV.

The Strategy is based on three pillars:

  • Prevention;
  • Support for survivors and their families; and
  • Promotion of responsive legal and justice systems.

The Strategy will fill gaps in support for diverse populations, which could include: women and girls, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ2 community members, gender non-binary individuals, those living in northern, rural, and remote communities, people with disabilities, newcomers, children and youth, and seniors.

Budget 2017 included $100.9 million over five years, and $20.7 million per year ongoing, to support the implementation of the GBV Strategy. This will include the creation of the GBV Knowledge Centre within Status of Women Canada. The Knowledge Centre will better align existing resources across government and support the development and sharing of research and data to enable more coordinated, evidence-based action on GBV.

It’s Time for a whole-of-government approach to prevent and address this form of violence, with investments from:

  • Status of Women Canada;
  • the Public Health Agency of Canada;
  • Public Safety Canada;
  • the Department of National Defence;
  • the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The Strategy also includes initiatives from other departments and agencies whose work, beyond the six funded partners above, is also critical to end GBV across Canada. This could include work by Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, as well as the Department of Justice, Statistics Canada, and Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Budget 2017

The funds are allocated as follows:

  • $77.5 million over five years, and $16 million per year ongoing, to Status of Women Canadafor a Gender-Based Violence Knowledge Centre, data collection and research, and programming;
  • $9.5 million over five years, and $2 million per year ongoing, to the Public Health Agency of Canada to support implementing and testing ways to prevent GBV, including child maltreatment and teen dating violence;
  • $6 million over five years, and $1.3 million per year ongoing, to Public Safety Canada to enhance efforts to address online child exploitation;
  • $4 million over five years, and $0.8 million per year ongoing, to the Department of National Defence to increase funding for Family Crisis Teams, to support members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families affected by violence;
  • $2.4 million over five years, and $0.6 million per year ongoing, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for cultural competency training for federal law enforcement officers; and
  • $1.5 million over five years to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to enhance the Settlement Program.

Budget 2018

Budget 2018 proposes to provide an additional $86 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, and $20.0 million per year ongoing, to expand the Strategy. New investments will focus on:

  • Preventing teen dating violence.
  • Enhancing and developing preventative bullying and cyber bullying initiatives.
  • Equipping health professionals to provide appropriate care to victims.
  • Enhancing support for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre to increase investigative capacity of the RCMP.
  • Expanding the Gender-Based Violence Program so that more organizations, such as rape crisis centres, are better able to help population groups who are at the highest risk of experiencing violence. This investment will double the support provided to this initiative in Budget 2017.
  • Providing support to sexual assault centres in close proximity to Canadian Forces bases so that members of the Canadian Armed Forces have access to a full spectrum of supports to address gender-based violence. This builds on other investments in family support services through Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government’s new defence policy.

Also, proposed in Budget 2018 were the following key issues to address GBV:

  • Expand the RCMP sexual assault review and support training and awareness of officers
  • Establish a National Framework to Address Gender-based Violence in Post-Secondary Institutions


Over 135,000 people live in poverty in our own community. Poverty robs children of their true potential, strips people of their self-esteem and steals hope from families that struggle to build lives of stability and independence.

With the largest network of partners in the region, your donation gets results – going farther and wider than any other charitable investment you can make. Together, we move beyond managing the symptoms and work towards ending poverty.


Your community and the people in it matter to you. That’s why United Way makes sure your donation is helping families, neighbours and friends in your community. These are the stories of people who have found pathways out of poverty thanks to United Way donors like you.

Donate today at

In the year since #MeToo, issues of sexism, misogyny, and gender-based violence have moved to the forefront of public discussion. Canadians, led by the courageous voices of survivors and their families, have been encouraged to reflect on their own actions and determine how they can best support ending gender-based violence.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 and end on International Human Rights Day on December 10, have always been a time to increase awareness about the disproportionate levels of violence faced by women and girls, as well as diverse populations, including Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2 community members, gender non-binary individuals, those living in northern, rural, and remote communities, people with disabilities, newcomers, children and youth, and seniors.

The 16 Days of Activism also include the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6. This is a time to both reflect on violence against women and to take action to end it.

This year’s theme, #MYActionsMatter, carries on the message from last year’s successful campaign and is a call to action that asks everyone to take concrete steps to question, call out, and speak up against acts of gender-based violence (GBV). Recently, public attention has shone a light on what statistics have long confirmed: women in Canada and around the world continue to face violence each and every day. In response to this all-too-familiar reality #MYActionsMatter asks the question: what will you do?

GBV involves the use and abuse of power and control over another person and is perpetrated against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender. Violence against women and girls is one form of GBV. It also has a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ2 and gender non-binary people.

Look closely and you will see the roots of GBV all around you — in sexist jokes that demean women, in the language that we use, in media messages that objectify women, and in the rigid gender norms we impose on young children. With the release of It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the Government of Canada is committed to taking immediate action to end this form of violence.

We are using #MYActionsMatter to ask Canadians what they can do to prevent GBV, and invite you to use one of the five ways in which you can become an ally in our efforts to end GBV:

  • Listen – be open to learning from the experiences of others.
  • Believe – support survivors and those affected by violence.
  • Speak out – add your voice to call out violence.
  • Intervene – find a safe way to help when you see acts of GBV.
  • Act – give your time to organizations working to end violence, and be the change you want to see.

Don’t let violence be an everyday lesson.

No one should be afraid to go to school. Yet for many students around the world, school is a dangerous place.

Violence in schools – from bullying to sexual harassment and corporal punishment – is sadly common enough to feel inevitable. But it’s not. It’s preventable. And we can all do something about it.

Fast facts

For millions of students around the world, the school environment is not a safe space to study and grow.

Half of the world’s teens experience peer violence in and around school.

What you can do

Violence in schools can have serious long-term consequences on children’s lives, their futures and the future of the communities where they live.

Students are often targeted because of who they are or where they’re from. Far too many students around the world have been worried and afraid of violence for too long, but together we can change the situation.

If you are a student, parent or teacher, take action to demand safe environments where children and young people can feel safe at school, in their community and online.

Classroom by classroom, school by school, country by country, we can #ENDviolence in schools.

November 20, 2018 12:45 P.M.

Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

Today, Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, issued the following statement in recognition of National Child Day.

“Today is an opportunity to celebrate our children as active participants in their communities, who offer a meaningful voice. It is also a reminder of our duty to ensure every child is treated with dignity, respect, and protected from abuse and sexual exploitation.

Child abuse is one of the most sinister acts that happens in our province. We are duty-bound to protect against child abuse, to fight sex trafficking, and prevent bullying. We’re required, by law, to report these heinous acts.

We know we have work to do and I am committed to working with partners across government to help our children prosper. But we need to have these tough conversations, we need to break down barriers and we need to speak together.

By supporting all children in this province, ensuring they are protected from harm, that they are provided with their basic needs, have access to education and every opportunity to reach their full potential, we are building a better and stronger Ontario that benefits everyone.”

Vernon celebrates the day with crafts, mini-golf, decorating cookies, story-time, and drumming at The Greater Vernon Recreational Centre Nov. 20.

Nov. 20 marked National Child’s day across Canada. The Greater Vernon Recreational Centre has a variety of activities to celebrate National Child’s Day on Nov. 20, including crafts, mini-golf, decorating cookies, story-time, and drumming. Early Childhood Educators B.C.’s North Okanagan Branch also hosted a celebration of the UN Convention of the Rights of Children on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Today, Children First Canada will be releasing their final Canadian Children’s Charter – a call to protect the rights of our country’s kids.

“This year, we also welcome the release of the Canadian Children’s Charter. A year in the making, the Children’s Charter is a plan of action – created for children, by children – to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of children,” said Prime Minister Trudeau in a statement. “I look forward to reading the final version of the Children’s Charter, and have no doubt it will benefit young people across Canada for generations to come,”

The Charter is being released as part of the National Child Day Forum in Toronto. During the event, the organization will also release a report from Calgary’s O’Brien Institute of Public Health that puts dollar figures (often in the billions) on issues facing children, including obesity, bullying, and child abuse.

The process to create the Children’s Charter began a year ago with consultations with thousands of children and youth from coast to coast to coast and culminated in the release of the first draft at the National Summit in November 2017. Over the past year, youth across Canada have shared their feedback and crafted the final version that will be released today.

