The Heart of A Community

Our students always inspire me. I am so fortunate to work in a community that encourages creativity in all forms. The people I work with also give their heart and soul to all they do. Thanks to our wonderful Art teacher Sheila Stacey and Counsellor Erin Luong for collaborating on this fun project full of heart.

One of the innovative projects I am pleased to work on this year involves a collaboration between myself, another counselling colleague and our art teacher. BCHS Spectrum Club’s mission is to bring people together and spread a message of love and acceptance. Our aim is to educate and bring awareness to students while expanding our […]

via Heart of A Community: BCHS Students Fill Their Hearts — Erin Luong’s Reflections on Counselling, Education, Leadership and Technology

Maritimers …stepping up to help

16114283_10154965258644458_3342463774607457750_n

One of the most stressful things School Counsellors ever have to do is assist a student who is contemplating suicide. We never want a child to feel so hopeless that they feel that there is no reason left  to live.

So I recognize how much courage it takes for a person that it is not in this profession to help when something so serious happens.  A gigantic thanks to two very courageous Maritimers who stepped up to help . Thanks Robbie for letting me share your story.

Robbie’s Story …
As most of you know, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on March 1, 2012. That was the day I was able to help a young man from taking his own life.
It was just after 1 o’clock on a clear, but very cold day. I was pulling into my parking spot situated on the top level of the parkade. I noticed a young person sitting on the wrong side of the railing. To be honest, my first reaction was to grab my phone and take a picture of the young man who I would later know as (Stephen). I just thought he was a thrill seeker. He was texting on his phone,dressed in a warm coat with a hoodie underneath, and the hood pulled up over his head. I could not see his face as his back was towards me. As a matter of fact, I only got to see his face three times over the course of the next 25 minutes.
Just as I was about to take his picture (I’m still thinking he is young and cocky for sitting on the wrong side of the railing) he starts to turn his body slowly around. I start to panic and lower my phone so he wouldn’t see me taking his photo. His head moved very slowly back around, facing away from me. I never saw his face.
I was in a rush to get back to my office, so jumped out of my truck and headed to the stairs in the corner of the parkade. To this day I don’t know why I stopped short but things just weren’t adding up. I could tell he lived on the street. His clothes were very dirty and the speed his head was moving was very slow. It was freezing at -15, so I stopped and turned around.I walked slowly up to him and asked, “Are you ok?” No response. I asked him again. No response. I am about 15 feet away from him on his left side. I ask once more and he responds in a slurred voice, “Nobody cares”. My first thought when he said that was … oh my god, we’ve got a jumper! It went through my head just like the movie Old School.
Surprisingly I stayed very calm, plus he couldn’t see my face when I first realized he was going to take his own life. It wasn’t hard to tell drugs were at play as well. Not sure what to do after he responded, I moved closer to him. This is when my heart dropped. He shuffled across a four inch concrete ledge away from me. You or I couldn’t do what he did sober, let alone high on drugs. The positive thing was he stopped by a column and could put his hand on it to support himself if needed. He was shaking very bad and would act like he was going to jump two or three times.

I just kept asking him questions.
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Do you miss home?”
“Do you miss water?”
Every question I asked him and he wouldn’t answer, I would answer myself.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Robbie.”
“Do you miss water?”
“I miss water, I’m from the east coast.”
For every 10 questions I asked, I would get about 1 answer in return, but we were starting to make a small connection. Finally he turned his head to see who was asking him all the questions and why. Then he turned away, but started answering a few of the question.
“What’s your name?’
“Stephen.”
“Where are you from?”
“The coast.” He slurred.
“What coast?”
“B.C.”
“Do you miss the water?” He turned slowly once more to look at me. This was the first time I saw his face. When all this was going on, I tried to get the attention of three cars that went by to call 911 for help, but no one stopped until Marty, a great guy from the Maritimes. He quickly realized what was going on and parked. I kept waiving at him to call 911, which he does. He walks slowly up and joins me and we both try to convince Stephen it’s not worth it. More time goes by and Marty and I are frozen, and so is Stephen. I was so scared he would fall, let alone jump. The parkade security showed up, but their radios were freaking Stephen out and he would start to shake as he was going to jump. We waved them to stay back a long distance.

