Tag Archives: syria

community heals

nothing like a good day lived in community to pick up my spirits.

street soccer was great the other night.  good mixture of young, talented foreign players (who actually passed the ball) and our street guys.  everyone seemed to have a blast.

i had an opportunity to talk with kal tonight for a while.  he has been coming out for the past 5 weeks and wowing everyone with his talent and skill.  he’s a resident of the shelter i worked at last year.  after recently graduating from a local university in engineering, his mental health failed him and he found himself forced to stay in a homeless shelter.

his story, as sad as it is, happens more than you know.

that’s what happens when the majority of people in our society are so ignorant in regards to mental health issues, and when the province spends less than 4% of the health budget on mental health services.

back asswards.

i don’t feel like i’m talking to someone who has a severe mental health issue. kal speaks intelligently, articulately and without any weird social ticks or abnormal behaviors.  his reasoning not only sounds good but is sound.

kal is from the middle east.  born in palestine, raised in syria, he moved to canada more than a decade ago with family.  soccer was one of the only constants in his life.

i asked him about his family and friends back in syria (he didn’t have any in palestine anymore).  the pained looked on his face was hard to miss.  communication with many of them had been cut off.  he had no way of knowing how they were doing.  no idea whether they were dead or alive.

his solution: going back.

i had no response to that.

what am i supposed to say in that moment?

am i supposed to tell him that his country is being decimated by a ‘civil war’ that has lasted just over two years?  am i supposed to tell him it’s too dangerous to go back there?

(it’s my opinion that it’s not a civil war but a proxy war between the west and the middle east.  the documented support of the syrian free army by the west and mercenary soldiers from west-friendly middle east governments paints a pretty clear picture.  i digress.)

he probably knows this much better than i do.  he has been able to hear from some relatives back home in syria.  the story they tell isn’t a pretty one.  the  mainstream media in the west doesn’t accurately represent the situation over there.

big surprise.

i try to put myself in his shoes.  what if it were my family and friends caught in the middle of an illegal, proxy war?  what would i do?  how would i feel?  what would i do with those emotions?

my problems don’t seem so big when i think about what kal is going through.

street soccer goes later than usual.  no one wants to stop playing.  for kal and a couple of the other guys, they can’t stay too late or they risk not having a bed down at the shelter.  it’s become warmer out but still drops well below zero at night.  not having a bed for the night would mean a sleepless night.  when you’re dealing with mental health issues, going sleepless is the last thing you need.

kal gives me an apologetic goodbye.  i tell him not to apologize.  i understand.  a warm bed is more important than playing the final couple of games.  he thanks me, we pound fists and he leaves.

rest well, kal.

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trying to understand

it hurt my heart a great deal when i heard the details of the latest school shooting.  to think about such evil being committed against innocent, young lives makes me scared of a world my younger siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews will grow up in.  i want a safe society for them to live in, not one in which there are horrendous acts like this one committed.

i pray and will continue to pray for the families and all those involved.  may healing come upon your homes.

i have a problem with the way the conversations have been phrased after this latest mass shooting in the united states.  i suppose the media is to blame for some of this but i think theres a collective responsibility as well.  with all respect to the victims, both those who lost their lives and the ones left behind, i think theres something a bit off-putting about this story and its not for all the immediately apparent reasons.

is gun reform the biggest issue here, as the media claims it is?

quick fact: it is easier for americans to access guns than mental health services.

it bothers me that the conversation is being had almost exclusively around gun laws and no one seems to be saying much about mental illness.  yes, guns were used to take innocent lives.  yes, if there had been better safeguards in place then this might not have happened.  yes, we need to look at gun laws and reform the necessary parts to protect all of us, but it was a broken human being who used those guns to kill.

broken mentally.

that this young man had a large problem with his mind is so apparent and obvious that it feels redundant to say anything about it, and yet its being placed in a secondary column of interest and concern.

that scares me.

it scares me that our society can be so blind and dumb towards the ugly reality of mental illness all around us.  we are a collective of ostriches hiding our heads in the comforting sand, all the while the proverbial bombs tick down above the surface.

if this isnt a deafening wake up call to us what will it take?

7.1 percent of the american populace accessed mental health services in 2012.  its estimated though that 26.2 percent of americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.  this number is most definitely higher when considering stigmatization of mental disorders and the lack of appropriate mental health services.  nearly 20 percent cant (too expensive) or wont (stigma) access mental health services.  here in halifax, nova scotia, less than 4% of the health budget is directed towards mental health.

what does that tell us about mental health? does it tell us that it is not a problem?

tell that to most of the people i work with on the streets.  of the hundreds of people ive met and/or worked with at street level, maybe a couple of them didnt deal with mental illness.

or try telling that to the almost 1 in 10 of canadians who deal with major depression.

lets ask the canadian mental health association.  heres a few things from their website:

Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
20% (1 in 5) of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

im not going to bother mentioning the percentage of mentally ill people occupying our prisons.  a quick google search will give you the staggering stats.

so it IS a big problem.. and its getting worse.

we cant expect things to get better when we keep ignoring the obvious warning signs and refuse to tackle the problem head on.  but with our heads firmly planted in the sand, the likely hood that things are going to get (much) worse before they get better is an unsettling reality.


the other thing that bothers me about this is the horrible contrast it shows between western people and other people of our world.

why is that the children in gaza dont get the tears of the world for the latest bombings in palestine?

why dont these children, who live on the wrong side of an apartheid state, gain even a fraction of the tears and prayers the western children get?  i dont want to get weighed down in quantifying senseless deaths against other senseless deaths but there seems to be a particular skew here.

what about the children who have died in pakistan and yemen by american drone attacks?

why dont these children (an estimated 178 of them) get us teary-eyed and mad at their murderers?  why dont we send each other mass facebook prayer letters and doctored pictures with kind and inspiring words for these children?

a car bomb goes off in damascus and 50 people are killed, some of which are innocent children.  the scene is gruesome.  more innocent lives lost to senseless violence.

do we blame the media for this?  surely, they must be most responsible because of their biased opinions, right?  we dont get to decide what news we consume, do we?

do we?

i realize at this point that this post probably wont get me too many fans.  ranting about mental illness is one thing but calling into question our collective moral integrity might be cutting a little too close to some people’s central nerve.

see, it wasnt just gun reform we need, nor mental health funding, nor learning to care more about other people you dont know.  we need a gut check and ask ourselves harder questions.

are all the people of our world weighed on the same scale?

if so, why doesnt it seem like that?  whether its mentally illness or foreign people dying/being killed, its the same story.

can we afford to lie to ourselves any longer?

no, they are not being valued/weighed the same.  some children/women/men are less valuable than others.  its plain as day, isnt it?!  our news media, facebooks, twitters, chats over coffee, supper talks with the family, etc, etc, ad nauseam(!) tell us it is.

there are ‘us’ and there are ‘them’.


whats happening to us?!  or, maybe its more apt to ask, what has happened to us?!

(long pause)

are we losing our humanity?

(another long pause)

(still pausing)

or are we just sick and need help?
maybe we need healing from our mental, emotional and spiritual wounds, and help understanding who we really are.

i hope help and healing come soon, because our world really needs it right now.

//end of long rant

RIP all  the children of the world who have died due to war, starvation, poverty, disease and everything else that steals a life too soon.  may your souls rest well in His kingdom.





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