Dr. Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, RTC, MTC https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com Registered Educator & Therapeutic Counsellor: Transforming Your Perspective on Mental Health! Wed, 20 Dec 2023 13:57:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.5.3 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/cropped-Screen-Shot-2021-06-17-at-9.22.20-AM-32x32.png Dr. Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, RTC, MTC https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com 32 32 The Reality of Online Bullying: Harassment and the Potential for Harm https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/07/05/the-reality-of-online-bullying-harassment-and-the-potential-for-harm/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/07/05/the-reality-of-online-bullying-harassment-and-the-potential-for-harm/#respond Wed, 05 Jul 2023 04:06:27 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=327

In today’s interconnected world, where social media platforms have become an integral part of our lives, the impact of bullying has extended beyond traditional schoolyard settings. Online bullying, often called cyberbullying, has emerged as a growing concern, profoundly affecting the mental health and well-being of individuals and communities. In Canada, where mental health awareness is a priority, the statistics are alarmingly high, highlighting the urgent need for positive communication and conflict management strategies as critical skills to teach, practice, and role model.

The Toll on Mental Health

According to recent Canadian mental health statistics, approximately 47% of youth aged 15 to 24 have reported experiencing cyberbullying. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that victims of online bullying (children or adults) are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. These statistics emphasize the detrimental impact of communicating aggressively or passive-aggressively online. This article presents some of the facts and urges us, collectively, to address this issue with the antidote to harassment and bullying – empathy.

Suffering Behind Screens

The consequences of online bullying go beyond the immediate emotional distress caused by hurtful comments and personal attacks. Cyberbullying can lead to social isolation, decreased self-esteem, academic difficulties for kids, and even physical harm in extreme cases. Moreover, the 24/7 nature of social media amplifies the reach and permanence of hurtful messages, making it increasingly difficult for victims to escape the torment and find solace.

Flip the Script! Promoting Positive Communication Strategies

To combat the prevalence and harmful effects of online bullying, we can work to adopt positive forms of communication and conflict management. Some strategies that can foster a more supportive online environment are as follows:

  • Empathy and Kindness: Encouraging empathy and kindness online can go a long way in preventing and addressing bullying. Teach children and young adults to treat others with respect, to understand the impact of their words, and to stand up healthfully against online harassment. As adults and community leaders, model this yourself.
  • Digital Literacy: Promote digital literacy and educate students, families, and the community about responsible online behaviour, critical thinking, and media literacy. Learning to discern between reliable information and harmful content can help reduce the spread of cyberbullying.
  • Open Dialogue: Foster open communication about the importance of online safety, the consequences of cyberbullying, and available support resources. Encouraging discussions around respectful communication can empower individuals to address conflicts constructively.

Adults As Role Models

Adults play a crucial role in shaping the online behaviour of young people. They must lead by example and be mindful of their actions on social media. Taking personal disputes or conflicts to public platforms can perpetuate a culture of aggression and hostility. Instead, adults can model respectful and solution-oriented approaches to conflict resolution, demonstrating the value of effective communication. If, as role models, we make mistakes (all of us are human, after all), fix them and return strengthened to the group by owning behaviours and discussing mistakes – adding plans of action to move forward is a great start!

Collectively we can work towards a future where online platforms are spaces of kindness, understanding, and support, and though this may take time, healing, and learning to cope with and manage upset, it is a doable goal and hope for all of us.

Some things you can do when you witness online harassment are as follows:

  • Consider how you can step in – to problem SOLVE – versus becoming part of the problem or co-ruminating around problems. Problems can be ‘contagious’ – If you are vulnerable, step away and protect yourself by not getting too close.
  • If you cannot role model kindness and empathy, don’t weigh in. There are times we just know we will be triggered. In these cases, walk away.
  • Try the 24-hour rule. Emotions are fleeting yet powerful – they can trick us into thinking we are right – if we lead with righteousness, we are in ego – come back to the conversation when you can lead with humility and empathy instead.
  • Be curious and use the two most powerful questions on the planet when it comes to problem-solving:

What do you need, and how can I help?

Judy teaches communication, problem-solving, and conflict-management skills as part of school and workplace development. Reach out to see if this aspect of her Human Curriculum™ could help you, your family, school, community group, or workplace: judy@prairieskyeducation.ca OR find Judy online @drjudyjaunzemsfernuk

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Turning Over A New Leaf https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/06/22/turning-over-a-new-leaf/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/06/22/turning-over-a-new-leaf/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2023 22:01:16 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=262 Our Approaches to ‘Trauma-Informed’ Work:

A Shift in Our Lens on Teaching, Leading, Learning, & Care


Understanding trauma and its impact can be difficult. This article is not meant to minimize trauma or trauma-informed approaches; however, it is meant to emphasize that to stop at ‘trauma-informed’ would be an injustice to all humans who can benefit from healing through therapeutic approaches to teaching, leading, and learning.

To some degree, we all have trauma; however, our attempts to be informed in teaching, caregiving, and supporting others can often lead us into misguided actions: such as fixing, comparing, and even shaming (self and others). At its worst, being ill-informed can lead to blaming and land those who wish to help in a cycle not conducive to solving anyone’s problems at all.

In the past, much of the mental health and trauma-informed work, especially as it translates to schools and classrooms, and even organizations and communities, falls short as it remains problem-focused – and this is a huge problem in trauma-informed work.

Trauma-informed can leave us – wishing we had more solutions and fewer problems.

Healing vs. Informing . . .

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of a trauma-informed (TI) lens in teaching and leadership. Though this lens highlights the need for understanding, it over-emphasizes understanding how trauma impacts individuals and communities versus a critical and more action-oriented emphasis on healing and integrating essential supports in areas of therapeutic engagement, which can provide more comprehensive help.

An alternative to TI is a therapeutic lens, encompassing various techniques and approaches to promote well-being and alleviate suffering by genuinely understanding and focussing on needs. There are great opportunities in this focus shift, as much research and human experience can shed light on the art and science of supporting healing through therapeutic processes – such as ‘therapeutic teaching’ (Jaunzems-Fernuk, 2022).

Healing-centred care focuses on solutions versus problems providing a necessary shift in this commonly misunderstood practice. Healing-focused care works for everyone as there is no need to unpack or even understand the trauma itself – therapeutic interventions honour and holds space for caring about the past – but moves to action – that can be taken in the present to help self and others to heal, learn, and grow. Healing-centred work is more proactive, preventative of future harm, and more inclusive – conducive to belonging, caring, and hope.

The term trauma-informed has, in some arenas, become pathologized, prescriptive, and so commonplace that people sometimes forget we’re talking about humans and healing versus concepts and ideas – and though there are many doing great work under the umbrella of trauma-informed practice, it just hasn’t seemed to give very many the answers they seek – especially in western focused/rooted institutions, and outside of health-care (such as is in schools). Saskatchewan for example has no unified trauma-informed approach to teaching and many find it elusive, confusing, and sometimes altogether annoying, as it is presented as just one more things for educators to know.

Teachers have been known to fear the knowledge and support it takes to understand such things as mental health, mental illness, stress, burnout, and trauma, not just as another thing on their plate – but – sometimes due to their own fears of assuming a therapist’s role in treatment and treatment planning. Sometimes these fears are due to stigma alone.

A healing-centred approach allows for all educators and leaders to embrace therapeutic teaching and therapeutic leadership – instead of assuming the role of therapist, as each is quite different. Though related principles apply, healing is something we can all embrace with little to no added work. Healing approaches recognize that trauma can profoundly affect the brain, mind, and body – and that healing must be advanced holistically – addressing not only mental health but also physical health, social and emotional support, and healing through spirit and nature as well.