Among the Children’s Charter’s highlights:

  • A clear voice and opportunity to lead in schools, families, governments and communities
  • Access to local healthcare, regardless of cost and free from discrimination
  • Mental health education, services and treatment when they need it, without facing stigma
  • An end to discrimination and exclusion
  • A stable and secure future
  • High quality, safe and accessible education, including support for First Nations, Inuit and Métis schools to provide instruction in the language of their community
  • An end to bullying and protection from all forms of violence and abuse
  • A true commitment to reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

“Our kids are telling us they are struggling with a lot of issues, whether it’s poverty, bullying, mental health issues, or abuse. They created the Charter with the hope that our government will use it as a road map to make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up,” said Sara Austin, founder and lead director of Children First Canada. “We’ve also heard loud and clear that while our children and youth are looking to leaders in government and civil society for support, they’re not waiting for us. They have proven through the creation of the Children’s Charter that they will lead the way.”

Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health release a paper on the economic implications of not investing in Canada’s children. The report puts a price tag on various issues plaguing Canadian children:

  • Bullying can cost Canada up to $4 billion per year: According to a recent UNICEF report, 15 per cent of Canadian children aged 11-15 reported being bullied at least twice in the last month, compared to 10.8 per cent on average in other countries.
  • Child abuse cost Canadians $23 billion in 2018 in court, healthcare and social services costs as well as long-term effects on earnings.
  • Childhood obesity costs Canada up to $22 billion per year in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs. According to a recent O’Brien Institute / Children First Canada report, Raising Canada, 27.9 per cent of youth in Canada report being overweight or obese.

“Taking better care of our children is the right thing to do. What this report points out is that beyond the intrinsic, moral value, there is an overwhelming economic benefit to all Canadians to investing in our kids,” said Austin.

The economic analysis release today builds on a recently released report by the O’Brien Institute and Children First Canada, entitled Raising Canada, which highlights deeply worrisome statistics on children in Canada. Highlights from that report include:

1. Mortality: The leading causes of childhood deaths in Canada are preventable accidents and injuries and suicide; Canada’s rate of infant mortality is among the highest of OECD countries.

2. Mental Health: Over the last 10 years there has been a 66 per cent increase in emergency department visits, and a 55 per cent increase in hospitalizations, of children and youth (age 5-24 years) due to mental health concerns; Suicide is the second leading cause of death of Canadian children and youth, and Canada is ranked in the top five countries for the highest child suicide rates globally.

3. Physical Health: 27.9 per cent of children age 12-17 report being overweight or obese; Only 5 per cent of 5 -17-year olds meet the daily recommended guidelines for physical activity.

4. Poverty: 1.2 million children live in low-income housing; 10.7 per cent of families with children under 6 years of age say they experience food insecurity.

5. Child Abuse: One in three Canadians report having suffered child abuse before the age of 16; 26 per cent experienced physical abuse, 10 per cent experienced sexual abuse, and eight per cent had exposure to intimate partner violence.

The National Child Day forum is an opportunity for children and youth leaders to directly contribute to a vision and action plan for all of Canada’s children, and meet with leaders from civil society, the private sector and government to address their concerns.

The charter will be released to the public today and will be sent to all MPs and Senators, along with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva; it is available in English and French at

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

What is the Convention?

  • It is a treaty that is important for children all over the world. It was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989.
  • The Convention has been agreed to by almost every country in the world. Canada agreed to the Convention in 1991. Canada has been working ever since to make sure children know about and live their rights.
  • In the Convention, there is a full list of rights for all children under the age of 18. Those rights are to be protected and promoted.
  • The Convention says that governments are in charge of making sure that children have rights and that those rights are respected.

What are its basic principles?

  1. Non-discrimination The rights of each child are to be respected without discrimination of any kind. It does not matter if children are boys or girls, if they are rich or poor, what their religion, ethnicity, or language is, or whether they have special needs. All children have rights.
  2. The best interests of the child When decisions are made that affect the lives of children, the Convention says that it is very important to think about what is best for the child.
  3. The right to survival, life, and development The Convention says that governments should do their best to protect children from harm, and to help children live and grow to be the best they can be.
  4. Participation Children have the right to give their opinions in all matters that affect them and to have their voices heard. Children’s views should always be taken seriously.

Why is it important for children to learn about their rights?

  • You will understand what rights are, that rights come with responsibilities, and how you can help others practice their rights.
  • You will know if others have gone against your rights and know how to react.
  • You will respect the rights of other children because you know all children share the same rights.
  • You will feel good about yourself knowing that you have rights!

About Homelessness

These facts and figures provide a snapshot of the issue of homelessness in Canada:

  • An estimated 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year
  • 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on any given night
  • 50,000+ Canadians experience hidden homelessness, such as couchsurfing, sleeping in a car, or other precarious housing
  • 20% of the homeless population are young people aged 16-24
  • Aboriginal peoples are over-represented in the homeless population – 1 in 4 people experiencing homelessness identify as Aboriginal or First Nations
  • One of the fastest growing demographics of the homeless population is children & families
    • 10% of Canadian families live below low-income cut-off
    • 14% of Canadian children live in poverty

A Promise Made: We believe ending youth homelessness is possible. One promise at at time.

438 Promises. 21,411 Volunteer Hours. 2,386,364 Dollars Promised.

It started with a promise:

On a cold, rainy day before Christmas in 1989 Joe Roberts was a homeless youth on the streets of East Vancouver. In a moment of desperation, he asked for help and made a solemn promise that if he got a second chance in life he would one day pay it forward.

25 years later, having found success in life and business, Joe made good on his promise and walked 9046km across Canada in a campaign that raised awareness and funds for youth homeless prevention. This inspired millions to ask: “What can I do to help?” The answer is simple; “Everyone can make one small promise that will inspire others to build safer communities”.

Not everyone can walk across Canada, but everyone can make one small promise and Push for Change.

Please visit to see the story, learn about #ipromiseto and to donate.

 NOVEMBER 5, 2018

Fall is setting in at that means winter is just around the corner. Between the weather getting colder and Christmas approaching we know that donations are going to start to roll in at a rapid pace.  With this being our busiest donation time of the year by far, we thought it would be helpful to both our generous donors and our staff that handle the donations to share some more information, let’s call it Winter Donations 101.

In winter we expand our hours at the Armoury Resource Centre to provide a safe space for our youth to seek refuge from the cold. Despite this, we know that many of youth will spend hours upon hours outside and will need proper winter gear to avoid serious medical issues like frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia.

Things we always need throughout winter: Winter jackets, waterproof winter boots, gloves, balaclavas, thermal underwear, warmer clothing, warm socks, self-activating heating pads (like HotHands), lip balm, thermal bottles, headlamps/flashlights, and thermal emergency blankets.

When donating used clothing or goods please ensure that these items are still functional and presentable. For example, a winter jacket that has a broken zipper is not effective at helping keep warm and our youth do not have the funds to have clothing patched or repaired.

Gently used items will generally go directly into our donation rooms for the youth to access right away. It is very helpful if clothing is donated washed and folded, in a recycling bag or box that is clearly marked “washed”. New items, like clothing with tags still on, will generally be put away for use at Christmas gifts. If you are donating both, you could separate them for us and mark the new items a “Christmas gifts”.  We do not give used items as Christmas gifts, with the exception of electronics.

Many of our youth come from families who have struggled with poverty and did not have the luxury of showering their children with gifts, Christmas at YESS is often the first time they have ever received multiple gifts. It is incredibly heart warming to see their faces light up, usually accompanied by a wave of disbelief. These moments of joy and the feelings of gratitude that follow for long after as the youth continue to enjoy their gifts throughout the year, they are only possible because of the overwhelming generosity of people like yourself.

If you are considering purchasing Christmas gifts for our youth and would like some guidance on how to ensure your gifts are most effective, we have compiled a list of items that are most frequently asked for. You can rest assured that if you donate something on this list it will go to a youth who has specifically requested that item and will be incredibly grateful!

We will collect and sort all of the gifts, and then we have each youth create a wish list. Over 100 youth will be accessing YESS around Christmas time. Once we have all of those wish lists, we go through our collection of goods to customize presents for each and every youth. As you can imagine, this is a ton of work. You can help us in easing this process by removing or scratching off pricing tags and by not bundling presents. We know, it’s super fun to create little gift packs, but in order to customize and ensure that gifts are fairly distributed, it is much easier for us to separate everything. This means if you and a group of friends are making 20 care packages for Christmas, rather than making 20 bags with one of each items in them, instead make one bag of toothbrushes, one bag of soap, one bag of shaving cream, one bag of writing pads, one bag of card games, etc.  It’s also very helpful if gift cards aren’t hidden in other items, again, we strive for fairness and that is easier when we know what’s going out.

You have now graduated Winter Donations 101! Thank you for reading this and taking these ideas into consideration when donating goods this season. We are constantly blown away the outpouring of love for our youth over winter and we can tell you first hand from being with the youth over winter and Christmas that they truly appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness.

