Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Well World

I had brunch with my friend R today. We went to a place called Henk’s which is behind the Half Price Books flagship store. HPB was having a tent sale that looked amazing but I hardly need more books. I have no place to put them! Henk’s is a German diner. I had the Polish breakfast, which is pretty much eggs and fried potatoes with Polish sausage. It was good, especially the potato, which I miss terribly while I am low carb. (I can’t in good conscience call myself keto.) R had blintzes, which he said were like eating dessert, and a reuben.

We talked about 10,000 things, as friends do. R works in community education for mental health. He teaches Mental Health First Aid mostly to educators. Eventually the idea of a healthy society came up.

R is gay, no children. He is also an atheist. He tells this to people in his presentation because he believes it is useful in helping educators to sit with situations they might not agree with. Now my atheist friend went on to tell me an interpretation of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan which I thought was pretty interesting. Yes that sentence is knowingly ambiguous.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A man gets mugged and beaten up on the road to Jericho. The thieves leave him for dead. Several people pass the man and ignore his plight, including people you’d expect to help him, like religious leaders. Finally the Samaritan walks by. This is someone who is looked down on for his ethnicity. He sees the man in distress, takes him to an inn, and pays the bill for the man to stay until he recovers.

Jesus asks, who is the true neighbor? And it becomes a story about how to treat other people. But like most parables, there are other interpretations. My friend R says, this is a good example of appropriate care, both care of other and care of self. The Samaritan did not take the man to his own home, and he did not allow the man’s needs to derail him from his task in Jericho. He did not try to help the man directly, instead he took him to a place where he would be cared for appropriately. He paid the bill, which apparently was not a hardship for him. So, says R, we should be willing to help out others while also taking care of ourselves.

Another friend of mine has an issue with paying school taxes since they don’t have any children. I say, pay it. One day those young people will be in charge and I want them to be basically educated and hopefully able to think for themselves. I will live in a world they shape, I am invested in what these people are like. I don’t own a home so I don’t pay property taxes which includes the school tax, but I don’t begrudge the schools money. Money makes a better school, better schools make better people. Can we do it on less money? Well we keep trying and we know what public education looks like, so I suspect we can’t.

What does a healthy society look like? I don’t claim to have the final say on that, but I do know a few things.

Yoga moms are not the face of wellness even though they are the face of wellness culture. They are what could be called “the worried well”. That is, for the most part they are doing just fine and don’t need to worry in general that they will become unwell.

Homeless people are a sign that society is unwell. How can it be that we have abandoned houses and homeless people? Seems like a no brainer, put people into homes. And yet there is all kinds of resistance to the idea. You can no doubt think of some of the reasons: who wants those people in their neighborhood, why should we give a house to someone who is too lazy to get a job, or even when do I get my free house as a contributing member of society? So now we have to look at the factors in why a person becomes homeless, because very few choose this as a life path.

Any of the isms are a sign society is not healthy. Ageism, racism, sexism and others are rooted in fear; fear that somehow there are only so many resources around and if someone gets a piece of the pie, they are taking it away from me. It’s easier to scapegoat someone if you can make them a “them”, that is, not one of us. A healthy society knows we are stronger if we share the resources rather than hoarding them.

It was a good lunch, and a good conversation. I like my friends, they are good and interesting people.


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Mental Health First Aid

Disclaimer: I am going to talk about when I learned. If you’re interested you should take the class, don’t assume I have said everything you need to know. Link is here: Mental Health First Aid

The central acronym is ALGEE. It stands for:

Assess the person for risk of suicide or harm

Listen non-judgmentally

Give encouragement and information

Encourage seeking professional help

Encourage self-help

Now this is a crisis intervention technique for lay people. It is like CPR, just designed to help a person ride out a crisis until professional help is available.

The very first assessment is whether the situation is safe for you to engage with the person in crisis. Someone who is violent, for example, it may be best to simply call 911, explain the situation, and stay until help arrives. Usually this will be law enforcement, hopefully it will include a crisis team or officers who are trained for mental health situations.