The police also showed up and also stayed back with security. It was just the three of us. Marty and I took turns talking to Stephen and finally as I was telling him how cold it was, he just slowly reached his arm straight back as if to say, Ok, I’m done.
In a split second Marty and I had a hold of him and pulled him back over. Weird but at no time did I think we would drop him. I had the tightest grip ever on him, and so did Marty. From that moment, the police took over and got him downstairs and outside to the ambulance. I noticed when we pulled Stephen over, his phone fell on the ground. I grabbed it and looked at his last text. It was from his mother asking “are you ok?????” My heart broke,  but I got the police to call her right away. Turns out Stephen wouldn’t cooperate with the police unless I was there, so I sat with him until they got the information they needed. He left in an ambulance and I never saw him again.

I’m very grateful. for how this story ended  …  here is more of my story

For a better part of my life I have battled and struggled with anxiety and depression. Throw ADHD on that and you have a wound-up-top on a rollercoaster.Depression is something you hide easy. All you have to do it smile.

That day when Stephen and I were together, we made a connection. We both missed water, but I also made my own connection with him. The only difference between us was I was wearing a nice suit and he was wearing a dirty coat someone gave to him. I knew exactly what was going through his head.

  • Depression doesn’t know if you have a good job.
  • Depression doesn’t know where you live.
  • Depression doesn’t care if you are a good person or not.

I am very fortunate to have the best support people I could ever ask for. Two parents that are there for me for life and a wife that unconditionally loves and supports me. The one thing that’s harder to deal with than depression itself is to be married to someone that battles depression. So I am truly grateful for the support.
Don’t think that having depression slows me down. I have a saying “keep your feet moving” which I do very well. This doesn’t’ mean I don’t need help sometimes and it doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I think about many friends Mark and Colin, Felicity and family, Chad, Colette and family, Lori and her girls and their commonality is that they’ve all lost someone special. Someone that you never thought would take their own life. Someone that will never be replaced. Someone they loved very much.
They also gave me the courage to speak out and that it’s OK to talk about mental illness and depression. There probably will never be a cure for mental illness, but we always can be there for others. My father made a comment to me one time;
“Robbie, it doesn’t’ cost anything to care”.
Please understand that most people have some sort of struggle in life. Acknowledging and talking about it helps. Trust me, the best thing to do is to talk to someone who won’t judge you and who cares. They will never understand what you are truly going through, but can always offer love and support.

Robbie

Robbie thanks for being you and allowing me to share your story #bellletstalk  . I am sure someone reading this will understand that there are caring people like you and Marty who are willing to reach out to another human being when needed . I truly hope Stephen is alive and gets to read this some day knowing that two Maritimers who both live in Calgary were willing to step up to help.

ACCESS Mental Health
Provides mental health information and service options
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 7:00p.m.
Telephone: 943-1500 (voicemail after hours)
Email: mental.health@albertahealthservices.ca

Health Link Alberta
Access to nurse advice and health information
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Telephone: 943-LINK (5465) Calgary or 1-866-408-5465 (Toll Free)
Website: http://www.healthlinkalberta.ca

Inform Alberta
General info about community, health, social, and government services across the province
Telephone: 2-1-1
Website: http://www.informalberta.ca

 

Clean Your Mind Clear The Clutter

IMG_3534

Cleaning our minds from the clutter can help us on our journey to deeper thinking. A beautiful walk in the morning can do just that. I walk almost every day during the school year with @ehordyskiluong. We share ideas,  get inspired, and think about innovative and creative ideas. We vent if we need to  (not often). Talk about our families, but mostly we clear our minds of the clutter so we can begin each new day fresh.

As we enter this six weeks of #IMMOOC , I am sure we will discuss all the new things we are learning on our walks. We will refresh some of our old ideas like Walking Talking Counselling.

We have discussed getting treadmills in our counselling offices and allowing those students who are interested to walk , problem solve and share and grow with us. We are interested in what you think. We would love you to share your ideas , thoughts , and possible resources.