Kelsie pays it forward with gift bags of comfort items for hospital patients

Story & Photo by Blain Fairbairn

CALGARY — When a headache and vertigo suddenly struck Kelsie Snow during a workout at the gym last March, the notion she might be having a stroke was the farthest thing from her mind.

Young, healthy and having never experienced symptoms, Kelsie was surprised to learn she’d suffered a moderate ischemic stroke, after physicians at Foothills Medical Centre (FMC) found a 4 cm tear in her vertebral artery.

After a six-day recovery on the hospital’s stroke unit, the 35-year-old was discharged and has since made a full recovery. Despite an otherwise traumatic and frightening experience, Kelsie emerged determined to make the most of it — by doing something to help other stroke patients feel a little more comfortable in hospital.

“I started to think about things I might have needed, or wished I had, when I was in hospital and how that might help somebody else,” says Kelsie.

Her stay in hospital motivated her to donate 115 curated personal care pouches, all beautifully packaged in designer toiletry bags. Inside each pouch are all the items Kelsie wished she had as a patient: a sleeping mask, ear plugs, mints, hand sanitizer, face cleansing pads and more.

“Nobody’s ready to pack that bag when they’ve just had a stroke,” she says. “My husband was at work when I was taken to the hospital. He did his best to bring me what he thought was important, but I had no real concept of what I would want or need.”

Kelsie reached out to family and friends across North America with her idea, in hopes of raising enough money for about 50 pouches. To her delight and astonishment, the final tally allowed her to put together 115 pouches.

Samantha Arnott, FMC’s stroke-unit manager, says Kelsie’s creative act of kindness will go a long way to brighten up the days of patients.

“We’ve never had anything like this donated to the unit before, so it’s really exciting,” says Arnott. “Hospitals are busy places and I think this will mean a lot to our patients. To know that someone is thinking about us and our patients is just so nice to see. We really appreciate what Kelsie’s done.”

For Kelsie, who keeps a positive and grateful mindset, her stroke wasn’t so much a setback as an opportunity to pay forward the support her network and care team gave her while she recovered.

“Someone asked me if I felt sad or depressed after my stroke and I really had the opposite experience,” adds the mother of two. “One of the things these packages did for me was remind me of how much support and caring I received.

“I hope that patients here will feel the same way and know that someone’s thinking about them, that someone knows what they’re going through, and that someone is aware of the little things that could make their stay a little easier.”

The Most Important Out Of All..

Imagine two different people doing the same card trick. One person is an amateur, the other, a professional magician.  Imagine that that trick goes wrong. The amateur giggles nervously, apologizes and starts over.  The professional magician, without skipping a beat, continues on with the trick and still manages to fool you.  The reason?  It’s about an idea known among magicians as “Outs”.  

“Outs” are contingency plans for magicians.  When learning or constructing a new trick, a magician will try to determine all the possibilities where things can (and probably will) go wrong in the execution of the trick.  Then, the magician can work out realistic possible solutions for each of these possible outcomes.  Time is often dedicated during practice specifically to these “Outs” so that when and if they ever happen, the transition through the mistake is seamless, and the audience isn’t aware that a mistake occurred.  (That is one of the reasons it can take SO long for a magician to learn a new trick.  The process is, in essence, learning ten variations of the same trick!).

In 2015, I had the pleasure of helping my good friend Mark Correia set his first World Record.  His goal was to wear a fully secured straitjacket for fourteen days straight. Without any breaks. I can tell you, as someone who’s spent a considerable amount of (voluntary!) time in a straitjacket, that this was an ambitious goal. In fact, when I was in high school, I spent one night in my straitjacket on a dare and can say without question that it was an AWFUL experience.  My elbow joints were throbbing, and it was impossible to get comfortable.  I should add here that my night in the straitjacket was done in the winter. Straitjackets are made of thick canvas, so keeping cool was vital. Mark’s World Record attempt was done in the middle of summer so that it didn’t conflict with school time.  I can’t imagine spending 24 hours in a straitjacket, let alone two weeks, in summer, without a break.

Mark was inspired by a desire to raise money for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He doesn’t have Parkinson’s Disease, nor do any of his friends or relatives. However, he felt that completion of this creative project was an artistic and compelling way to draw attention to some of the challenges faced by those with Parkinson’s, such as wanting to complete the most basic tasks and not being able to.

The first few days in the straitjacket were uncomfortable for Mark, but exciting. He was covered by every major news network in Canada, and social media took notice. People submitted challenges for Mark to complete without using his hands. Make an omelette! Ride a bike! He did it all!

At about the halfway point, I could tell that he was struggling to keep a smile on his face, and was trying hard to stay comfortable. He had had enough. When the cameras were turned off for the day, I reminded him of an Out that he had forgotten about. He could get out of the jacket at any point. He was, after all, in there voluntarily. Would anyone die? No. Would thousands of dollars still have been raised for The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research? Yes! Was there a ton of exposure for the cause? Yup! Would it still technically be a World Record? Yes, it would. Would people understand? Absolutely.

I believe that Mark was SO focused on his goal that he forgot about his Outs. He forgot that he could simply bow out gracefully.  It was almost like he just needed permission.  So did he use his Out and take the jacket off? No way. Realizing that he could, and he’d still be loved and supported was the permission that he needed.  

Sometimes just knowing that you can quit is enough to keep you going to the end.  The world will keep spinning, people won’t die, and your family and friends will still love you.  

I have seen first hand where student leaders have a tendency of creating overly ambitious goals for themselves. They burn too many resources while forgetting about the most important “Out” of all.  That it’s OK to quit. Remind them. Reinforce it! Sometimes, all they need is permission to quit, and that might be enough to insure that they don’t!

The best thing we’ve seen all week has to be this memorable speech by John Connors, winner of the Best Actor award at this year’s IFTAs for his role in Mark O’Connor’s film Cardboard Gangsters

In the speech, which swiftly went viral and has been watched over 1M times on Facebook alone, Connors sheds light upon the challenges he still faces as an Irish Traveller struggling to find acceptance and understanding, both personally and professionally. View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Need help now? Text CONNECT to686868

Kids Help Phone is always looking for innovative ways to connect young people with the support they need, in the way they need it most. That’s why we partnered up with Crisis Text Line to bring you a new way to reach out.

By texting CONNECT to 686868, you can chat confidentially with a trained, volunteer Crisis Responder for support with any issue — big or small. Our texting service is available 24/7/365. You don’t need a data plan, Internet connection or an app to use it. Remember, all conversations between young people and volunteer Crisis Responders are confidential.

We originally launched Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone in select provinces across Canada in early 2018. We’re proud to say our texting service has expanded nationally with the partnership of Canada Health Infoway.

Oct. 19, 2018 / 11:21 AM MDT / Source: TODAY  By Erica Chayes Wida

A teenage pizzeria employee has proved, once again, that a seemingly small act of kindness can have a major impact.

Dalton Shaffer, the manager of Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan, pulled into the Morgan family’s driveway in Indianapolis, Indiana, at 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 13 with two of the couple’s favorite pies.

Richard Morgan, who is in hospice care with just days live, and his wife Julie were asleep, but their family accepted the delivery and thanked Shaffer before he drove 230 miles back home.

Richard and Julie Morgan lived in Battle Creek 25 years ago but, to this day, they still compare every pizza they taste to Steve’s.

“We were young and money was tight but every pay day, Rich would pick up Steve’s Pizza for dinner,” Julie posted to Facebook Tuesday.

“I can’t possibly describe how delicious this pizza is — but several moves and all these years later, it is still the gold standard and we’ve never found a better pizza yet. Rich has frequently critiqued other pizza as ‘good but, it’s no Steve’s.'”

Today, the Morgans live in Indianapolis and their children are grown. The couple was planning a weekend getaway to Michigan for Julie’s birthday to see the changing leaves and, more importantly, grab a slice of their favorite pie.

But, according to Julie’s post, a devastating turn of events landed Richard in the Intensive Care Unit ahead of their planned vacation. The family learned Richard’s battle with cancer was unexpectedly coming to an end.

“Rich is home under hospice care and we are enjoying every minute reminiscing and visiting with family and friends,” Julie wrote.

What the Morgans didn’t know is that Julie’s father, David Dalke, called Steve’s Pizza hoping to deliver a little light with a message from Steve’s during a dark time. But because it was Shaffer who picked up the phone that Saturday night, Steve’s delivered a lot more.

“I happened to be the pizza-maker that night and happened to answer the phone later in the evening,” Shaffer, 18, told TODAY Food. “On the other end of the line was Dave, Julie’s dad. He was telling me about what was going on with his family. He told me that his son-in-law had been sent home to die.”

Dalke asked if Shaffer could send his condolences in a card or text to the Morgans on behalf of the pizzeria that’s always held such a special place in their hearts.