Healing-centred approaches also emphasize the importance of creating safe and supportive environments, particularly for those who have experienced significant trauma but also impacting those who have not. Preparing everyone with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to cope embraces skills to help others: cope, manage, grow, and heal is a proactive and natural approach to well-being.

Cope, Manage, Grow, Heal, Repeat

A healing-centred approach involves a simple understanding of the nervous system (enough to teach and apply it), regulation and co-regulation of emotions (management of self and others), and the power of resilience through a mindset ready to repeat the process as needed throughout a lifetime in support of strength, health, and continued learning and growth.

More so than arguing for the notion that we have all experienced some form of trauma (stigma-inducing for many), is the importance of supporting the notion that we can all benefit from healing – whether trauma has been experienced or not. Relieving the burden of identifying with pain can reduce stigma and influence care (including self-care).

Trauma-informed teaching can help us understand that trauma is pervasive, detrimental, can cause long-term damage and even impact changes in who we are fundamentally: i.e., brain structure, overall health, disorder, and disease; however psycho-educational tools and key understandings about brain-mind-body physiology can directly impact the negative power of trauma long term[3]; having far more impact.  

Research shows that healing from trauma is possible – on our own or with help – and it can have a significant impact on mental health and well-being. Epigenetic research[1] shows us that healing-centred practices can help change generations of damage due to trauma, and just as we have discovered the neuroplasticity of the brain, epigenetic memory is too plastic – and we can change, grow, and heal cells – helping to impact real changes to DNA molecules that will be felt generations from now if we are successful[2]

We are learning that all individuals can utilize tools to help themselves heal. Though therapeutic and medical interventions are critical in some cases, individuals, educators, parents, and the community can work together to promote and support healing as well – a far more empowering stance on healthcare.

A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that online interventions for depression and anxiety were in some cases as effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life[4], as were medical interventions. Other studies have found that cognitive-behavioural therapy (even when delivered online) is effective too in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – showing the immense power of the self in the process [5].

Humans can also reap the benefits of free nature-based therapy, as outdoor interventions for healing are immense. As an example, the practice of “forest bathing,” or spending time in nature to promote relaxation and stress reduction, has been shown to have a variety of physical and mental health benefits. Many studies published over the last couple of decades have shown that forest bathing was effective in reducing stress and improving mood. Though we don’t need a study to prove this[6], as anyone who spends any time outdoors knows that going outside decreases blood pressure, can increase ones sense of awe or joy, and potentially induce a sense of calm and regulation.

Teachers, leaders, and caregivers can promote healing by adding to their understanding of trauma-informed approaches, it is just a matter of sharing knowledge, influencing action, and supporting growth as the main focus (Aware, Care, Cope: Jaunzems-Fernuk, 2022), moving away from the emphasis on trauma and towards presence and practices of care.

ACC is a process taught through the Human Curriculum™ and it attends to healing through the power of awareness, application of strategies to self and others, and noticing and attending throughout a lifetime – to cope with adversity. Resources and training on these topics support recognizing the power to heal ourselves and then others through deep connections and awareness to self, the environment, and others: nature-nurture and self-care to care-give.

Education on the impact of trauma is essential. Still, it has to go further and broader, and back to basics in many ways, with strategies for creating safe and supportive environments that help to heal. Healing strategies include techniques for promoting relaxation and stress reduction, increasing meaning and passion in work and in life, and reframing/mindset shifts – each simple yet impactful and powerful tools that all can access.

Healing is a complex and multifaceted process, however, with a holistic approach it can be attained. Teachers, leaders, and parents –though not therapists – can in fact be therapeutic by embracing tools that could change the world – or at least their own.

We can face adversity, harness the learning from its impact, and achieve greater well-being and resilience as a result.

Knowledge Truly is Power!


[1] Kanherkar, R. R., Stair, S. E., Bhatia-Dey, N., Mills, P. J., Chopra, D., & Csoka, A. B. (2017). Epigenetic mechanisms of integrative medicine. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2017.

[2] Tian, F. Y., & Marsit, C. J. (2018). Environmentally induced epigenetic plasticity in development: epigenetic toxicity and epigenetic adaptation. Current epidemiology reports5, 450-460.

[3] https://www.bdperry.com/

[4] Kim, J., Aryee, L. M., Bang, H., Prajogo, S., Choi, Y. K., Hoch, J. S., & Prado, E. L. (2023). Effectiveness of Digital Mental Health Tools to Reduce Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Low-and Middle-Income Countries: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JMIR Mental Health10, e43066.

[5] Lewis, C., Roberts, N. P., Simon, N., Bethell, A., & Bisson, J. I. (2019). Internet‐delivered cognitive behavioural therapy for post‐traumatic stress disorder: Systematic review and meta‐analysis. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica140(6), 508-521.

[6] National Institute of Health (various citations available online).

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Ally-ship and Mental Health: https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/06/05/ally-ship-and-mental-health/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/06/05/ally-ship-and-mental-health/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2023 16:57:10 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=247 Strengthening Bonds in June, a Month of Celebration and Reflection
Image From the Independent (2023): https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/pride-flag-month-redesign-inclusive-b1863630.html

Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, June 2023

Pride Mom, Advocate, Educator, Mental Health Practitioner

In the spirit of June, a month dedicated to recognizing both Indigenous Peoples History and Pride, it is crucial to highlight the essential role ally-ship plays in fostering mental health and well-being in our homes, classrooms, and community, and conversely, how racism and discrimination are bad for our overall health. The lasting impact of both love and hate must be recognized in the conversation on mental health and human well-being as love (or care through allyship) can be taught, and it benefits us all!

Listening & Learning is the Place to Start, AND it Happens to be Good for Our Mental Health!

We cannot know the lived experience of anyone else. Therefore, it’s on all of us to openly listen to, respect, and support anyone in a community who may be compromised due to inequalities that exist in structures and systems. The month of June recognizes we have a lot to learn when it comes to ally-ship and so this month calls on all of us, but most importantly those who have privilege, to use their voices to uplift and empower those who may be less likely to be heard: “By thinking about our privileges and how those intersect with others, we can overcome some of the barriers to building community and prepare ourselves for living and working successfully in an increasingly diverse world.”[1]

Ally-ship goes beyond mere support; it is a commitment to understanding, advocating, and challenging systemic biases to create a more inclusive and accepting society. By engaging in allyship, individuals can contribute to bridging community relationships, thereby promoting mental well-being for all. I know from experience that “taking responsibility for our part in the experience of others can be uncomfortable, but it is also enlightening” (2021). A great place to start is by watching, participating in, or listening to happenings in our community and challenging our inherent assumptions, biases, and misunderstandings wherever we can. Regarding mental health and collective well-being, everything starts with us and our awareness.

Strengthening Bonds as a Protective Factor: How Awareness Breeds Care and Connection

June, designated as Indigenous Peoples History Month, invites us to reflect on the past, honour Indigenous cultures, and acknowledge the need for reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action[2], issued by the TRC of Canada, provide a roadmap for healing and building relationships with Indigenous communities. By familiarizing ourselves with these Calls to Action, we can gain insights into how to be better allies and, in doing so, foster mental well-being for both Indigenous peoples and the broader community.

Similarly, June is recognized globally as Pride Month, commemorating the LGBTQ+ community’s resilience and contributions to society. Ally-ship, in this context, involves actively supporting and advocating for the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals. It requires challenging heteronormative and cisgender biases while promoting inclusivity and understanding.

