16 August 2019
The Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria (ARCVic) is a state-wide, specialist mental health organisation, providing support, recovery and educational services to people and families living with anxiety disorders. ARCVic aims to support and equip people with knowledge and skills that will build resilience and recovery and reduce the impact of anxiety disorders.
This week the MHC family have provided a brief overview of OCD and anxiety disorders. Would you like to become a member of the ARCVic? This organisation represents the needs and experiences of people and families affected by anxiety disorders to the community, professionals, health and mental health services, academic researchers, the government and media. ARCVic provides essential support, information, education and recovery services for people living with anxiety disorders.
ARCVic is committed to providing information to those most in need at the lowest cost possible and in some instances the seminars are free. ARCVic provides short term, skills based group therapy programs for people with anxiety disorders. Their Support Groups provide an opportunity for people to help one another, understand their anxiety disorder and the recovery process.
Children worry about many different things. Learning to cope with their anxiety, stress and fear can be really difficult, not only for them, but also for the parents and family. Developing an understanding of anxiety and learning some skills to manage it can make a significant difference to a family and can help empower children to have a sense of control in handling their own worries.
ARCVic’s relaxed and informative seminars include:
- Understanding anxiety and normal childhood development
- How personality and environment contribute
- Different types of anxiety
- The signs and symptoms for you and your children
- Management methods and strategies for you and your children
- Relaxation techniques with tips on building resilience
- Where to go for more information and help and take home material
OCD & Anxiety Helpline 1300 269 438 or 03 9830 0533
9 August 2019
(credit Kerrie Noonan, The Groundswell Project)
Don’t you remember we told you? Mr Hooper died, he’s dead.
Oh, yes , I remember. I’ll give it to him when he comes back.
Big Bird, Mr Hooper’s not coming back.
Big Bird when people die they don’t come back…
Well, Big Bird they’re dead, they can’t come back.
When I was a child, I loved watching Sesame Street. I still find it delightful and love watching the old clips of Ernie in his bathtub, those weird telephone-discovering Martians that say yip, yip, yip…
But none come close to Big Bird. I watched in the days that Mr Snuffleupagus was still his imaginary friend and I loved the way that Snuffie could disappear from those pesky adults despite his size.
In 1982 Mr Hooper, who ran ‘Hooper’s Store’ died in real life and the producers of Sesame Street decided to acknowledge his death this very touching scene that you can watch here. I don’t recall ever seeing this episode as a child, but I remember Mr Hooper and remember Big Bird having trouble saying his name.
This scene, apparently captured in one take, provides a lesson in how to talk to our children about death. Here are the 5 things it teaches me.
1. Say the words “dead” and “died”
They may not be easy words to use but all children need to hear these words first.
Using phrases like “passed away”, “gone”, “sleeping” or even “gone to God” and “an Angel in the sky” are confusing for children who need a concrete explanation.
Start with the plain facts of physical death (dead means you can’t come back, dead means your body doesn’t work anymore) and then add your spiritual beliefs. Like most young children, Big Bird tries hard to grasp that dead means never coming back. Stick to the physical aspects of death first.
In this clip, offering Big Bird the reassurance that ‘no one will forget Mr Hooper’ and reminding BB of the importance of memories (ie our ongoing relationship with the dead) is given preference over talking about spiritual or religious beliefs which can come later.
2. Go at the child’s pace
Young children need time to absorb loss.
Big Bird says a number times that he doesn’t understand, even after the finality of death is explained to him. I find it very touching how the adults just wait.
They are not trying to fill-up all the silence. They wait for the next question to emerge and then they respond to that.
They also calmly repeat the same information about death and resist the urge to make it up as they go.
3. Share and show genuine feelings
So easy to say, but so hard to do!
The moment when Maria tearfully says “That’s Hooper, Big Bird, Hooper” is a total tear jerker!
In this clip, the adults are not trying to be brave or hide their feelings. This seems to help Big Bird because like most children, it's only once the adults acknowledge and share their feelings, that Big Bird says "it makes me sad" and he begins to share his.
4. It takes a community
All the adults in Big Bird’s life are working together to help him feel secure.
They seem to be looking out for each other and at the same time supporting Big Bird. In a perfect world this is what we all need when someone dies. It isn’t always possible but if you can find a small group of supporters in your family, school and community it can have a tremendous effect in helping children feel supported and secure.
5. Just because…
There is something perfectly wonderful about the exchange between Big Bird and Gordon at the end this scene.
Big Bird protesting Mr Hooper’s death says, “… but why does it have to be this way, give me one good reason!”.
To which Gordon responds: “It has to be this way, because… Just because”.