Instead, Shaffer asked what toppings they preferred. Knowing they lived over 3 hours away in Indianapolis, Shaffer promised to make the delivery that night after he closed the store at 10 p.m.

“I really didn’t think twice about it. It was a spontaneous reaction from me I guess,” Shaffer told TODAY Food. “When I rolled into the driveway at about 2:30, 2:40, the family was waiting up for me. The dad was there, and he came out and he gave me a hug.”

Shaffer handed over two, slightly cold pies and, after politely declining Dalke’s offer to put him up at a hotel, drove another 230 miles back home to make it in time for a morning shift at the farm where he’s worked for five years. He’s worked at Steve’s Pizza for two years.

When asked whether he had done anything like this before, Schaffer was too humble to answer. But his mother, Michelle Shaffer, told TODAY Food he’s always had “a heart of gold,” from mowing neighbors’ lawns to helping the elderly and homeless in his hometown.

“I just would like anybody reading or whatever to just think of the family,” the teenage pizzeria employee told TODAY. “Ya know, pray for them. They’re going to be going through a hard time.”

“I am beyond overwhelmed and humbled by this act of genuine kindness. Dalton brought our family so much joy — and the best pizza in the world — at a really difficult time,” Julie wrote on Facebook.

“While ‘thank you’ hardly seems adequate — from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Dalton from Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, MI for making your epic middle of the night pizza delivery!”

By Emanuela Campanella Global News

After doing her LSATs twice, applying to countless schools and working two jobs, Arielle Williams finally found out that she passed her bar exam. Her reaction, captured on video, is priceless.

The Chicago, Illinois native was the first to graduate from college on her mother’s side, according to CBS 2. She received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, after taking out two loans and working two jobs.

According to the news channel, she then applied to eight different law schools and was rejected to all of them. But she says passion kept her going.

“I’ve only wanted to be an attorney,” Arielle Williams told CBS 2. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.”

She retook her LSATs and re-applied to schools. She then graduated from DePaul University.

Fast-forward to today, and Williams is thrilled to have passed her bar exam.

“I’m here right now because of my passion,” Williams said. “Because of my drive.”

In the video captured by her colleague at Stone & Associates in Waukegan, you see Williams — who is an intern at the firm — pace back and forth before she opens up an email showing her exam results. She then falls to the ground screaming in joy.

Now, the video has gone viral.

Williams says she’s celebrated the achievement with her family and has a party planned in November for when she participates in the bar admission ceremony.

Province needs to do more to curb youth smoking: health policy analyst

CBC News

Saskatchewan teens are smoking almost three times more than their peers in other provinces, according to newly released numbers.

Health Canada’s 2017 Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey found that 21.9 per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 identified as tobacco smokers, compared to a national rate of 7.9 per cent.

“Nationally, the rate has continued to fall and has continued to fall among other provinces and ours has remained stubbornly high,” said Donna Pasiechnik, who is a health policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society in Regina.

The concern, she said, is about youth smokers turning into lifelong addicts with lifelong health complications. Pasiechnik said Saskatchewan has fallen behind other provinces and needs to do more to help cut back tobacco consumption.

“We pull in nearly $300 million a year in tobacco taxes. We don’t spend anything to help people quit or or stop people from starting,” she said.

Pasiechnik said she has worked in tobacco control for 15 years and is frustrated because health groups continue to ask for change to no avail.

“It’s a concern, of course, because if we don’t control tobacco we will not control cancer. It’s disheartening,” she said.

Pasiechnik said simple measures such as banning smoking at all playgrounds and on hospital grounds can make a difference. She said seven other provinces have banned smoking on all outdoor bar patios. 

A ban on all flavoured tobacco and requiring retail licenses could also help control tobacco, she said.

She questioned why people need a license to sell cannabis but not tobacco, which she called “the deadliest consumer product on the market.” 

Furthermore, she suggested the sale of tobacco be banned at post-secondary institutions and sporting facilities. 

“We cannot do this alone. Municipalities have stepped up. The federal government has stepped up. It’s time for the Saskatchewan government to step up,” she said.

Pasiechnik said higher tobacco taxes would be one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, but that past recommendations to the province have fallen on deaf ears.

“I don’t know who’s in their ear, but it’s certainly not us, because it’s not just the Cancer Society calling for this. Doctors have called [for it], the Lung Association, the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reductions,” she said. 

“In a province where we’re trying to grapple with rising health care costs, why are we not taking this problem more seriously?”

Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said the province already has “very high taxes on tobacco,” but that tax rates will be reviewed with this year’s upcoming budget, as they are every year. 

Reiter said he would like to meet with members from the Cancer Society to hear their “perspective” on the issue. 

“We’re extremely concerned if rates are going in the wrong direction,” he said. “We don’t want people to be smoking. Its a huge drain on health care and it causes tragedy in families everywhere.” 

By Silas Brown Reporter  Global News

MADD Canada kicked off its annual Project Red Ribbon campaign in Halifax on Thursday, placing particular focus on the newly-legalized recreational cannabis.

This is the 31st year of the campaign, and while cannabis impaired driving is not a new issue, this is the first year that the substance is legal.

“Cannabis was included in our ceremony today because it’s legalized so it allows us to have a more open conversation with people,” said Patricia Hynes-Coates, the MADD Canada national president.

“Cannabis on our roadways [has been an] issue for years, but with the legalization we know that now people are looking at the substance and may try it, maybe new users, so we’re trying to make sure that people realize that it does impair your body.”

Halifax Regional Police Supt. Don MacLean says dealing with cannabis-impaired drivers is nothing new for the department, but he’s unsure if there will be a holiday bump in those who toke and drive similar to those who drive drunk.

“That remains to be seen because this is new for us,” MacLean said.

“Cannabis is not a new commodity, certainly. But with the legalization of it and the access to it, which has been changed obviously, I think we do have a responsibility to make sure that we have resources and processes and measures in place [to make sure] that we are able to deal with those issues if they do arise.”

Hynes-Coates agreed that cannabis legalization carries with it many unknowns, but that conversations about the drug are now more frank and open.

“With the legalization, again, it’s allowed people to have that conversation that was a little taboo before. People were afraid to discuss it,” she said.

“Well now it allows people to have that conversation with their youth, with their children, with their peers, with their friends, with their community, so that they are aware that this does impair your system and we don’t want you on our roadways.”

MacLean says 1,265 people were charged with impaired driving in the Halifax Regional Municipality last year, highlighting the importance of year-round enforcement. But MacLean says that HRP do step up enforcement during the holidays.

“Holidays just seem to enhance the message. Certainly this is a year-long commitment,” he said.

“The numbers of impaired drivers that were charged in the last year was significant … but certainly through the holidays it is important that we’re out there, the people know that we’re out there and that certainly that assist, I think, in both a proactive and a preventative process.”

That process was highly visible Thursday. After the opening ceremony that saw remarks from local chapter volunteer Anissa MacLeod, Mayor Mike Savage, RCMP Chief Supt. Marlene Snowman, along with Hynes-Coates and MacLean, volunteers and officers took to the tolls at the Angus L. Macdonald bridge to hand out ribbons and tell drivers about the campaign.

Hynes-Coates says that Canada’s geography creates particular challenges for MADD Canada, but that the solution in every case comes down to preparedness.

“We’re geographically spread out, so yes it does cause some challenges. But again, this is where planning ahead comes in. We ask people to plan ahead, have a designated driver,” she said.

“It is on each of us. Each of us has to be accountable for themselves but you also have to be accountable for everyone else around you. So that if you know somebody is driving [impaired], stop them. If they’re going to get into that vehicle, get on a Ski-Doo, ATV, boat, and you know that they’ve consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination make sure they don’t.”

By Sheryl Ubelacker The Canadian Press

Adolescents and young adults who regularly use cannabis but stop for 30 days have better memory and an improved ability to learn compared to peers who continue to smoke, vape or ingest pot, a study has found.

The study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital focused on two broad areas of cognitive function – attention and memory – in a group of 16- to 25-year-olds who were regular users of cannabis, indulging at least once a week.

Roughly two-thirds of the 88 subjects were randomly assigned to abstain from weed for 30 days, while the remainder continued routine use. Researchers completed regular assessments of thinking and memory of participants during the 2015-16 study period.

Frequent urine tests were given to verify those in the no-cannabis group had stayed away from the drug. Almost 90 per cent met the criteria for 30 days of continuous abstinence.

“Our findings provide two pieces of convincing evidence,” said lead author Randi Schuster, director of neuropsychology at the Center for Addiction Medicine at the Boston hospital.

“The first is that adolescents learn better when they are not using cannabis,” she said.