What’s Good for You is Good for Me

Engaging in acts of allyship can have profound positive effects on mental health and overall well-being[3]. Connection and care are key principles of ally-ship, not only contributing to the well-being of diverse groups but also benefiting allies themselves. A growing body of research suggests that acts of kindness, compassion, and anti-racism have a reciprocal relationship with mental health[4]. A study conducted at Stanford University found that engaging in acts of kindness activates the reward centers in the brain, leading to increased feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. Additionally, challenging biases and prejudices can lead to personal growth and a sense of purpose, which are essential for maintaining positive mental health.

Individuals who actively support stigmatized groups report higher levels of psychological well-being, increased life satisfaction, and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety: being an ally offers a sense of purpose, connectedness, and personal growth, vital components of mental health[5]. Conversely, discrimination is bad for our health, and real or perceived, much harm is done when, mentally, physically, socially, or emotionally, we feel othered or like we do not belong[6].

Ally-ship presents a unique opportunity to bridge communities, challenge biases, and create a more inclusive society. By embracing ally-ship principles during Indigenous Peoples History Month and Pride Month, individuals can contribute to the collective mental well-being of themselves and others. As you celebrate and reflect this month, embrace ally-ship, challenge biases, and work towards a society where kindness, listening, understanding, and acceptance are the cornerstones of our interactions.


[1] Intersectionality and Privilege. (Feb. 2021). University of Edinburgh. Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion. Accessed June 1st, 2023. https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity/students/intersectionality

[2] https://nctr.ca/about/history-of-the-trc/trc-website/

[3] CHANGING DIRECTIONS CHANGING LIVES The Mental Health Strategy for Canada: Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada. Calgary, AB: Author.

[4] Rostosky, S. S., Black, W. W., Riggle, E. D., & Rosenkrantz, D. (2015). Positive aspects of being a heterosexual ally to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry85(4), 331.

[5] Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan Iii, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont)4(5), 35.

[6] Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: a meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin135(4), 531.

To make a donation to support Indigenous Learning, Click here!

To talk all things ‘Ally-ship’, E-mail Judy: judy@prairieskyeduction.ca

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Reconciliation Awards: Tokenism or Real Reconciliation? https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/06/03/reconciliation-awards-tokenism-or-real-reconciliation/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/06/03/reconciliation-awards-tokenism-or-real-reconciliation/#respond Sat, 03 Jun 2023 19:28:04 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=241

Image Taken By Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk (Wanuskewin by Moonlight)

An Open Letter to The YWCA

Calls to Action as Non-Indigenous Canadians Regarding Awards Ceremonies and Categories

I am writing to express my deep concern for the recent decision to award two non-Indigenous women a reconciliation award instead of recognizing the significant contributions of Indigenous nominees who should be centred as leaders advancing reconciliation in our community. In the category of Reconciliation, at the Women of Distinction Awards Night in Saskatoon on May 25th, 2023, two Indigenous women leaders were nominated; however, they were not recognized as recipients of the award. This letter and call to action outline why this was a mistake in our Reconciliation efforts in Canada and in our community, and it comes with the hope of opening space for conversation and change. As an ally, I am sending this letter responding to a call into the conversation by Indigenous colleagues and friends.

As white Canadian leaders, it is our responsibility to respond to the Calls to Action by actively supporting and uplifting Indigenous voices, perspectives, and leadership. The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards have an important role in shaping public perception and recognizing individuals who embody the principles of reconciliation. By awarding non-Indigenous women the reconciliation award, it inadvertently perpetuates the marginalization and, further, erasure of Indigenous women leaders who have been at the forefront of this work for decades.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) defines reconciliation as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. The TRC specifically “provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Residential Schools system with an opportunity to share their stories and experiences”[1] – and be heard – as an important step in rebuilding (aka reconciling) the past. Canadian institutions, including the government, have committed to listening to Indigenous peoples and re-centring their voices in acts of healing. I personally feel that centring two non-Indigenous women leaders in this category does not respect or uphold the intent of this work of the TRC or its intended legacy, which attempts to heal through relationship, continued learning, and the celebration of Indigenous leaders, with an understanding of past wrong-doings. This mistake disrespects all Canadians (and perhaps most importantly, young Indigenous women leaders) and the process of Reconciliation – a process for which the award was named.

In response to this award to non-Indigenous women leaders, I urge conversation and action around this topic. Mistakes can be made in attempts at Truth and Reconciliation. Still, there should be action toward healing through reconsidering this award category and, by definition, reframing it and publicly explaining the potential for changes – demonstrating accountability.

When engaging with decolonization, recognizing our white identities as privileged and powerful and expanding our active, genuine role in engagement with Indigenous communities is essential.  As an ally to the Indigenous women leaders in our community, I am writing to ask for a public review and report of this awards category and the mistakes made this month in our community.  To recognize reconciliation as a category, where the goal was not to center Indigenous women leaders but instead put their work up against that in competition with non-Indigenous women leaders, was disingenuous, and it was a mistake reflecting a common settler discourse of innocence and ‘good intent’[2].

Tuck and Yang (2012), in an article I suggest starting with, help us to understand the power dynamic behind this work – especially when we get it wrong. They remind us that these attempts all too often “relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility” without actually giving power or privilege where it is due, and in actuality, people ‘act’ “without having to change much at all” p.10)[3].

Further, as an inherent aspect of identity, Indigenous peoples bear much of the weight of teaching non-Indigenous leaders and those willing to learn (and more so) unlearn/re-learn Canada’s history of colonization against Indigenous peoples. This burden is emotional labour and is disproportionate and, all too often, as displayed in your awards category (and subsequent calls to action), not honoured.

Mistakes that center non-Indigenous women in a category that exists because of the immense harm caused (cultural genocide) guarantee continued misuse of power, privilege, settler supremacy, and sovereignty in a time when reconciliation means specifically – that non-Indigenous Canadians must be held accountable, act, and listen.  The way to reconcile this mistake is by addressing it and the ongoing colonialist roots of dominance and oppression through well-intended but misguided work – and this is my call to act – for an organization claiming support of this work in Saskatoon. As a supporter of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, I find it imperative to address this matter immediately as it directly affects the progress we strive for in our community.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action were developed to guide Canada toward healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. These Calls to Action acknowledge historical injustices committed against Indigenous communities and provide a roadmap for achieving a more equitable and just society. Of relevance to this issue is Call to Action number 92, which calls upon the corporate sector and non-Indigenous leaders to commit to the principles of reconciliation and, in essence, to support Indigenous voices where in the past, this has not been acknowledged.

Indigenous women leaders are essential to the reconciliation process, as they bring unique knowledge, experience, and wisdom rooted in cultural heritage and deep connection to the people at the heart of this process. Recognizing and honouring their contributions not only acknowledges their resilience and leadership but also amplifies their voices and paves the way for a more inclusive and equitable society – one for which I am sure (at least I hope) we all want to strive towards.

I respectfully ask the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Committee to answer publicly a fundamental question in this work: What does reconciliation mean to you? If the response is thoughtful and beyond a token gesture, we will see a genuine commitment to healing, justice, and building meaningful relationships with Indigenous people and communities.

To ensure that the goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action are honoured, I propose the following steps for the YWCA to consider:

  1. Reviewing and Revising: Conduct a thorough review of the selection process and criteria for the reconciliation award, ensuring that it is aligned with the principles of reconciliation and recognizes the contributions of Indigenous women leaders.
  2. Engaging Indigenous People and Communities: Actively engage wholeheartedly with Indigenous communities and organizations to seek their input and guidance in the selection process, ensuring the representation and recognition of Indigenous women leaders – hearing many sides and perspectives before acting. I understand, through a publicly posted response, that Indigenous women were on the selection committee; however, in a society with unbalanced power and systemic racism guiding many of our policies and procedures, should a reconciliation committee not be enacted and wholly made up of Indigenous women? Or should awards that are based on criteria designed by non-Indigenous peoples be re-considered? Further is the process of ranking people outdated and colonial? These are all questions I ponder in our Colonial systems.
  3. Begin Cultural and Sensitivity and Humility Training and provide cultural sensitivity training to the Awards Committee members, staff, and volunteers to enhance their understanding of the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities to foster a more inclusive and equitable decision-making process. From the response letter posted on social media to one of the nominees, specifically – sensitivity, responsibility, and affirmative action were not respected.
  4. Model Transparent Communication: Clearly communicate the revised selection process and criteria to the public, highlighting the importance of recognizing and uplifting Indigenous women leaders in the reconciliation journey moving forward.