After you decide to engage, assess them for risk of suicide or harm. It’s okay to simply ask if they’ve thought of harming or killing themself. If they say yes, you can then ask about whether they have a plan, what the plan is, and if they have the tools to carry it out. If the person is clearly in the midst of an attempt — they have a gun, they say they’ve already taken the pills, they are bleeding — you will call 911 right away. Then focus on keeping them alive and safe until professionals arrive.

In my personal world, most people having mental distress are not suicidal. Depressed, anxious, even psychotic, but not suicidal. Engaging with them is as basic as asking, “How are you feeling today? Is everything alright?” And then listen without judging. Many people just want to be heard and taken seriously. Something about telling your story is cathartic for people.

When it is your turn to speak, provide encouragement and information. Do not give advice. Do not make promises that you can’t keep. Also don’t be too glib. “It will be alright” is not a valid comment for a situation where it clearly isn’t and possibly won’t be alright. It feels patronizing to the person hearing it. And a person in distress might not be able to hear that the feeling will pass.

Encourage professional help and self help. Ask what has helped in the past. Have they seen a therapist before? It might be good to see one now. Provide grounding techniques, going through the exercise with the person. Help them reframe the situation. Suggest peer support groups or other services. Veterans can be referred to the VA, but they might also need AA or other counselling.

Taking this course does not make me a professional. I simply have some tools in my arsenal for situations that could be frightening or unmanageable to other people. No different than CPR. It doesn’t make you a doctor. But now you can help people survive until long term help can be available.


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Steak and Chai Tea

Wednesday (yesterday, today is Thursday) was a busy day for me.

I started the day with a COMI meeting. Basically it’s a forum where local mental health services meet up and share their information. I found out, for example, that Dallas has closed 3 mental health hospitals in the last 2 years, and no one has replaced the beds. So there are that many people who need to be hospitalized who can’t access services. That is a crying shame. There are so many of us who need respite and there is no facility for that.

I made a contact to a group called BattleBuddies, which works with veterans, and that led to a project called Stop One. What is important about this is that they offer Mental Health First Aid for free to the community. In my work in disaster relief with the government, I often see people who are distressed and a little training on how to help them would be a good thing.

Then I met up with my daughter for coffee. I like to see her regularly but she does live with her boyfriend. They only have one day off in common so I try not to take up that time. Coffee is a good thing. Daughter made coffee for me and we hung out for a while. She gave me some gears for my art, so that was very cool. And some buttons. We spent about an hour together then I took her to work.

My next stop was lunch with my insurance ladies. We all started at the company at the same time and were in the same training class. Usually there are 4 of us, but T was just back from a family trip so she didn’t make it. We went to Outback and I had steak which was wonderful. I don’t often get meat that’s rare to medium. Meat at our house tends to be fully cooked, which is not my preference, but I don’t have to cook so I’m not complaining. I also had cheesecake, something I don’t do very often. It was very good. We sat in the restaurant for almost 3 hours just catching up on life.

After leaving the ladies, I texted my friend K. I knew she was still at work but since I was in the area I thought I could stop by. I went to Barnes and Noble to kill some time. I took a few books off the walls and a couple of magazines, and I went to the cafe for a coffee. Well they were having a sale on chai, hot or cold, any size, for $2. You don’t have to tell me twice; I got a grande hot chai. So good. I didn’t buy a book, though, I don’t need anything more to read. I need more light in the house so I can read more.

I did go see K. She needed some help turning the mattress on her bed. I know it sounds like an odd activity, but us ladies need to help each other out when there’s nobody else around. There are many of us over a certain age who are single. Wonderful people, just not meeting the right other person. Or like me, divorced and wounded. Or, yanno, just not interested in having a relationship. Not everyone wants to be coupled up. We must band together and be there for each other.

I got home about 11:00, which was quite late for me. I slept well. It was a good day.