Such an honest thing to say in that moment. There is a part of me that wants Gordon to say more and try and explain ‘it’ to Big Bird. I’m glad he doesn’t because in that moment Big Bird accepts it and they all move on.
Talking about death with children needs time and it doesn’t need to be complicated.
For more resources on talking about death to children, have a look at this list of children's books on death and bereavement (courtesy of The Guardian and dyingtoknowday.org ):
1.Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
This was a book I read and reread as a child (as well as Back Home, my favourite of Michelle Magorian’s books). I read it again recently as I heard the author on the radio talking about the book, and I was fascinated to hear that she’d considered not including the death of one of the main characters. I remember being horrified, almost angry, when I first read the book – the death (not saying whose) seems so incredibly unfair after all that Will, the main character, has suffered. But as she said, the war was real, and it would have been cowardly not to show how horrific the losses were. My oldest son (Tom, and another of my sons is called William…) read Goodnight Mr Tom at school last year, and was equally shocked – he said it was the first book he’d read where a main character died, and he almost didn’t believe that it could be right, I remember the same feelings so clearly. Will’s grieving is described so realistically, as is the way he carries on, trying to think like his friend, so that he’s not forgotten.
2. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I borrowed this from my school library, probably shortly after I read Goodnight Mr Tom – again Leslie’s death (this one is impossible to talk about without spoilers, sorry!) is so shocking. But the amazing world she created carries on for Jesse and May Belle. This is one book where the film is almost as good!
3. Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr
I bought this for my boys as they’d loved all the other Mog books, and I knew that they would find it difficult when our own elderly cat died. Although it’s about a cat dying, Mog’s tiredness and readiness to leave are beautifully expressed and would help a child struggling with any loss. Mog’s continued love for her family, and the way she wants them to be happy after she’s gone, are heartbreaking.
4. No Matter What by Debi Gliori
I read this picture book long before I had children, and thought it was so beautiful that I made my husband read it – in Waterstones, where it made him cry… No Matter What is about love, going on forever, even after we’re gone. As an adult, particularly if you have young children, do not read it in public if you don’t want to be seen crying!
5. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
When the Velveteen Rabbit’s owner has scarlet fever, all his toys have to be destroyed for fear of infection. But the rabbit has been so well loved that he’s made Real. Such a beautiful book, again not directly about death, but about being taken away from someone you love, and the way things change and carry on.
6. Charlotte’s Web by EB White
Oh dear. So horribly sad, and Charlotte’s death is so uncompromising, the way she’s left behind in all the litter of the fair. But she carries on in her children (who have never met her) and the stories that Wilbur tells of her.
7. Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch
My youngest son and I came across this in the library a few years ago, and he was fascinated by the ghoulish-looking Death, who is drawn with a skull for a head. This book is so interesting, mostly because it doesn’t give any answers. This is actually very helpful – lots of room for discussion. The story implies that Death is part of life, a close companion always. The writing (or rather, the translation, this book is translated from German) is beautiful. I particularly love that after Duck has died, Death strokes her crumpled feathers back into place.
8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
One for older children – not because it’s at all difficult to read, it’s a complete page turner, but it’s deeply emotional. Conor is desperately trying to cope with his mother’s approaching death. An absolutely gut-wrenching description of the fury and guilt surrounding caring for a parent. Conor’s anger makes you want to wade in and save him, somehow. I was practically grinding my teeth at the unfairness of it all. No easy answers in this one either, but that’s the beauty of the book.
9. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen
Like A Monster Calls, a wonderful book that says you’re allowed to be sad, and everyone is sad sometimes (and angry and disbelieving and horrible to other people…) I usually think of Quentin Blake’s illustrations as mad and bright and joyful, here they’re brilliantly scratchy and dark.
10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Not an obvious one, and the one that doesn’t immediately fit into my argument… But I’m working on a book inspired by The Secret Garden at the moment, and I’ve been reading it and thinking about it a lot. Death pervades this book – Mary’s parents have died, so she’s sent back from India to Misselthwaite. Colin’s mother has also died, after an accident in her beloved garden, leaving his father grief-stricken, and his son abandoned and terrified that he will die too. It’s not a book to give a child who’s grieving, more an example of how crippling (literally, in Colin’s case) grief can be. But then the garden itself comes back to life, bringing memories of Colin’s mother, who created it, and healing both the children. Frances Hodgson Burnett had some interesting theories about what would probably now be called positive thinking, but her descriptions of spring reawakening the garden are beautiful.