It is essential that we recognize that harm can be perpetuated when reconciliation efforts are misdirected and misguided. As noted, reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and for that to happen, “there must be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of harm, and action to change behaviour.”[4]

Failing to honour Indigenous women leaders through these awards not only undermines the principles of reconciliation but also perpetuates systemic inequalities and diminishes the contributions of those who have worked tirelessly for justice and healing. I urge the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Committee and their sponsors and supporters to consider rectifying this mistake by hosting open conversations and demonstrating a genuine commitment to engagement with Indigenous peoples, leaders, and communities.

Thank you,

Signed,

I live and work on the traditional territories of the Neyinowak Inniwak (Cree) and Metis peoples. cc: YWCA Saskatoon Women of Distinction Event Sponsors, Supports, and Affiliate Members


[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Government of Canada

[2] Osmond-Johnson, P., & Turner, P. (2020). Navigating the “ethical space” of truth and reconciliation: Non-Indigenous school principals in Saskatchewan. Curriculum Inquiry50(1), 54-77.

[3] Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2021). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Tabula Rasa, (38), 61-111.

[4] From “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015), at 6-7.

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Social Media and the Impact on Our Mental Health https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/05/04/social-media-and-the-impact-on-our-mental-health/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/05/04/social-media-and-the-impact-on-our-mental-health/#respond Thu, 04 May 2023 22:00:06 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=218

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. From scrolling through Instagram feeds and Snapchat to following Twitter timelines, we spend countless hours consuming and producing content on these platforms. While social media has undoubtedly brought people closer together, and made it easier to connect with others, there is growing concern about the impact it is having on our mental health.

Almost none of us are immune to the detrimental impact social media can have on us as individuals or within our families. According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Pediatric Society, 87% of Canadian teens use social media daily. Even more recently, The New York Times reported research that shows that “nearly all American teenagers engage with their peers through social media, with 97 percent going online every day and 46 percent reporting that they are online almost constantly.” (Spring, 2023).

According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association – more than half of adults recognize that social media has a negative effect on their (and others) mental health. Studies have found that excessive social media use is linked to increased levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness; further, research shows that social media use is associated with decreased self-esteem and a higher risk of developing body image issues, among other concerns.

This is something worth addressing.

One of the main culprits behind these negative effects are the unrealistic standards and ideals that are perpetuated on social media. People often curate and present the best versions of themselves online, leading to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in those who compare themselves to these unrealistic standards; this is particularly true when it comes to body image, with social media being linked to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and a higher risk of developing eating disorders in children and youth of all ages and genders.

Another issue can be the constant exposure to negative news and information. Social media algorithms prioritize sensational or emotionally charged content, leading to a barrage of negative news stories and divisive political content for willing consumers. When consuming visual media takes up much of our ‘downtime’ this can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It’s imperative, we begin to get out of our heads (aka media) and into situations that build connection and care.

If the above-noted statistics weren’t enough, researchers have also begun to examine the impact of social media on the adolescent brain. Studies show that excessive social media use can lead to changes in brain structure and even function, particularly in areas related to reward processing and impulse control (APA, 2022). Furthermore, social media addiction has been linked to a range of negative outcomes, including decreased academic performance, and as alluded, social isolation. As educators, we are seeing the impacts of this in our schools and classrooms with almost all disorders of the mind on the rise.

So, what can we do about the negative effects of social media on our mental health?

One solution is to set limits on our social media use and replace screen time with other healthy and fulfilling activities. Research shows that people who limit their social media use to 30 minutes per day experience significant improvements in their well-being[1]. We can also make a conscious effort to consume more positive and uplifting content and unfollow accounts that make us feel bad about ourselves.

Another solution is to spend more time connecting with ourselves, others, and nature. Studies have found that spending time in nature decreases levels of stress and increases levels of happiness and well-being[2]. Similarly, social support from friends and family has been shown to have a protective effect on our mental health. The more time we spend with others and outdoors the more protected we are from the detrimental impacts of social media use.

Here are my suggestions for things we can all do to lower our dependence on the device!

  1. Talk: put the phones away when you are in the presence of people.
  2. Walk: leave the device at home and wander, alone or with a friend.
  3. Notice: notice the world around you. Look up. If people in your spaces are on their devices instead of connecting to each other – initiate conversation, a game, or even eye contact – smile at one other often.

Lastly, one fool proof way to move from device focused to detached is to look for experiences of awe: “Awe changes your sense of who you are. You start to realize, I’m not a separate person, I’m connected to all these people. If you’re looking for change, it’s a good emotion to seek.” (Dacher Keltner, Awe, 2023).

My challenge to you this week is to experience awe at least once a day if you can. If you can’t find it close by head outside! It’s spring and awe is everywhere! 😊

[1] Hunt, M. G., Marx, R., Lipson, C., & Young, J. (2018). No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37(10), 751-768.

[2] https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

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Gaining Access to Our Power: Moods and the Mind https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/04/05/gaining-access-to-our-power-moods-and-the-mind/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/04/05/gaining-access-to-our-power-moods-and-the-mind/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2023 21:43:00 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=213 “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~ Viktor Frankl ~

The Will to Meaning & Yes to Life

Did you know that we think, feel, and act, based on an order of operations?

If you’ve ever learned anything about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), then this will sound familiar. CBT and other therapies can offer strategies that help us to realize our power, and understand how the brain, mind, and body work to protect us and connect us, as a means of survival. We can harness the power of these therapies when navigating the ups and downs of life, i.e., experiences, feelings, emotions, and moods; and we can learn to slow down and observe these things, versus immediately reacting to them.

NOTE: As an aside, if you are experiencing overwhelming grief, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or other powerful emotions, these strategies can still be helpful, however, seeking professional help may be an essential aspect of your healing. It is not always easy to do these things on our own. Knowing where our power lies, and that we do have some choice in regards to our well-being and states of health, may only be the beginning of a longer healing journey for some.

My Mood, My Choice . . . Really?

It’s hard to imagine, but at any given time, you and I are only one thought away from a good mood. Yet, we can all too often find ourselves locked in debilitating battles with our emotions. How can this contradiction be? Well, it is because we can hang on to negative emotions giving them increased power; and though not always purposefully, we can embody our emotions without even thinking.

Our emotions have a fast and furious job, they mean to protect us from harm or connect us to help, and we are meant to grow forward. Emotions are information, and they usually only last a few moments, moving us to act. Sometimes what happens, however, is our thoughts trap emotions, and instead of moving on (like clouds in the sky), they stay and become a fog of a bad mood – or worse, an illness or disorder. However, moods, rooted in lingering emotions, can be mitigated with reflection, help, and time to think about how we feel. Thinking is where we can harness our power and our ability to choose how we respond to big emotions. Calming the brain, mind, and body in this manner can impact our lives drastically.

Responding to emotions without embodying them requires the use of some tools. These tools can help us to rationalize emotions and think through our actions. The process of figuring out how to slow things down, and to cope with and manage emotions, can be hard, but it’s not impossible. In my own experience, this work is completely worth it, as we can save ourselves a great deal of pain – when we put our minds to it!