“The second – which is the good news part of the story – is that at least some of the deficits associated with cannabis use are not permanent and actually improve pretty quickly after cannabis use stops.”

That improvement occurred largely during the first week of abstinence, say the authors, whose research was published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

However, the study found no difference in attention – the ability to remain focused on a visual task, for instance – between the two groups by the end of 30 days.

Schuster said there are a number of potential reasons, including the possibility that a longer period of abstinence is needed to see a reversal of attention deficits that occur with marijuana use.

The research was published on the same day as Health Canada released the latest national data on tobacco, alcohol and drug use among Canadians aged 15 and older, which shows that use of cannabis is highest among youth aged 15 to 19 years (19 per cent) and young adults aged 20 to 24 (33 per cent).

The study authors note that adolescence and young adulthood are critical times for brain development, specifically for brain regions that are most susceptible to the effects of cannabis, in particular the psychoactive ingredient THC.

A 2016 study from the same research team found that cannabis users aged 16 and under had difficulty learning new information, a problem that was not observed in that study among users aged 17-plus.

“When I see these data, I get worried that regular use in young users may negatively impact their ability to achieve at their highest potential,” Schuster said from Boston.

“One of my big concerns is how this plays out in a classroom and is it keeping them from achieving and learning?”

Dr. Romina Mizrahi, a clinician-scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, called the Boston research “important.”

“What was particularly surprising to me is the fact that these young people who are using cannabis were only (using it) at least weekly, which suggests that even … what you would call weekend recreational use is associated with some impairments, which are improved following abstinence,” she said Tuesday.

Schuster said there are still a lot of questions to be studied, including whether attention might improve and memory would continue to be enhanced with longer periods of cannabis avoidance.

Those are issues that will be addressed in two larger follow-up studies her team is conducting, including one that will look at younger participants – aged 13 to 19 – and a group that has never used cannabis, to help determine whether cognitive improvements produced by abstinence return participants to performance levels similar to those of non-users.

A second trial will follow young cannabis users who abstain for six months, investigating whether cognition continues to improve beyond 30 days and if those improvements can affect school performance.

The ability to learn or “map down” new information is a critical facet of success in the classroom, Schuster said.

“Young cannabis users who stop regular – weekly or more – use may be better equipped to learn efficiently and therefore better positioned for academic success,” she said.

“We can confidently say that these findings strongly suggest that abstaining from cannabis helps young people learn, while continuing cannabis use may interfere with the learning process.”

Mizrahi agreed, saying that it’s crucial that young people understand that their brains are still developing until about age 25, and that cannabis can interfere with the system that regulates that maturation process.

“In other words, you’re affecting the building blocks of the final brain architecture,” she said. “So it’s dangerous when your brain has not yet fully developed, because it may not fully develop as it would have had young people not used cannabis.”

By Alexa MacLean  Digital Broadcast Journalist  Global News

At just 28 years of age, Matthew Bonn is living proof that access to treatment for addiction saves lives.

“I would be dead. There’s no question in my mind that I would be dead,” he said.

Bonn says he started suffering from active addiction at a very young age and tried to overcome it for years before he was able to access treatment.

“I think I was born with the disease of addiction and I started using drugs at the age of 12 and very quickly progressed into pharmaceuticals and other narcotics,” he said.

According to Health Canada statistics, nearly 4,000 Canadians died from opioid-related overdose deaths last year.

The numbers for the first three months of the year indicate opioid-related overdose deaths have already surpassed 1,000 people.

“Any of us can be affected by a crisis that does result in deaths. I went to my first funeral related to an opioid overdose this year,” said Lisa Roberts, MLA for Halifax-Needham.

The Nova Scotia Public Health Department has confirmed that there are ongoing discussions underway about bringing the first overdose prevention site (OPS) to the province.
An OPS is a temporary facility set up to address an immediate need in a community.

“NSHA Public Health will support these organizations as they explore the potential for OPS to meet the needs of their service population, in accordance with the approval process set out by federal and provincial regulations. This includes, but is not limited to, demonstrating evidence of support from the local community and law enforcement,” Lesley Mulcahy, senior communications adviser with Public Health, wrote in an email.

In September, a community meeting was hosted at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre to discuss the possibility of bringing an OPS to Gottingen Street.

The initiative would fit into the new Direction 180, a community-based opioid treatment centre located Roberts’ district.

She attended that meeting and says that while there was support for the movement, there was also some hesitation from the community.

Roberts feels the reality of addiction speaks volumes about how beneficial an OPS would be for Halifax.

“Nobody wants to be finding needles on sidewalks and in playgrounds or seeing evidence of drug-taking in the community,” she said.

“I think that is actually the reason why it makes sense to have an overdose prevention site — a place where people can go and safely and privately administer drugs at the same location where they can also seek treatment to maybe no longer be taking dangerous drugs from what we know is a contaminated drug supply,” Roberts added.

An average of 60 people die from opioid-related overdose deaths every year in the province.

The results of a countrywide overdose crisis have led to increased investments in addiction and treatment from the Nova Scotia government.

Waiting lists for opioid treatment used to be in the hundreds; now people are able to access treatment plans in a timely manner.

However, people like Bonn believe adding an OPS to the harm reduction picture would go even further to preventing senseless deaths in the wake of the overdose crisis.

“We really need one because I continue seeing it getting worse and worse,” he said.

By Bill Graveland The Canadian Press

Police are dealing with a prairie fire of methamphetamine use which is rapidly overtaking fentanyl as the drug of choice for many.

Opioid use continues to be a public-health crisis with just under 4,000 deaths across Canada in 2017 and over 3,000 in 2016.

But officers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta say they’re worried about crystal meth as a narcotic of choice.

“The meth problem is happening across the Prairies. They’re seeing that opioid use is now being replaced with meth,” said Lethbridge police Chief Rob Davis.

Meth, followed by heroin and fentanyl, is the top drug consumed at the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge. Davis recently watched people coming out of the site.

“There were some who looked like the Time-Life commercials for songs of the ’60s, where everybody’s doing their interpretive dancing, and then I’m watching people who just had that walk of rage, just stomping down the street with all that anger.”

The situation in Saskatoon is no better.

“It is an epidemic. I think we’ve reached that point,” said Det.-Sgt. Robin Wintermute from the police drug enforcement team.

“When I talked to my cohorts up in Prince Albert and down in Regina, they have the same things going on in their city as we are. It’s relatively cheap compared to cocaine and so it correlates with our business and residential break-ins, our petty thefts, our mail frauds, stolen autos, all that stuff.”

Wintermute said a tenth of a gram of meth costs $5 to $10 while a single hit of fentanyl can run anywhere from $40 to $60.

Edmonton police have also seen a dramatic rise in meth use. Seizures of the drug surged to 33,112 grams in 2017 from 9,017 grams in 2013. Just under 30,000 grams has been seized so far this year.

“The trend is certainly going upwards,” said Sgt. Guy Pilon, clandestine lab co-ordinator in Edmonton’s organized crime division. “There’s no lack of meth on the street. What we are seeing though is kind of an anomaly in that there is some really inexpensive meth that’s being sold out there, almost half the price of the normal stuff.”

Pilon said there’s also been an increase in the use of speedballs – users take fentanyl until about the time they are going to nod off and then use meth as a stimulant.

Many dealers are offering a wide range of drugs for customers instead of focusing on just one kind of narcotic, he added.

“Now the drug traffickers are selling more of a cornucopia of drugs to serve a greater client base.”

Winnipeg’s police Chief Danny Smyth has said the skyrocketing use of methamphetamine is creating a crisis for police, health-care services and addictions treatment centres.

Numbers from Winnipeg’s health authority show there has been a 1,200 per cent rise in people going to hospitals because of methamphetamine — 218 meth-related visits in April 2018 from 12 in April 2013.

Officer safety is also a concern. Where opioid users tend to be docile, those high on meth are more unpredictable.

“That’s the problem with it, right? Some of them have been up for days. It’s a devastating drug on the body and typically they’re not easy to deal with when they’re on the drug,” said Wintermute.

“They’ll use it all day long or over a period of days just to keep that high … then it’s a crash.

“They’ve got to feed that addiction.”

From November 5-9, you are invited to Opioids Don’t Discriminate: An Interactive Experience. This event profiles local statistics and opioid information while immersing participants in an interactive journey through three different fictionalized character stories, based on the real-life experiences of those affected by opioid use. These stories will address the pervasive stigmas and judgments about people who use drugs, strengthen empathy and understanding, and humanize substance use and misuse statistics.

Through interactive elements, you will learn about the science of addiction, the impact of opioids and how the crisis is affecting us locally, provincially and nationally.

Walk in Natasha, David and Max’s shoes, and challenge what you think you know.