Younger kids might like
The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr
A poignant and reassuring story about loss. Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye. Touching upon the host of emotions children experience, Todd reminds readers that it's okay not to know all the answers and that someone will always be there to support them. An invaluable resource for life's toughest moments.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
Offering a very simple approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand and embrace, this book delivers a particularly compelling message in today's uncertain times. This heartwarming picture book for all ages explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us and opens up deeper conversations about love.
Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes Inbetween by Robert Ingpen
Have you ever wondered why a butterfly lives for only a few weeks? Or why a tree lives for hundreds of year? You may have been sad when someone in your family, or a favourite pet became sick and died. There is a beginning and an ending to everything that is alive. In between is a lifetime. Dying is a much a part of living as being born.
2 August 2019
Thinking about organ donation can be uncomfortable, and can lead us to avoiding this important issue. Below we’ve listed some of the common myths and misconceptions about organ donation to help answer some of the questions you may have.
MYTH: It’s better to just let my family decide at the time
FACT: If you want to become an organ or tissue donor – you need to tell your family.
- A main reason that families decline donation is because they simply don’t know what their loved one wanted.
- 73% of families that have prior knowledge of their loved one’s willingness to donate say ‘yes’. This increases to 90% when the deceased is a registered donor.
- When the family is unaware of their loved one’s donation decision, only 44% of families agree to donation.
MYTH: It’s my choice – I don’t need to discuss it with my family
FACT: Your family needs to know. They will be asked to confirm your decision.
- Families play a crucial role in the donation process because they are asked to confirm the donation decision of their loved one.
- The family will be involved in each step of the donation process and be asked to provide vital health information – even if you have registered your decision.
- If you’ve decided to become a donor, you need to register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.
- Most importantly you need to discuss your decision with your loved ones. Prepare your family so that they are comfortable being part of the process.
MYTH: Organ and tissue donation disfigures the body
FACT: Organ donation is specialised surgery and does not disfigure the body
- Organ and tissue retrieval is performed by highly skilled surgical and health professional teams.
- The surgical incision made during the procedure will be closed and covered as in any other operation and will not be visible beneath the person's clothes.
- The donor’s body is always treated with dignity and respect and the family can still have an open casket viewing if desired.
MYTH: If I am a registered donor, doctors won’t try as hard to save my life
FACT: The doctor’s first priority is always to save your life.
- Saving your life is the absolute priority of medical staff – health staff, doctors and nurses work incredibly hard to save people’s lives.
- Organ and tissue donation is only considered when the person has died or death is inevitable, at which time the Australian Organ Donor Register is checked and the family is asked to confirm their loved one’s donation decision.
- One organ and tissue donor can save and transform the lives of many.
MYTH: Organ and tissue donation is against my religion
FACT: All major religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of compassion and generosity.
- All major religions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism support organ and tissue donation.
- The organ and tissue donation process can accommodate religious and cultural end of life requirements.
MYTH: I’m not healthy enough to donate because of my lifestyle choices
FACT: People who smoke, drink or have an unhealthy diet can still donate. You don’t have to be in perfect health to save lives.
- There’s every chance that some of your organs and tissues may be suitable for donation. Don’t rule yourself out – count yourself in!
- The determining factors are where and how a person dies, and the condition of their organ and tissues.
- The important thing is if you are willing to one day save lives as a donor, register and discuss your decision today.
MYTH: I’m too old to be an organ and tissue donor
FACT: Age is not a barrier - people over 80 have become organ and tissue donors.
- People in their 70’s and 80's have saved the lives of others through organ and tissue donation.
- While your age and medical history will be considered, you shouldn’t assume you are too old or not healthy enough.
- Every potential donor is assessed on an individual basis. There is every possibility you may be able to donate your organs or tissues.
MYTH: I’m already registered on my driver’s licence. I don’t need to do anything else.
FACT: You need to join the Australian Organ Donor Register – state-based driver’s licence donor registries no longer exist.
- If you previously registered to be a donor on your driver’s licence, you now need to join the Australian Organ Donor Register. It takes less than a minute. Have your Medicare card handy and go to https://donatelife.gov.au/register-donor-today.
- You can no longer register to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver’s licence. State-based licence donor registries, whereby you registered to be a donor on your driver’s licence, no longer exist.
5 July 2019
Welcome to Day 5 of the Dry July Challenge – how are you going? Here are some Psychological Tips for Surviving Dry July by Sarah Gibson.
Tough goals are easier to commit to when they are closely linked to our values. Remind yourself each day how Dry July relates to the kind of person you want to be, someone who helps people who are dealing with a serious illness, someone who invests in their own health, someone who embraces challenge. Values-oriented action can have profound psychological well-being benefits as well as the obvious physical benefits of abstaining so it is not just WIN-WIN it is a WIN-WIN-WIN!