Here’s how it works: usually we are going about our day, when an event happens. If the event is not obviously safe, expected, or joyful, we can respond with a powerful protective emotional trigger: fight-flight-freeze is typical. I always tell people, these automatic neuro-chemical responses translate into the emotions of mad-sad-scared, and if they stick around, they can become anger, anxiety, or depression. I suffer from anxiety, so, from time to time, I am forced to use CBT type tools to access my critical thinking and decision-making skills and change my thoughts to change my life, literally! Once an emotion (for me a fear) passes, and I am back on-line, aka out of the emotion, I reach for different more tender emotions to help me connect, ground myself, and be well. Knowing about and accessing the inner resources of my own mind helps me to gain my power back. These tools have been an essential aspect of my own well-being and healing.

CBT tools remind me: I am experiencing an emotion; I am not the emotion itself.

Some of the tools that have worked for me are as follows:

1) being mindful and present when in an emotion;

2) observing the emotion versus embodying it;

3) allowing myself to experience the emotion as a wave or a cloud (it comes and goes);

4) paying attention to the physical elements of the emotion, and noticing how these elements (a racing heart, sweating,  nervousness, heaviness, pain in my gut, etc.) come and go; and

5) reminding myself, I am not my emotions – I am so much more.

One of the most common misconceptions about emotions and moods, is that we have little or no power over how we feel, and thus no choice in the matter either. For the most part, this simply isn’t true. Knowledge helps, and that’s why CBT type tools are full of psycho-educational components that help to teach us that we do not have to be a victim to our emotions. I wasn’t always good at this; however, therapy, proper sleep, healthy nutritious foods, movement, time in the sun, downtime, and quality time with pets or people all help to pull me out of the depths of despair. For some, medications, and other on-going therapeutic interventions and groups, can help as well.

The bottom-line, with any healing or health related strategy, is to understand emotions and experience them as they occur, but avoid acting on them, or judging them in a particular moment. Observing emotions allows for the much-needed space to think, and thinking makes choosing our response to emotions a heck of a lot easier. When we slow things down, we reduce an emotions intensity and power, and they do not have to settle in and become a mood or a state of continually being.

Reminders:

  • Emotions are floods of sensation aimed to protect us from harm and connect us to safety. Emotions play a very important role in our lives – they are key to our survival.
  • Emotions don’t have to have all the power – we are not our emotions and when calm we can make decisions to cope with and manage life.
  • We don’t want to push our emotions away, or hold them too close; it’s kind of like a goldilocks principle – that which we resist, persists – and yet, if we get too close to the fire, we can burn.
  • Think of emotions as information: they give us knowledge about our experiences of an event – but that’s it – we don’t have to become our emotions: welcome emotions, allow and honour the experience of them, and then, be ok letting them go.
  • If we don’t want to let go of an emotion – that’s ok too. The important thing is recognizing we have this choice. The emotion might be sticking around to communicate something important, either to us or others –  we can choose to honour emotions and choose to let them go when ready.
  • We can also focus on the positives: what did we learn from the emotion, the experience, or our reaction? How did we grow from this? What did it teach us? Etc. Each adverse situation we face and overcome builds strength and resilience.

If you are struggling with your mental health alone, The Canadian Mental Health Association offers free online and local support groups for a variety of needs; these groups can be found here: https://cmhasaskatoon.ca/programs/support-groups/

You may also contact judy@prairieskyeducation.ca for direction to supports, resources, a consultation, or a referral.

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Bullying & Mental Health https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/03/04/bullying-mental-health/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/03/04/bullying-mental-health/#respond Sat, 04 Mar 2023 22:29:49 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=207 Bullying is associated with many mental health problems, including eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, and depression. Victims are also more likely to have low self-esteem and suffer from issues with confidence and conflict management. In addition, childhood bullies are likely to repeat their bullying behavior as adults, landing themselves in anything from legal trouble to relational issues and conflicts at work. Bullying is a lose-lose for all involved and it is up to parents, schools, and communities to act in ways that put a stop to behaviours that cause emotional, mental, and physical harm.

One movement, celebrated around the world recently, was Pink Shirt Day, which was celebrated in many communities on Wednesday, Feb. 22, this year. Those interested in highlighting the issue of bullying wore pink shirts, encouraging kindness and standing up against bullying. Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia (2007), as a result of two teens who were committed to ending the problem of bullying by wearing and distributing pink shirts after seeing a peer being bullied for wearing pink. Today, over 1.1 million Canadian school children are bullied at least once every week[1]; movements like this, however, show the power of taking a stand in a positive direction!

An Issue Worth Standing Up To

Bullying among children and youth is defined as repeated, unwanted, aggressive behaviour(s) by a youth or group of youths: it involves observed or perceived power imbalances and can result in physical, social, or educational harm or distress[2].  In 2018, a large Canadian sample of youth in grades 6 to 10 were asked if they had been involved in bullying and 20% reported having been bullied. Recently, according to another study through Public Safety Canada, one third of teenagers noted having been bullied[3]; and observational research of elementary school children shows that bullying incidents occur every 7 minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in a classroom[4].

The good news, however, is that identifying bullies and victims, raising awareness, talking about the issue, and increasing supervision in known locations for bullying can help tremendously. Parents and teachers can help by talking about the potential for bullying behaviour and by unpacking issues and concerns calmly and proactively. Bullying is anti-social behaviour and it can be targeted in schools and homes by helping children develop better empathy and care for each other. If bullying is addressed and faced with conversation and connection, and not ignored, it helps to develop the understanding that bullying will not be tolerated, and these conversations go a long way in supporting victims. Groups for both bullies and the bullied can help also. Through awareness and programming, it has been proven that bullying can be reduced.

Steps to Take

1. Talk to kids openly: let kids know they can trust you and they shouldn’t deal with bullying alone.

2. Teach kindness and empathy skills directly: practice conflict resolution, working through problems, and building understanding of others.

3. Create opportunities for connection: a sense of community lowers bullying incidents and facilitates healing for those targeted.

4. Teach kids to speak up when they witness bullying behavior: taking a stand against bullying can reduce future bullying situations by more than 50 percent.

5. Use books and creative resources: hold discussions on bullying and its impact, often.

To learn more, you can follow Dr. Judy on Instagram @drjudyjaunzemsfernuk or reach out to her to discuss the impact of bullying and ways to solve bullying issues appropriately and healthfully.  Judy can be reached best through e-mail: judy@prairieskyeducation.ca


[1] https://www.prevnet.ca/bullying/educators

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying_factsheet.pdf.

[3] https://www.safecanada.ca/bullying-in-canada/

[4] Craig, W. & Pepler, D. (1997).  Observations of bullying and victimization in the schoolyard. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 2, 41-60. 

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Mental Health: Is the Crisis Real? https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/02/03/mental-health-is-the-crisis-real/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/02/03/mental-health-is-the-crisis-real/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2023 14:41:28 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=204 The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health Canada states[1]: the world is in the grips of a mental health crisis, also noting however, that knowing the facts is the first step on the way to creating new hope.


Let’s talk about it!

First, some statistics[1]:

  • 75% of children with mental disorders do not have access to specialized treatment services;
  • Youth aged 15 – 24 are highly vulnerable;
  • In a 2019 survey of working Canadians[1], 75% of respondents said they would be reluctant – or would refuse – to disclose a mental illness to an employer or co-worker. The top reasons for this reluctance were: the belief that there is stigma around mental illness, not wanting to be treated differently or judged, and being afraid of negative consequences, such as losing one’s job.

One of the most interesting facts about these last few statements, is that, 76% of respondents to the same survey stated that they themselves would be completely comfortable with and supportive of a colleague with a mental illness.

