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10 October, 2019

Addictions and Mental Health

Eden’s annual Dr Clarence H Labun Lecture Series took place on Oct 8 to a full house at the Quality Inn Conference Centre in Winkler.  The full day workshop was packed with information and teaching on the topic of “Addictions and Mental Health.”  The attendees were privileged to hear from 4 different experts with experience in the field of addictions and mental health.

To begin the day, Dr Ginette Poulin, Medical Director at Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, presented on the scope of addiction across Manitoba and Canada, including the historic struggle with substance abuse.  Dr Poulin shared the impacts of addiction on the brain as well as the advancements in prescriptions available for drug and alcohol addiction.  She challenged the workshop attendees to become aware of biases and stereotypes held around addition and stressed the importance of treatment and relational connection.

Terry Warburton, Clinical Director at Recovery of Hope Counselling, followed with an insightful exploration of the role of feelings and emotions in the recovery journey.  Given that the root of addictive behavior is often found in trauma, woundedness and neglect, Warburton highlighted the importance of creating safe and accepting conditions so that defensiveness and resistance to face our emotions can be lowered.  This allows the chance for people to get to know their feelings and emotions and begin to accept all of the different parts of ourselves, even the parts and feelings we are not comfortable with.

Dr Johann Blignault began the afternoon sharing his professional journey into treating addictions.  He expressed gratitude for being mentored by Dr Lindy Lee who taught a profoundly non-judgmental approach to addictions medicine.  This approach seeks realistic options for the patient and deeply challenges the practitioners to examine their biases. Dr Blignault shared feedback gathered from the Winkler/Morden community which is guiding addiction medicine going forward.  He also shared lessons learned from his practice including: teamwork, setting boundaries, creating margin and self care.

The final speaker of the day was Isaias Harper, Mental Health Worker at Long Plains Health Services.  Harper shared the struggles he hears from his clients and his strategies in helping them find balance.  Using the Medicine Wheel or Wellness Wheel, he focuses on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of life and shared examples of improvements seen in the community.

Some statistics related to the issue of addiction:

  • One in five persons with an addiction also have mental health related issues,
  • One in seven persons with an addiction are alcohol related,
  • One in twenty persons with an addiction are cannabis related,
  • 11 Canadians/day die from opioid-related addiction.

Some of the “take home” ideas were:

  • The “Status Quo” risks if we don’t change: increasing disease, high rate of relapse, risk of overdose, complications, fatality, setting up for failure and perpetuating stigma.
  • Addiction response: 1. Treatment, 2. Compassion, 3. Connection, 4. De-stigmatization, 5. Education.
  • The vital importance of connection and building bridges will those who experience addiction.
  • Addiction is here, wherever we live.
  • We all play a role.
  • Remember that we cannot help someone and judge them at the same time!
  • Care-givers need to take time for themselves in order to avoid burnout.

What can be done within the community and Health Care system:

  • Offer compassionate support,
  • Display kindness to persons in vulnerable situations
  • Be aware of our biases
  • Listen while withholding judgement
  • See a person for who they are, not what drugs they use
  • Avoid hurtful labels, dispel myths
  • Replace negative attitudes with evidence-based facts
  • Use appropriate language
  • Speak up when you see someone mistreated because of their drug use
  • Meet the individual “where they are at”
  • Offer a wide spectrum of care including harm reduction
  • Educate yourself! Do your research; learn about drug dependency and how it works. Treat people who use substances with dignity and respect.

It was an amazing day of education and connection with our presenters, colleagues and community members.