Be aware that there will be times that the Dry July challenge might be uncomfortable so have a strategy in place for these moments. Urges inevitably arise when we first change a habitual behaviour especially when a drink after a bad day can feel so good. It is reassuring to know that human beings are not wired to avoid pleasurable stimuli so rather than trying to block out an urge to drink (which has been shown to make the urge ‘rebound’) try these Mindfulness strategies based on the approach of expert coach and therapist Dr Russ Harris to stay on track:
Recognise that the urge to have a drink is a combination of thoughts, bodily sensations and feelings NOT an order that must be followed. The urge itself may feel uncomfortable but it cannot harm you in any way. The real harm tends to arise from how we respond to the urge. Trying to make the discomfort of an urge disappear, either by willing it away or by giving into it, moves us further away from the goal of abstaining. And this moves us further away from the values that we are trying to live up to by taking on Dry July.
Accept the urge to drink when it arises and rather than judging the urge as ‘bad’ simply notice the urge and acknowledge it. Observe it as you would a passing car, a cloud in the sky. Breathe into the uncomfortable bodily sensations that accompany the urge imagining that part of your body is ‘expanding’ around the sensation. The goal is not to control or minimise the discomfort but you may find this ‘expansion’ technique reduces it as a welcome side-effect.
Notice that cravings will intensify and subside like waves on the ocean. Watch this unfold in your mind’s eye with detached interest as if you were a curious scientist. Notice that you have experienced a strong urge mindfully without it pushing you around. Notice that your valued goals can guide your behaviour during Dry July rather than your urges.
Consciously re-commit to your values-oriented actions of abstaining during Dry July. Committed actions might include avoiding the ‘faces and places’ that you associate with drinking. Talk to a trusted friend or friends. Set yourself up for success by avoiding bars and clubs until you’re feeling more confident. Find a delicious non-alcoholic drink or mocktail for the times you are mingling with people who are drinking. When you are unable to avoid a trigger such as a wedding, date or work function, practise the Mindfulness response to urges as outlined above.
Wishing our MHC family a healthy and vital Dry July.
Read more at the Dry July Foundation website.
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol talk to your GP and/or contact the NSW Health Drug & Alcohol Service.
28 June 2019
Over the month of June we at the Collective have been spreading the love leading on from National Thinking of You Week. We had fun posting cards to people and places that mean something to us and thank you to those who got in touch after receiving one of our cards. I would like to conclude this month by reflecting on Small Acts of Kindness.
Psychology Today states that being kind can have an impact on your psychological and physical health. Mother Theresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love”. Kindness is a behavioural response of compassion and actions that are selfless or a mindset that places compassion for others before one’s own interests. In performing the selfless act a person may undercut their own selfish interests.
Kindness is a value that is often disregarded and undervalued. Kind people can be viewed as ‘enablers’ by some and ‘suckers’ by the cynical. In fact, kindness is inextricably linked to happiness and contentment, at the psychological and spiritual level. Why do random acts of kindness increase a person’s sense of happiness? Because kindness can promote gratitude, empathy and compassion which in turn leads to a sense of inter-connectedness to others. When you feel connected to others you lessen alienation and enhance the sense that we are more similar than dissimilar in our experiences. Feeling connected brings us together rather than dividing us. Kindness is potent in strengthening a sense of community and belonging.
Researcher Barbara Fredrickson claims that loving kindness moves us out of the selfish realm and takes us off the hedonic treadmill. Compassion and kindness also reduce stress, boost our immune systems, and help reduce emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression.
When we practice random acts of kindness:
- It releases an energy – we feel better and the recipients of our acts feel better, which makes them more likely to be kind to other people
- It can release neurochemicals resulting in a sense of well-being
- It can reduce pain – dopamine, serotonin, and endogenous opioids are released by kind behaviour
- It enhances the release of oxytocin in interactions where two or more people are engaged in kindness behaviour (see our Hugs post). In turn, bonds between those who are kind to one another, are strengthened
- It enhances both physical and mental health – many physical ailments are either precipitated by or aggravated by stress. Kindness reduces stress.
Kindness is a habit of giving—of wanting to lift burdens from others, or to merely provide a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. It humanizes us, lifts us spiritually and is good for us.
Here are some ideas for small acts of kindness:
- Letting someone cut in front of you in a traffic jam
- Stopping to talk with an elderly neighbour even though you are in a rush
- Lending a hand to a co-worker who is behind in their project
- Giving a dinner gift certificate to a couple you know who are facing hard times
Read more about Small Acts of Kindness at Psychology Today
#nationalthinkingofyouweek #macquariehealthcollective #mhc #smallactsofkindness #mothertheresa