Another way to clear the clutter is to build in a lunch time for yourself. I recommend to all new counsellors that I supervise to get out of their office for lunch, leave their phone behind and clear the mind so they are ready to go for the afternoon. Self care is a necessity in our profession.

Our minds when in a relaxed state says Daniel Goleman are ready for optimal performance that is why many times throughout the year Erin and I also start our day with 10 minutes of headspace which is an amazing way to clear the mind.

Wishing you all in #IMMOOC some amazing connections, new ideas and ways to help your students, but don’t forget about you. Clear the mind. Clean the clutter and have fun along the way.

Here is the link  and questions to think about for week 1.

 

Colour Your Way To A Healthy Mind High School Students Creating Change

FullSizeRender 7

“Be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.” … “Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity.” – Parker Palmer

Our students are passionate when it comes to mental health and wellness. They continue to work diligently when it comes to mental health and anti.stigma spreading messages of hope. All year they have continuued to do things that make a difference. Finally due to the generosity of Gary Nissen and Empowering minds … Connex we were  able to produce this lovely colouring book for all to enjoy! Every year partial proceeds will go to a different chaity, but this year students chose the Children’s Hospital mental health unit.

Thanks so much to all those who collaborated with the wellness team to make this a very special project. Our photography , spectrum and who’s frank clubs. All know the importance of reducing stigma. raising awareness and improving overall wellness. We hope you have fun , relax and enjoy this students led project that is meant to touch your heart and make a difference. So let go, de-stress be as creative as you want . We hope you will be inspired to design your own colouring page while thinking about the messages that matter from our students.

There Is An Artist In All Of Us

FullSizeRender

Five years ago I did not paint and now thanks to great friends and my experiences in ETMOOC  , I have more confidence and find it one of the most rewarding , therapeutic experiences that I can imagine. I take mini courses and I watch lots of youtube videos to get tips. It is so much fun.

I have keratoconus a progressive eye disease, ( I was diagnosed later in life ) so I think partly that diagnosis has driven me to create visually in case my vision ever gets really poor. Painting is therapeutic and healing for me. I have played sports all my life and I absolutely love to read,  both which can bring me flow , but nothing brings me the kind of flow that painting does.

Painting brings me flow the kind of flow that was discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Fifteen hours can feel like five minutes for me. I love that it brings me joy and that I am completely absorbed in the process. It is fun and easy and yes I think anyone  can benefit from art and painting.  If I can you can too.

 

I plan on using the painting that I did above,  thanks to the online instructions from theArtSherpa ( see below) with our students. Art and Counselling definitely go together . Paintings tell stories often times with hidden messages.

Process for students:

Today we are going to embark on a journey of letting go of any negativity and go with the flow. For the next two hours you are not allowed to say to yourself I can’t . If you hear yourself speaking those words take your note pad and write I can … I will.

So let’s begin this process by being mindful and breathing. Lead students through a short mindfulness process to begin. Let them know that they are going to create a special painting today and that there are no mistakes. They can create their trees and painting anyway they like even if it is different from the paining they see. Like mine birch trees do not produce multi coloured leaves , but I did just because I wanted to visually and I  love the effect.  This seminar is about being yourself and letting go.

If they would like to follow the step by step instructions here they are:

  1. Write messages of hope and their dreams for their future in pencil on their canvas.
  2. Ask students if anyone would like to share their hopes and dreams with others.
  3. The size of canvas it up to the student. Have students bring the size of canvas they want to work on.
  4. Divide your canvas into six equal sections. They don’t have to be exact and you don’t have to measure them. Tell students they can estimate.  So begin by saying Today we are going to create . We are going to start by painting a rainbow with trees, you can use any method you like to paint your colors on your canvas. I used upwards stokes, but really any would work. Start with red, orange , yellow, greens,  blue and purple.
  5. Guide students through the process being as creative as you like in explaining what they can do next. Constantly remind them it is ok to make mistakes ( really there are no mistakes, but they may perceive them as such). Remind them that their perceived mistakes lead to more creativity and it is ok to be as creative as they wish going with the flow and what their heart wants to paint.
  6. Trees can be very symbolic and you can discuss this with students.Trees are strong and unique just like each of them. Birch trees can mean new beginnings. You can discuss with students what they believe their trees mean for them. I chose nine trees, but they can choose any number that means something to them. I also chose to add flowers and really birch trees have no colorful flowers, but I like the effect. The lovely thing when you create art just for the sake of it is that there is no right or wrong . There are no mistakes. It just is … creative , how wonderful and freeing.
  7. The rest of the directions are below in the video. You can watch and create your own instructions.
  8. Most importantly have fun and trust the process.