Please note this event deals with real-life subject matter about addiction and substance misuse. This may have sensitive content for some participants. Subject matter may not be appropriate for youth under 12 years of age.

Event Location and Times

The interactive experience is located in the Community Centre’s Agora at 401 Festival Lane, Sherwood Park.

Monday, November 52 p.m.-7 p.m.
Tuesday, November 6: 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday, November 7: 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Thursday, November 8: 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday, November 99:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

School, group or organization bookings can be arranged by contacting Family and Community Services at or 780-464-4044.

Meet Max

Max is smart and reliable. He loves reading, math, sports and his cat. He loves to draw and paint buildings and cityscapes, and works hard at school so he can apply for post-secondary scholarships to study architecture.

Max has grown up in the same town with the same friends, but his parents are separating so he and his mom and brother are moving to a new city to be near his grandma. She just had hip surgery so she needs a lot of help so Max is trying to help out as best he can. Moving and his parents splitting has been really hard. And even though his dad travels a lot, Max misses him.

Max doesn’t want to make new friends. He had friends. He had a life. But his parents seem so much happier, and even Robbie likes his new school, so Max is trying not to complain too much. He just feels alone, and he is so uncomfortable at school. The people are different, the classes are different, and he only knows his family. Max feels anxious more and more every day, trying to fit in, keep his grades up, help out with grandma and Robbie… When he’s invited to a party, he’s hopeful he will finally make some new friends and feel like he belongs.

Meet David

David is an account manager and has been working his way towards a promotion for the last couple of years. He has two younger children and is happily married. His kids’ activities keep him and his wife busy after work, and when he isn’t cheering them on, he plays beer league hockey and goes to movies with his wife.

He was recently injured at one of his games, and he is struggling with the pain. The hospital gave him medication, but he still can’t go back to work, and on bad days, he can hardly get out of bed. He tries to cook and help at home, but it’s difficult and painful. Getting to appointments and even to his kids’ activities is a huge struggle, and he’s becoming more and more frustrated. It seems like nobody actually understands how much he hurts and how much his injury is impacting his life. Work and bills are piling up, he’s missing out on his kids’ lives and he hasn’t been on a date with his wife in ages. He just wants to get back to normal and feel better. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Meet Natasha

Natasha is separating from her husband and her mom is recovering from hip surgery, so Natasha accepted a transfer for her job so she and her sons, 16-year-old Max and 8-year-old Robbie, can be closer to family. While the move takes them away from the only home her boys have known, Natasha knows how much they love their grandma and is hopeful they’ll feel supported and grounded in family life. Both Max and Robbie have always had large social circles and like to be active, so Natasha is confident they’ll adjust quickly.

Max is smart, reliable and loves school. While he missed team tryouts, he’s making new friends and he’s been a huge help driving Robbie to school, helping out at home and even taking food to his grandma and spending time with her. There have been many long days as Natasha transitions to her new job, takes her mom to appointments, helps her around the house and with meals, and helps the boys settle in, but it seems like they’re adjusting, and she hopes she made the right choice for them all.

Information and article provided by

Phone: 780-464-4044
Fax: 780-449-1220

By Alex Gagne Anchor  CJOY

Guelph police are out with an advisory to drug users after purple fentanyl has been spotted once again within the community.

Police say they have responded to two overdoses over the past few days believed to be attributed to the powerful substance.

In a news release issued Wednesday morning, police said, “While these overdoses remain under investigation, the Guelph Police Service feels it is prudent to warn the public of a possible strong and deadly batch of heroin/fentanyl currently being distributed and consumed within our community.”

Police also say that while they do not condone or encourage the use of illegal drugs, they ask those who do to do it at the overdose prevention site located at the Guelph Community Health Centre at 176 Wyndham Street North, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

This isn’t the first time the purple fentanyl was spotted within the Royal City and surrounding areas.

Waterloo Regional Police confirmed through lab testing in March that the purple, playdough-like substance contained traces of the deadly opiate.

Guelph police have urged drug users to carry the overdose-reversing drug naloxone on them if they will be consuming the drugs and to call police if they suspect someone is overdosing on the drug.

We’ve all had teachers who we can firmly say have changed our lives.

By Arti Patel   Senior National Online Journalist, Smart Living  Global News

It’s the educators who spent hours not only in the classroom, but off hours shaping our thoughts, ideas and impressions of the world, and often, ourselves.

In August, Global News asked Canadians to share stories about their favourite teachers; not only the people who were good at their jobs but the educators who went above and beyond for students inside and outside the classroom.

And while one of these stories included former-student-turned-teacher Jackie Norman of Burnaby, B.C., reconnecting with her former teacher Fred Worsfold of Smiths Fall, Ont., we received over 100 responses from Global News readers across the country.

“Mr. Haggerty of Ponoka Secondary Campus [in Ponoka, Alta.] is quite possibly the greatest teacher of all time. I remember being in high school, ‘too cool’ for the cooking class that was taught by Mr. Haggerty, who also happened to be my English teacher.

“[He] was the only reason I joined the cooking class, and it was the most incredible class I ever took. He inspired a lifelong passion for good food and good travels, inspiring me to try new things from different corners of the world. I am grateful.” — Austin Lutz

“Mr. Simpson of Jasper Place Composite High in Edmonton. He went on to become the principal. He was the first ‘cool’ scientist I ever saw. He made me realize that it’s all right to care about people, hobbies, and whatever else.

“Every time he had something important [to teach us], he would put a star then say, ‘They teach us in university that adding a star to some batch of notes will make students focus on it.’ Kids that were late or didn’t do homework weren’t accosted. You had an option. If you’re going to be late without an excuse, you can do pushups. Not physically inclined? You can sing a song in front of the class. Same thing for homework.” — David Robinson

“My Grade 6 teacher, Ms. Speis. She read us The Hobbit every day for an hour and turned me into one of Canada’s most prolific writers. I ended up writing my first book in her class. My poetry was published by the University of British Columbia and I have been read by millions of people.” — Alan Poole

“My life-changing teacher moment was in Grade 5. My teacher, Ms. Ness at Ron Brent Elementary in [Prince George, B.C.] is the reason I am who I am. She is the reason I no longer have a speech impediment. She noticed it and made sure that twice a week I was able to be pulled out of classes for speech therapy. This became the reason I felt comfortable public speaking and being in front of a classroom.” — Melissa Paakkonen

“My teacher was Mrs. Haywood. I was living in a world of pain and abuse. Terrified to do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing. She was my light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I couldn’t wait to get to school to see her smiling face and feel her kindness. She’s one of the reasons I knew as a child that not all people were bad. There was kindness out there, I found it in her.” — Paulette Raymond

“Ms. Brown [now Mrs. Helfrich], was my English teacher in Grade 11 at Crescent Heights High School in Medicine Hat, Alta. She was full of enthusiasm and dedication to her students. The curriculum dictated that the class read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, which happened to be my favourite book. When Ms. Brown found out it was my favourite book, she sat me down and asked if I wanted to read it again in class, or if I would prefer to do a private study of a different book.

“Having a teacher recognize my thirst for knowledge and willingness to do extra work to let me expand beyond the set curriculum was incredible. She researched books with similar themes as Fried Green Tomatoes, and together we picked A Thousand Splendid Suns for me to read. She was the first teacher to really encourage my feminist views. She also took time out of her private life to chaperone my attendance at a conference for students hosted by the Alberta Education Minister. Since leaving school, I have kept in touch with her, I attended her wedding and she attended mine, and we have been references for each other. I can’t thank her enough for helping me to become the woman I am today.” — Elizabeth Strange

“My father left when I was a baby and throughout elementary school, my actions would quickly escalate from a small problem to constant issues. In Grade 7 I met Mr. Coneilesse [and] something kicked in and made me realize no one will hold doors open for you forever. Mr. C took me under his wing and with a few private conversations, he knew all my problems and was like in a way a father figure. He told me to get my stuff together and stand tall and I’ll do great things, as a result I won athlete of the year in my graduating year of elementary school.” — Damion H

“I was 13 years old. My ego and self-worth were near zero when I started in Grade 8, but a fresh group of kids who knew nothing of my past gave me a true fresh start. But more than anyone else was a teacher’s aid named Mr. Pittman. I never had him as a direct teacher, but overhearing him talk about his interest in model railroading sparked curiosity in me. He invited me to attend the weekly club meetings and fought for my membership against other members who didn’t want a kid around.