Here-in Lies the Hope!

With just a wee bit of awareness around some of the aforementioned facts, we can learn to shift our thinking, from thoughts focused on problems, to being more focused on problem solving. As humans, we are excellent navigators of problems and adept at solving them when we have the tools to do so. Here are a few tools to shift your focus away from the crisis and into your power.

Change Directions Change Lives

Change Directions Change Lives was the slogan for one of the first collective mental health campaigns[1] in Canada, in 2012; and since that time, despite a global pandemic, not much has changed. Some statistics for mental health have risen, some fallen, and the rollercoaster of risk versus resilience factors continues. The fact remains, if we succumb to overwhelm at the thought of crisis, we can remain stuck, so let’s change directions.

There are four key factors to our overall health that shake out, in this order, no matter the study or year; they are, 1) relationships, 2) environment, 3) resources, and 4) biology.

The good news about these factors is that we have a lot of control over a couple of them. Here are some things everyone can do in the wake of the mental health crisis to make a big difference for the mental health of everyone in our community!

  • Share your struggles: being open about challenges decreases stigma.
  • Communicate your openness to diversity, difference, and need: many mental health issues stem from being ‘othered’ or feeling isolated and alone.
  • Help to normalize that we ALL have mental health: we can have a mental illness diagnosis, or not, however, mental wellness is not contingent on this: i.e., just because I have anxiety, doesn’t mean I am ill. There is much I can do to maintain wellness despite a diagnosis. 
  • Use therapeutic strategies at home, in schools, at work, and in the community: this is a key piece, as we can get caught in the myth that therapy only happens in the therapist’s office. Therapeutic connections can happen in brief moments all throughout the day. Renowned trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry reminds us that these interactions are called ‘therapeutic dosing’[1] and they happen all day long if we make space for them.
    • Smile at people;
    • Be patient and kind;
    • Practice self-care, so you are strong for your people;
    • Name and regulate your big emotions (calm the nervous-system) and model and teach this to kids;
    • Be ok with mistakes and imperfections – failure, problems, adversity – can teach and strengthen us.

To learn more daily, you can follow Dr. Judy on Instagram @drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.

Resources Informing this Blog are Listed Below:

[1] https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real


[1] Winfrey, O., & Perry, B. (2021). What happened to you?: Conversations on trauma, resilience, and healing.


[1] Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada.


[1] Ipsos (2019). Mental illnesses increasingly recognized as disability, but stigma persists. Retrieved from https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/news-polls/mental-illness-increasingly-recognized-as-disability


[1] https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics

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Mental Health – It’s Not What You Think. https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/01/12/mental-health-its-not-what-you-think/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2023/01/12/mental-health-its-not-what-you-think/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2023 21:30:37 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=197 Breaking the Stigma Around What it Means to Be Human

Have you ever heard someone talk about mental health and thought, “that has nothing to do with me”? At one time or another, I certainly have, especially when I had little understanding, or big misunderstandings, around what those two important words mean.

The fact is, the term mental health can have a bad rap, and we often link the term with other words, such as crisis or illness, which can further instill fear and even carry stigma. In this column, I’ll invite you to shift your perspective on mental health, and even your understanding of the term, to something you can and should embrace. Thinking about and attending to our mental health (and that of those we care about), supports overall well-being. Giving mental health space in a conversation can decrease the stigma that is often attached to it, and in-fact, this attention can teach us a lot, if we’re willing to dive in.

For starters, I view mental health on a continuum from illness to wellness, and regardless of whether or not a person has a diagnosis of a mental illness, or a related disorder, one can have good or bad mental health. The first piece in breaking the stigma is understanding that we all have mental health, and next, it is in knowing that at any given time we can fall ill or work to become well. Our mental health is always in flux and it changes over time with our knowledge, skills, and even attitudes towards it.

I’ll share a personal example to frame this for us.  I struggle with anxiety, and there have been times in my life where my anxiety was in complete control. Despite feeling well in many other areas of my life, I felt powerless to this beast that seemed to just stop me in my tracks: getting on elevators, being on airplanes, or gathering in tight spaces with lots of people could grind me to a halt. Even doing something I love to do today, speaking in front of a room full eager listeners, could completely overwhelm me. I would find myself flooded with emotions and thought stopping fears.

When I was first diagnosed with anxiety, I denied it. I certainly would not have told even the people closest to me that battling with anxiety was a daily struggle, until I learned that ignoring it, masking it, and fighting it constantly behind closed doors was giving it more power. You see, many of the issues we have to cope and manage with – especially when it comes to things like anxiety, depression, addictions, among other mental illnesses – gain power when we hide from them.

Once I invited my anxiety to take a seat in the room, and I faced it head on (pun intended), I was able to converse with it and allow it to hold space in therapy sessions and discussions with friends and family. Over time, I found my anxiety’s power diminished. Our struggles prefer to isolate us – and it’s when they get us alone that their power can feel impossible to overcome. Perspective is imperative to overcoming mental challenges and our own perspective, though key, is often not enough to help us conquer difficult emotions or tasks. 

Since facing anxiety head on, I have learned and honed many skills and practices that have helped me to manage stress and alleviate most of the symptoms of anxiety; which still creep in from time to time. What facing, and talking about, my fears has also allowed me to do is move from a level of dysfunction to function when it comes to anxiety’s power. This ability was inside me the whole time, however, it took time and attention to grow into a skill I can call upon in a crisis today. I would also argue these skills are inside most, if not all,  of us – and if you’re struggling and decide to reach out for help – you might find them inside of you as well. Often times, coping with and managing illness, suffering, and struggle, is just a matter of learning, honing, and practicing skills; including honouring the power of sitting with struggle, and meeting our fears where they are.

I have had my anxiety under my control for many years now, and even though it will always be a part of me, it’s a part I embrace today. I have learned to thank anxiety for keeping me on my toes, pushing me out of my comfort zone, and allowing me to build skills that I now get to use to help others who find themselves at the suffering end of what can feel like debilitating emotions.

Today, I remind everyone, if you’re human you have mental health and working with our mental health, as opposed to fighting against it, can be a remarkable lifelong journey. The problem is, stigma can keep many from doing this and ill health prevails – causing many of us to suffer. If we rely on statistics for any reassurance of this fact, you may find it interesting to know that today, close to one in four humans struggles with a diagnosable mental illness, and, by the time we reach forty – 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness. In reality, every-single-human on the planet could face challenges regarding their mental well-being at some point in their lifetime; and so I ask, what could we learn from embracing these facts and befriending our mental health? I would also ask, what can facing these statistics,[1] instead of running from them, teach us?

Well for starters, if we take them seriously, they can help to eliminate stigma, which – 1) prevents 70% of people globally from seeking help for their mental health; and, 2) is the reason 40% of parents admit they wouldn’t tell anyone, including a family doctor, if their child were experiencing a mental health problem[2]. Stigma is also likely behind the reason nearly half of respondents to a 2016 survey agreed they have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression, yet never sought medical help for it. I wonder now, three years after the onset of a global pandemic, if it’s getting any better?

Despite all of that news, there is actually a ton of hope in these numbers, because they normalize the fact that life is incredibly hard – and – many of us are afraid to face that. Not feeling alone is key to coping and managing, so how do we change this?

I feel the key to changing the bleakness of mental health challenges is to learn that we actually have a lot of power over our ability to cope, manage, and even heal our mental health: we just can’t always go it alone. It can, and often does, take a village, and that’s the great thing about breaking the stigma – we come out from behind the curtain (think the wizard of Oz) and there’s actually a lot we all have in common. Honouring our pain gives us access to the village, which has always been right there, however, due to fear, or the ever-present stigma we attach to our own mental health (shame, fear, and even guilt), we can be prevented from just reaching out.