Check out the video below for detailed instructions:

If you decide to do this process with your students , please share your creative ideas with me @sspellmancann.

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life

Pablo Paccasso

Important Videos : Therapists and People I Respect

 

Below you will find people’s work I admire and have utilized in my own practice. While not a comprehensive list, it is an important list to me as I believe the wonderful learning that I have had has made a great impact on me and the students I serve. Many of the people in theses videos I have had the great honour to meet in person and dialogue about the amazing work they have done. Some have become friends for which I am truly grateful. I would have loved to have met Victor Frankl and Leo Buscaglia, but am fortunate to have cherished their books and videos. I have and will continue always to pass on the wisdom from their works.

 

 

Physical Wellness … Stability Balls Are Good For You

Every now and then I like to have guest posts on my blog so this week I’d like to introduce you to Ryan Fahey @wellnessrf the School Health Facilitator for Ever Active Schools. Enjoy his post !

Physical Wellness: Stability Ball Usage

FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Do you have a stability ball? Stability balls are those bright colored round items against the walls of your local gym or community centre. ( here is mine above says Susan and it may need a little more use. Maybe if it was brighter , I digress back to Ryan’s post )

I was once a stranger to these foreign objects and you may be like I once was. I never saw the practical use of these things. However, as I have gained both experience and knowledge in Personal Training and in the field of Health and Wellness I have learned and seen great use and benefits of the stability ball.Stability balls are flooding the market everywhere. They are trending, but have deep roots in aiding individual health and skeletal structure. Libraries, schools, offices and businesses all over the world are seeing the benefits of sitting on a stability ball compared to a normal desk chair. See, most of us spend a large amount of time in the seated position either in our work day or in our leisure time. We often drag our feet home from work and sit again on the couch for a hockey night in Canada marathon.

The bottom line here is the all of this sitting in rigid, upright or slouched positions can cause chronic back pain, spasms and injuries. The longer we sit the more our lower back tightens up and the more our entire posterior chain becomes less malleable. However, if you switched your desk chair with a stability ball for about 1 hour per day, you would not only burn more calories using the ball but you would be practicing having a better upright posture (which would strengthen your core muscles) and you are less likely to fall asleep. (if you fall asleep on a ball, you will only make that mistake once). Therefore, implementing an exercise ball at your home computer, work place desk or at your library table can actually make your body feel better, stronger and decrease chronic back problems associated with long sitting bouts. If you want to start using a stability ball to sit on instead of your regular chair, start by only sitting on it for 10-15min at a time and slowly build up to it. Sitting on these balls is not easy as over time our bodies get tired and tend to slouch. When you slouch, that is a sign of weak core muscles which is ok. This just means you have some work to do and sitting on these balls can help you start building up your core strength. If you are a member of a gym, get your trainer to give you a tutorial on how they work.

Ultimately, like anything else you buy, think about it first. Where are you going to put it? Will my kids use it? Do I have room for it? Etc. Then, be sure to buy one and keep the receipt. The ball is too big if your lower leg and upper leg are forming a >90 degree angle when you sit comfortably on it. The ball is too small if you are low to the ground and your lower/upper leg angle is <90 degrees. Find a ball size that works for you and start implementing it into your life, job, hobbies, etc as soon as you can. Be educated, enjoy life and stay active! Physical Wellness matters.

 

Ryan Fahey can be found on twitter @wellnessrf

Thanks Ryan I look forward to your next post on my blog and maybe by that time I’ll be using the stability ball in my basement. Self- talk . I will feel better if I use my stability ball while typing on the computer. Physical wellness matters! 🙂