“I never did become a member. But what I had gained was that I was worth an adult fighting for. This single act, transformed my life, giving me the confidence to be who I want to be — to be who I am. While he did not teach me in the classroom, he taught me the value of people, the power of consideration and the need to step up when the unrepresented need a voice.” — Brent Wardrop

New study shows unexpected chemical reactions with flavouring in vape liquids

Kelly Crowe · CBC News

What happens when various chemical compounds and flavouring agents are mixed together and then inhaled into the lungs? Nobody knows for sure.

That’s because scientists are just beginning to investigate the health effects of vaping products.

study published this week found unexpected new chemical combinations in vape liquids that appear to activate cellular irritant receptors.

“Once the components are mixed there are chemical reactions happening that form new compounds with completely unknown toxicity,” said Sven Jordt, a biochemist at Duke University School of Medicine.

That could suggest a new reason to be concerned about long-term health risks from vaping.

With the popularity of Juul and other trendy vaping products, researchers are becoming more interested in the effects of long-term exposure to the more than 7,000 flavouring chemicals used in vaping liquids on young lungs.

“There is a big wave of users now coming up that have never smoked before that start using e-cigarettes and they are exposed to these chemicals,” Jordt said.

‘Not stable’

Some of the e-cigarette flavours can contain aldehydes. That interested Jordt’s team, because aldehydes are one of the main irritants in smoke, causing coughing and inflammation. In their study, they looked at vanilla, cherry and cinnamon flavours.

When they tested the resulting vaping mixtures, they were surprised to discover new compounds called acetals had formed.

“What we see is these are not stable liquids and these flavours undergo chemical reaction modifications forming a wide range of compounds that we don’t know much about.”

The researchers tested the acetals in human cells to see if they could activate irritant receptors and “found that they are a stronger irritant than the actual original flavours.”

Because the potential toxicity of the new compounds is different than either the basic vaping ingredients, usually propylene glycol and glycerin, or the added flavouring chemicals, the study concluded that “e-liquids are potentially reactive chemical systems,” so just knowing the original ingredients is not enough to determine the long-term safety of the heated vapour.

“Some of these flavours are safe to use in food, but there is very little safety information when they are inhaled,” Jordt said.

“We know the lungs are much more sensitive to chemicals than the skin or the digestive tract so this needs to be studied separately if there is a potential for causing disease, inflammation, asthma or emphysema.”

Public health paradox

How worried should we be?

The answer reveals the public health paradox at the heart of the vaping craze. Compared to the profoundly toxic exposure from cigarettes, experts agree that it’s much safer to vape.

But for young people with no smoking habit and no intention to smoke cigarettes, chemicals in the flavoured vapour could pose long-term health risks that are still unknown.

Eric Liberda, inhalation toxicologist with Ryerson University’s School of Occupational and Public Health, said the results of Jordt’s study need to be reproduced in animal and human models before the true health impacts can be assessed.

“While vaping has been shown to be successful in terms of smoking cessation, this whole idea that youth have access to it and are not smokers to begin with but they’re vaping could potentially be an issue,” he said. “That still needs a lot more research.”

The rules

Health Canada has issued a guidance document for the vaping industry advising that flavour ingredients “should be of food grade or higher purity, and those substances with known inhalation risk (e.g., diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione) should not be used.”

Diacetyl is the chemical associated with a condition dubbed “popcorn lung” after workers in factories that made microwave popcorn developed lung disease from breathing in the flavouring. When added to vaping liquids, it creates a buttery or caramel flavour, while  2,3-pentanedione is a diacetyl substitute.

The company that makes the popular Juul vaping product says on its website it does not add those particular flavouring compounds. But no list of flavouring ingredients is provided.

So far, no vape flavouring chemicals have been formally banned by Health Canada.

“The use of flavours in vaping liquids is not restricted under theTobacco and Vaping Products Act,(TVPA),” Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette said in an email.

There are also no federal requirements to list the flavouring ingredients on vaping packages in Canada.

But companies are prohibited from promoting certain flavours on the packaging, including candy, dessert and soft drink, which might appeal to young people.

“While flavours help make vaping liquids palatable to adult smokers seeking a less harmful alternative to tobacco, the promotion of certain flavours may appeal to young persons and induce them to use these vaping products,” Durette said. “In this way, the TVPA seeks to achieve a balance between these competing public health interests.”

Health Canada is still examining various proposals for regulating the vaping industry, including the requirement to list ingredients on the packaging.

Jordt and his team concluded there is a need for “a rigorous process” by regulators “to monitor the potentially changing composition of e-liquids and e-vapors over time, to identify possible health hazards.”

A study from the National Poison Data System’s data from 2000 to 2014 found there was a 71 percent increase in calls to U.S. poison control centers related to the ingestion of prescribed ADHD medications in children 19 and under. About half of those exposures were intentional abuse, misuse or suicide attempts. Parents can help prevent accidental overdoses by storing pills out of reach and supervising their children’s prescribed daily doses.

Study: ADHD Medication Overdoses Increasing Among U.S. Kids

‘We are dying’: Maskwacis community members overwhelmed by suicides.

Emily Soosay is grieving the loss of her 22-year-old son Luwen Soosay-Morin, who took his life two days before Christmas. Saturday she attended a vigil for a celebration of life following a wave of recent deaths by suicide in her home community of Maskwacis, Alta.

She doesn’t want anyone else to die, in what she calls an “epidemic.”

“I am broken, hurt. I’m lost. I’m crying out for guidance,” she said.

“Right now our nation is in a state of crisis. We’re in need of help bad. We are dying. […] The chief should call a state of emergency.”

She has lost several family members and friends to suicide over the years — Soosay’s cousin also took her life just two weeks after her son. She was too traumatized to attend her cousin’s funeral.

Maskwacis Indian Health Services mental health worker Rick Lightning said there have been 14 deaths by suicide within the four nations that make up Maskwacis since December 2017. He also believes local leadership should call a state of emergency because help is desperately needed.

Read the full article at FULL LINK BELOW

Vapers Among Us:

When you notice someone standing on the street puffing away at their vape pen, do you stop and think for a second and say “ Hey that looks cool!” I don’t think any of us do. So, when we see celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Katy Perry doing it — maybe some of us start to change our opinions. Do we know any better? Do social influences add pressure to vaping just like there was to smoking?

Social changes to how we perceive vaping are occurring. Frankly, as our understanding of what vaping is becomes clearer, we are starting to put restrictions on who, how and where we can vape. Just like cigarettes. In fact, vaping among teens is becoming a trend, sharing a vape is now like sharing a cigarette — they just pass it around. Some have come to call this “Vape Culture.”

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The Risks at Hand

When a friend develops a problem with drinking or drug use, it can be upsetting and confusing. The person who you thought you knew so well seems different. Her moods might be less predictable, and she may seem more irritable. She could be treating you differently than she used to, or may even be pushing you away.

If you are worried about a friend’s substance use, you may have thought about bringing it up, but you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. That’s understandable – you don’t want to risk losing the friendship!

When you approach a friend with your concerns, you will want to come across as supportive and non-judgmental. Your friend might or might not be ready to change. He might not even be ready to admit that she his substance use is a problem! But if you approach these conversations with sensitivity, he will start to see you a person whom he can trust and open up to. Keep in mind these essential tips for talking to friends about their drug and alcohol use.

Approach her when she is sober. Not only will she remember the conversation better, but she will also be in a better headspace to reflect and absorb the concerns you are expressing.

You’re not trying to convince him that he has a problem. If you relentlessly point out to your friend all of  the evidence that he has an addiction, you will almost certainly put him on the defence. A better approach is to share an observation – for example, “it seems like every time you drink lately you black out.” Follow this up with an expression of concern, such as “Are things going all right?”

Don’t make assumptions. You might think you know why your friend is using, and you may even be onto something. But it is your friend – not you – who is the real expert on her life. Treat her that way! For more insight into why your friend smokes weed everyday before school, you might ask her: “what do you like about it?” or “how does it help you?” This helps her to see that you are trying to understand her problem from her perspective, and makes it more likely that she will open up to you.

Emphasize specific consequences – with compassion. Alcohol and drug use comes with consequences. Share with your friend what consequences you’ve noticed. Be specific, but gentle. You may notice that your friend has failed a class or gotten into a fight at a party, and ask if this is due to his substance use.  Prefacing these observations with “I’m worried that…” or “I wonder…” helps remind your friend that you are bringing this up because you care.

Understand that change is dependent on readiness. When you raise your concerns with your friend, it will start to become clear if she shares your concern about her problem – and if she is ready to do something about it. If your friend is ready to act, you can offer to help her find the help that she needs – counselling or other resources. If she does not see her use as a problem, you can continue to relay the message that while you see her substance use as a problem, you care about her. This way, if and when she is ready to seek help, she knows that she can come to you for support.

Depression is more than just a bad mood.

While it is normal to feel discouraged and frustrated during adolescence, when we are depressed, we feel trapped in our own minds.