Our individual and combined healing boils down to a collective understanding and relationship to some of the facts around mental health. If we are open to gaining skills, using tools, and learning and talking about our feelings, then our ability to cope with and manage stress increases, as does our understanding of, and connection to, our emotions; which can be bossy, but not impossible to manage!

If you, or someone you love are struggling there are many places to reach out to, some of which I have listed below. If you would like to chat further or follow my own journey in continued education, counselling, and informing our community through coaching and consulting on this topic, join me on one of my many platforms where I work to break stigma and humanize the conversation around mental well-being. I can be found, most accessibly, on Instagram @drjudyjaunzemsfernuk; or you can read more formalized works and find out about services and supports on my main websites:  www.drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com and www.prairieskyeducation.ca.

For now, be well, take care of each other, and above all, know that you’re not alone!

We all have mental health. 😊

Crisis Suicide Helpline 306-525-5333

Kid’s Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

Saskatoon Community Mental Health and Addiction Services Intake Line 306-655-7777

Dr. Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, RTC, MTC is an educator and mental health practitioner in Saskatoon and surrounding area. She teaches and conducts research at the University of Saskatchewan, and runs a private practice where she offers counselling, coaching, and consulting around all things mental health. Judy can be contacted for inquiries about individual mental health services or supports for groups, schools, community organizations, and businesses through the following:

E-mail judy@prairieskyeducation.ca

Phone or Text: 306-986-2663


[1] Fact about mental health and mental well-being from the Canadian Mental Health Association, 2023

[2] Statistics from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2019

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Judy’s Book Recommendations & Themes for Mental Health Literature https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2022/12/08/judys-book-recommendations-themes-for-mental-health-literature/ https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/2022/12/08/judys-book-recommendations-themes-for-mental-health-literature/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2022 19:37:50 +0000 https://drjudyjaunzemsfernuk.com/?p=172

The following book selections cover both the art and the science of the human mind and experience. The Human Curriculum™ is dependent on personal connections and understandings of topics related to the vast disciplines that cover mental health and well-being topics. Some texts speak to more of a science perspective and less positive psychology (or vice versa); others speak to historical, cultural, or analytical perspectives. Choose texts that help develop your knowledge, skills, and attitudes personally or professionally – or both!

Whether you wish to learn from an artistic, cultural, scientific, creative, or analytical perspective is up to you. Some books offer a variety of perspectives. What matters most is that you find meaning in your literature choices and they offer you an opportunity to grow in any manner that is meaningful for where you are at today.

These books form the basis for Heuristic Self-Inquiry and Transformative-Inquiry. Two processes at the root of many of my courses. To read more on these topics see the following resources:

  1. Heuristic Inquiry: Sultan, N. (2019). What is heuristic inquiry anyway?. In Heuristic inquiry: Researching human experience holistically (n.p.). Sage Publications, 2019.
  2. Transformative Inquiry: Michele T.D. Tanaka Ph.D.; http://transformativeinquiry.ca/downloads/ (eBook available online)

Stress & Burnout

Harris, D. (2014). 10% happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works -a true story. Hachette UK.

Maté, G. (2011). When the body says no: The cost of hidden stress. Vintage Canada.

Nagoski, E., & Amelia Nagoski, D. M. A. (2020). Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle. Ballantine Books.

Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss

Amen, D. G. (2015). Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Revised and Expanded): The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems. Harmony.

Brewer, J. (2021). Unwinding Anxiety: New science shows how to break the cycles of worry and fear to heal your mind. Avery.

Cain, S. (2022). Bittersweet: How sorrow and longing make us whole. Penguin, Random House.

Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. Penguin.

Moustakas, C. E. (1961; 2016). Loneliness. Pickle Partners Publishing.

Kalanithi, P. (2016). When breath becomes air. Random House.

Lyons, L., & Wilson, R. (2013). Anxious kids, anxious parents: 7 ways to stop the worry cycle and raise courageous and independent children. Health Communications, Inc.

May, R. (1967). The meaning of anxiety. Psychosomatic Medicine.

Solomon, A. (2014). The noonday demon: An atlas of depression. Simon and Schuster.

Wilson, R., & Lyons, L. (2013). Anxious kids, anxious parents: 7 ways to stop the worry cycle and raise courageous and independent children. Health Communications, Inc.

Diverse & Culturally Relevant Health / Healing Perspectives / Belonging & Self Reflection (BIPOC Perspectives)

Archibald, J. (2008). Indigenous storywork: Educating the heart, mind, body, and spirit. Vancouver: UBC Press

Brendtro, L. K., Brokenleg, M., & Van Bockern, S. (2019). Reclaiming youth at risk: Futures of promise. Solution Tree.

Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Random House.

Burke, T., & Brown, B. (Eds.). (2021). You are your best Thing: Vulnerability, shame resilience, and the black experience. Random House.

Foo, S. (2022). What my bones know: A memoir of healing from complex trauma. Ballantine Books.

Kimmerer, R. W. (2015). Braiding sweetgrass. Milkweed Editions.

Phillips, A. (2023). The Garden Within: Where the War with Your Emotions Ends and Your Most Powerful Life Begins. Nelson Books (Thomas Nelson), HarperCollins Christian Publishing Inc.

Singh, A. A. (2018). The queer and transgender resilience workbook: Skills for navigating sexual orientation and gender expression. New Harbinger Publications.

Singh, A. A. (2019). The racial healing handbook: Practical activities to help you challenge privilege, confront systemic racism, and engage in collective healing. New Harbinger Publications.

Wagamese, R. (2016). Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations. D & M Publishers.

Walrond, K. (2021). The lightmaker’s manifesto: How to work for change without losing your joy. Broadleaf Books.

Yeager, C. (2022). How am I doing? 40 conversations to have with yourself. Harper Celebrate. HarperCollinsFocus LLC.

Understanding or Healing Emotions / Trauma

Brown, B. (2021). Atlas of the heart: Mapping meaningful connection and the language of human experience. Random House.

Chodron, P. (2016). When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times. Shambhala Publications.

David, S. (2016). Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. Penguin.

Eger, E. E. (2020). The gift: 12 lessons to save your life. Scribner.

Goleman, D. (Ed.). (2003). Healing emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on mindfulness, emotions, and health. Shambhala Publications.

Perry, B. & Szalavitz, M. (2017). The boy who was raised as a dog: And other stories from a child psychiatrist’s notebook–What traumatized children can teach us about loss, love, and healing. Basic Books.

Perry, B. D., & Szalavitz, M. (2011). Born for love: Why empathy is essential–And endangered. William Morrow Paperbacks.

Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D. S. (2018). Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. Cambridge University Press.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.

Winfrey, O., & Perry, B. D. (2021). What happened to you?: Conversations on trauma, resilience, and healing. Flatiron Books.

Mindfulness, Mindset, Meaning

Chopra, D. (2019). Metahuman: Unleashing your infinite potential. Harmony.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

Easter, M. (2021). The comfort crisis: embrace discomfort to reclaim your wild, happy, healthy self. Rodale Books.

Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. Simon and Schuster.

Forrest, L. (2011). Guiding Principles for Life Beyond Victim Consciousness. Edited by E. Meagher. Conscious Living media.

Goldstein, J. (2013). Mindfulness: A practical guide to awakening. Sounds True.

Hayes, S. C. (2005). Get out of your mind and into your life: The new acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

Hoff, B. (1982). The tao of pooh (p. 1). New York: Penguin Books.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018). Meditation is not what you think: Mindfulness and why it is so important. Hachette UK.

Macdonald, M., & Shirley, D. (2009). The Mindful Teacher. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. Hachette UK. AND Neff, K., & Germer, C. (2018). The mindful self-compassion workbook: A proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive. Guilford Publications.

Palmer, P. (2004). A hidden wholeness: The journey toward an undivided life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Siegel, D. (2020). Aware: The science and practice of presence–the groundbreaking meditation practice. Penguin.

Tolle, E. (2006). A new earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose. Penguin Life.

Positive Psychology

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Greene, J. D., & Seligman, M. E. (Eds.). (2016). Positive neuroscience. Oxford University Press.

Hanson, R. (2016). Hardwiring happiness: The new brain science of contentment, calm, and confidence. Harmony.

Hanson, R., & Hanson, F. (2020). Resilient: How to grow an unshakable core of calm, strength, and happiness. Harmony.

Horowitz, D. (2017). Happier?: The history of a cultural movement that aspired to transform America. Oxford University Press.

Kashdan, T. B., & Ciarrochi, J. V. (Eds.). (2013). Mindfulness, acceptance, and positive psychology: The sevenfoundations of well-being. New Harbinger Publications.

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.

Understanding Neuro-diversity (ADHD, ASD, HSP) & The Brain

Amen, D. G. (2020). The End of Mental Illness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Dana, D. (2021). Anchored: How to befriend your nervous system using polyvagal theory. Sounds True.

Daniel, K. (2017). Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

Maté, G. (2017). Scattered minds: The origins and healing of attention deficit disorder. Random House.

Maté, G. (2022). The myth of normal: Trauma, illness and healing in a toxic culture. Random House.

Nerenberg, J. (2020). Divergent mind: Thriving in a world that wasn’t designed for you. HarperOne.

Siegel, D. (2015). Brainstorm: The power and purpose of the teenage brain (Illustrated ed.). Penguin Publishing Group.

Siegel, D. (2020). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. Guilford Publications.

Ratey, J. (2013). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Little, Brown Spark.

Mentorship & Management

Brendtro, L. K., Brokenleg, M., & Van Bockern, S. (2019). Reclaiming youth at risk: Futures of promise. Solution Tree.

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. Random House.

Glasser, W. (1986). Control theory in the classroom. Perennial Library/Harper & Row Publishers.

Gossen, D. (1998). Restitution: Restructuring School Discipline. educational HORIZONS76(4), 182-88.

Gossen, D. (2004). It’s All About We: Rethinking Discipline Using Restitution. Chelsom Consultant Ltd.

Weinhold, B. K., & Weinhold, J. B. (2014). How to break free of the drama triangle and victim consciousness. CICRCL Press.

Nature – Nurture

Haupt, L. L. (2021). Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit. Hachette UK.

Keltner, D. (2023). Awe: the new science of everyday wonder and how it can transform your life. Penguin Press NY.

Kimmerer, R. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Milkweed editions.

Kimmerer, R. W., & Smith, M. G. (2022). Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Zest Books TM.

Li, Q. (2018). Forest bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness. Penguin.

Other Resources/Articles For Informing Mental Health & Education

Andrews, A., McCabe, M., & Wideman-Johnston, T. (2014). Mental health issues in the schools: are educators prepared? The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, 9(4), 261-272

Bailey, A., Ciarrochi, J., & Hayes, L. (2012). Get out of your mind and into your life for teens: A guide to living an extraordinary life. New Harbinger Publications.

Bandura, A., & Watts, R. E. (1996). Self-efficacy in changing societies. Cambridge University Press.

Bopp, J., Bopp, M., Brown, L., & Lane, P., Jr. (1985). The sacred tree. (2nd ed.). Lethbridge, AB: Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development.

Borba, M. (2021). Thrivers: The surprising reasons why some kids struggle and others shine. Penguin Group USA.

Buron, K. D. (2006). When my worries get too big. National Autistic Society.

Comprehensive School Community Health: http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/85649-2199-12F-2014%20CSCH%202%20pager%202014_en.pdf

D’Emidio-Caston, M. (2019). Addressing social, emotional development, and resilience at the heart of teacher education.

Teacher Education Quarterly, 46(4), 116-149.

Edmonton Catholic Schools. (2018). Focus on self-regulation. Edmonton, AB: A Genesis Publication.

Huebner, D. (2017). What to do when you worry too much: A kids guide to overcoming anxiety. Magination Press. American Psycholgical Foundation

Huebner, D. (2017). Outsmarting Worry: An Older Kid’s Guide to Managing Anxiety. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Jennings, P. A. (2015). Mindfulness for teachers: Simple skills for peace and productivity in the classroom (the Norton series on the social neuroscience of education). WW Norton & Company.

Katz, J. (2018). Ensouling our schools: A universally designed framework for mental health, well-being, and reconciliation. Portage & Main Press.

Ludwig, T. (2013). The invisible boy. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Lyons, L., & Wilson, R. (2013). Anxious kids, anxious parents: 7 ways to stop the worry cycle and raise courageous and independent children. Health Communications, Inc.

Natterson-Horowitz, B., & Bowers, K. (2020). Wildhood: the astounding connections between human and animal adolescents. Scribner.

Rothì, D. M., Leavey, G., & Best, R. (2008). On the front-line: Teachers as active observers of pupils’ mental health. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(5), 1217-1231.

Saha, L. J., & Dworkin, A. G. (Eds.). (2009). International handbook of research on teachers and teaching (Vol. 21). Springer Science & Business Media.

Schraw, G. (1998). Promoting general metacognitive awareness. Instructional Science, 26(1-2), 113-125.

Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Is everyone really equal?: An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. Teachers College Press.

Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind (Illustrated ed.). Bantam.

Siegel, D. J. (2015). Brainstorm: The power and purpose of the teenage brain. Penguin.

Steinberg, L. D. (2014). Age of opportunity: Lessons from the new science of adolescence. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Steele, W. (2017). Optimizing learning outcomes: Proven brain-centric, trauma-sensitive practices. Taylor & Francis.

Tummers, N. (2011). Teaching stress management. Human Kinetics.

Ubbes, V. (2008). Educating for health: An inquiry-based approach to pre-K-8 pedagogy. Human Kinetics.

World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/

Zachary, H. (2017, February 14). Flourish by design: To develop students’ well-being, teachers have to think about their own. Here’s how.Harvard Graduate School of Education: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/ideas/17/02/flourish-design

My Go to Podcasts Informing Mental Health & Well-being Education

1. 10% Happier, Dan Harris (all topics of mindfulness and meditation)
2. Unlocking Us: Brene Brown (All topics of the heart / emotions)
3. Being Well Podcast: Rick and Forrest Hanson: All topics of wellbeing
4. We can Do Hard Things: Glennon Doyle (LGBTQ, Grief, Trauma, Parenting)
5. Oprah Super Soul (Oprah Winfrey (all topics of grief, loss, happiness, hope)
6. Daily Breath: Deepak Chopra; Infinite Potential (Deepak Chopra)
7. Sick Boy Podcast: Breaking Stigma around illness
8. Esther Perel: Where Do We Begin? (Topics of trauma, how narratives shape our
worldview, and accepting uncomfortable emotions)

9. The Trauma Informed Lawyer: Myrna McCallum

10. All My Relations Podcast: Matika Wilbur, & Dr. Adrienne Keene

11. Hidden Brain: Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal
the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour

12. The Metta Hour Podcast: Sharon Salzberg brings Buddhist wisdom to
everyday life in a practical, common sense vernacular.

13. The Secret Life of Canada: Leah-Simon Bowen and Falen Johnson explore
the unauthorized history of a complicated country. 

14. On Purpose with Jay Shetty

15. Happier with Gretchen Rubin

*Not an exhaustive list – updated periodically

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