Depression in youth is more difficult to identify, because, as a teenager, you are already going through so many changes – and the social, academic and family pressures that teens go through can make a low mood seem justified.

If you are wondering if you might be experiencing depression, here are are 5 things to look for:

You feel lower than you have felt before, and the feelings are sticking around. Emotions such as guilt, anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loneliness, and shame are typical in depressed people. Unlike “bad moods,” which can come and go, these feelings persist beyond two weeks.

You feel numb. Many people who experience depression do not find their emotions to be intense – rather, they feel numb, flat and foggy. Their most noticeable depression symptoms are lack of motivation and no energy.

Your body feels different. You may experience headaches or general aches and pains that you can’t explain. You may feel tired all the time or have problems eating or sleeping. You may unexpectedly gain or lose weight.

Your thoughts are harsh. It seems like there is a running commentary in your head of self-criticism. You might find that you think negatively about many things and people. Additionally, you may have a hard time concentrating. Depressed people find themselves saying: “why bother?” and “what’s the point?” When things become really bad, you might even have suicidal thoughts.

Your behaviour has changed. You might be withdrawing from others, crying easily, or showing less interest in sports, games, or other fun activities that you normally enjoy. You might over-react and have sudden outbursts of anger or tears over minor issues.

Do any of these sound familiar? You’re not alone: at least one out of eight teenagers struggles with depression. Sometimes, the cause of depression is a mystery, while other times it can be linked to something going on in a teenager’s life. Family conflict, bullying, social politics, pressures in school and shame about sexual orientation are all known contributors to depression in youth.

Teens who struggle with depression can experience other serious problems, such as poor grades, skipping classes, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Depression is treatable. However, it might not go away on its own. When you feel helpless and powerless, keep in mind that these are a few things that you can do.

Ask for help!

Maybe you’re holding out to see if you start to feel better without any help. The fact is that an untreated episode of depression can stick around for months. Talk to an adult that you trust. A parent, a teacher, a school counsellor, coach, or your doctor. Tell them how you’ve been feeling, and let them know that you think you might be depressed. Depression can be treated, and treatment such as medication or counselling is often effective. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help right away. Suicidal thoughts are usually associated with problems that can be treated, believe it or not. Reach out to someone you trust to let them know that you need help – and if you don’t feel comfortable telling someone you know, you can always contact your local crisis centre.

Don’t believe everything you think. When we’re depressed, our thoughts are harsh. We call ourselves names (loser, failure, ugly, stupid…). We find faults in everyone and everything. These thoughts seem accurate, but in fact, depression distorts our perceptions. Thoughts ≠ truths.

Exercise. Any type of movement that gets your heart pumping can help your mood. Walking, dancing, really anything! If you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself, try the 5-minute experiment. Aim to exercise for 5 minutes! If you decide to prolong it, great – but if not, even 5 minutes is helpful! When we are feeling depressed, we sometimes assume that we are beyond help. If you feel this way, we encourage you to reach out. You are worth it!

Crystal meth is part of a category of drugs known as “methamphetamines.” Methamphetamine (MA), which is known by various street names including “speed”, “meth”, “crystal meth” and “chalk”, is a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that readily dissolves in water or alcohol.

It can be snorted, swallowed, injected or smoked. In its smokable form it is referred to as “ice”, “crank”, “crystal”. “glass” or “tina” because if its transparent, sheet-like crystals, and is smoked in a pipe like crack cocaine. The smoke is odourless and leaves a residue that may be resmoked. Immediately after smoking or injecting the drug, the user experiences an intense rush that lasts for only a few minutes but is extremely pleasurable. This rush is followed by a prolonged euphoria, or “high”. Snorting or taking the drug orally produces euphoria but not the rush. Snorting produces effects within 3-5 minutes and oral use produces effects withing 15-20 minutes. The duration of the effects can vary and depends on the amount taken. MA is a powerful stimulant that increases attention, decreases fatigue, increases activity, decreases appetite and increases respiration.

The actual prevalence of crystal meth use amongst adolescent students is low (4%) compared to alcohol (58%), marijuana (37%) and mushrooms (13%). However, this number jumps dramatically for street youth; 70% have used crystal meth.

The addictive potential of crystal meth is much higher than that of other drugs, meaning that it’s very difficult to use meth in moderation. Many people who try it, even experimentally, end up becoming dependent. Tolerance to the effects of methamphetamine builds up quickly in regular users, which means they need more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. When dependent users stop taking methamphetamine, they have strong cravings for the drug, and within a few days will experience withdrawal symptoms including stomach pain, hunger, headaches, shortness of breath, tiredness and depression.

Crystal meth can present very dangerous threats to people who use it occasionally, or even to first time users. Methamphetamine causes the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. Since the content of the drug sold varies widely, it is difficult to judge the size of a dose. An overdose of methamphetamine can result in seizures, high body temperature, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke and death. The risk of overdose is highest when the drug is injected.

The effects of crystal meth on the brain, body and behaviour can be severe and long-lasting. These include
// Paranoia
// Delusional thoughts and psychosis
// Mood swings
// Rage and violence
// Possible long-term damage to brain cells

Below is the original article previously published in Drugs & Addiction Magazine.

Methamphetamine Article

“Alcohol was the first ‘drug’ I tried. I figured because it was legal that it had to be okay. Out of all the drugs I tried, alcohol was one of the most impairing. Being drunk screws you up just as much as being high, and don’t let anyone tell you different. At first it was just fun to be all hyper and silly, but then the fighting started, and after a long night of drinking, sometimes I’d black out and not remember what happened the next day. It got to be pretty bad…” – Zach, former panelist on Meet the Experts in Drugs & Addiction Magazine


Alcohol is legal, sold in every province, and used for many different reasons – to socialize, relax, party, and overcome shyness being major ones. Some of the signs of problem alcohol use are:

  • Craving – a strong need, of compulsion to drink
  • Impaired Control – the inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion
  • Physical dependence – withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking
  • Tolerance – the need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects

Factors influencing alcohol dependency: family history of alcoholism, influence of friends, stress, and the ease of obtaining alcohol can all influence an individual’s vulnerability to alcohol misuse. Rates of alcohol problems tend to be highest among young adults aged 18-29.

Physical Effects:

  • Co-ordination is impaired, leading to clumsiness, difficulty walking and slower reflexes, resulting in an increased possibility of serious accidents
  • With continuous use, high blood pressure and damage to the heart
  • Liver damage
  • If drinking when pregnant, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – resulting in physical and mental impairments to the baby
  • When alcohol is mixed with other drugs, it can be life threatening

Mental & Emotional Effects:

  • Disinhibition, or the tendency to behave in which one would not normally behave
  • Increase in aggressive and violent behaviour (i.e. fighting, crime)
  • Depression
  • Problems with school and learning: the more a student drinks, the lower his or her grades

Below is the original article previously published in Drugs & Addiction Magazine.

Alcohol Article

  • Put on your favourite music and write in your journal.
  • Work on a creative project, like a scrapbook, a song or a drawing.
  • Talk to someone who will listen to you.
  • Walk outside for at least 20 minutes.
  • Write out every horrible, mean thought in your head. When you are done, try to write on positive thought or idea for each negative thought.
  • Figure ou what you favourite hobby is. Skateboarding? Painting? Soccer? Make a commitment to yourself to spend a certain amount of time every week doing it.
  • Bake cookies, and have a couple with a cold glass of milk.
  • Rent a funny movie.
  • Read something you’re really interested in – even if it’s an Archie comic!
  • Talk on the phone with a close friend.
  • Have a good cry. It helps.
  • Thank about what you would like to be doing in two years, five years and ten years. Don’t limit yourself.
  • If someone has done something to upset you, talk about it with him or her. If you can’t talk about it with that person, talk about it with someone whom you trust.
  • If you are angry with yourself for something you’ve done (or not done), make a plan about how you can make things okay.
  • Make sure there is one adult in your life to whom you feel close and trust. It doesn’t have to be a parent; it can be another family member, a teacher, a coach – anyone who cares.
  • Learn how to do something that you didn’t know how to do before.
  • Do some heart-pumping, sweaty exercise at least three times a week.
  • Volunteer with either children or seniors. It’s very rewarding work, and it looks great when you’re applying for jobs one day.
  • Spend time with a dog.
  • Join a club or a sports team at school.
  • Clean up your bedroom until it’s spotless. Once it’s clean, completely redecorate it.
  • Make a new friend.
  • Try not to eat too much junk food and sugar – both cause your energy level to crash.
  • Get to know a family member better.
  • Don’t try and deal with this alone! Contact one of the resources on our website, under Local Resources, and talk to to someone who can help.