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C NNECTIONS Winter 2020 | Volume 2, Issue 4

C NNECTIONS

C NNECTIONS SUPPORTING CAREGIVERS A Journey of Care (page 23)

CRITICAL CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK Counterstorying for Social Justice (page 14)

ALCOHOL & ANXIETY Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Quitting Booze (page 20)


SAVE THE DATE Mental Health, Today and Tomorrow FRIDAY MAY 22 & SATURDAY MAY 23, 2020 Best Western Plus Dartmouth Hotel and Suites 15 Spectacle Lake Drive, Dartmouth Mark your calendar for two days of learning, connection and growth at the College’s 2020 conference and annual general meeting.

Mental health is a social justice and

We’re gathering Nova Scotia’s social

human rights issue. Social work as a

work community to explore the current

practice is embedded in psychosocial

landscape of mental health in our province,

models that acknowledge the profound

share local and global knowledge, and

impact of lived experience and social

envision our future.

environment in shaping mental health. Poverty, racism and violence put people at higher risk of developing mental health problems. 

Questions? Contact Annemieke Vink at annemieke.vink@nscsw.org.


Montserrat

C NNECTION C NNECTION

Winter 2020 | Volume 2, Issue 4

Published three times a year by the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers 1888 Brunswick Street, Suite 700 Halifax, NS B3J 3J8

CREATIVE DIRECTION & DESIGN: Brittany Pickrem, Branding & Design EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Harold Beals (Associate, Retired) Jodi Butler (RSW)

Phone: 902.429.7799 Fax: 902.429.7650

Rebecca Faria (College Staff) Bessie Harris (Associate, Retired) Shalyse Sangster (SWC)

Web: nscsw.org

Alec Stratford (RSW, College Staff) Linda Turner (RSW)

Connection is © Copyright 2020 by

Annemieke Vink (RSW, College Staff)

the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, and also reserves copyright for all articles. Reproduction without written permission from the publisher is not allowed.

ADVERTISING IN CONNECTION: To advertise please contact the College’s Communication Coordinator Rebecca Faria at rebecca.faria@nscsw.org.

Next issue: Spring 2020 See advertising rates at bit.ly/advertiseConnection CONNECT WITH THE COLLEGE: facebook.com/NSCSW @NSCSW

Fall 2019 | Connection 3


23

10

17 20


TABLE OF CONTENTS Volume 2, Issue 4

06

Mental Health, Today & Tomorrow

08

October 2019 - January 2020

YOUR COLLEGE

WELCOME TO THE COLLEGE

10

Striving for Our Best Ethical Selves

13

Become a Candidacy Mentor

ETHICS IN ACTION

CULTIVATING MENTORSHIP

14

SOCIAL JUSTICE

17

RESEARCH

Counterstorying for Social Justice in Nova Scotia

Child & Family Poverty Report

20

PRIVATE PRACTICE

23

IN THE COMMUNITY

26

IN NS SCHOOLS

28

DIVERSE COMMUNITIES

31

Alcohol and Anxiety

A Journey of Care

Creating Circles of Care

Their Education, Our Future

SPOTLIGHT

Student Bursaries

Fall 2019 | Connection 5


Mental health, today and tomorrow

It’s great to be back at the College! And I’m pleased to introduce a new issue of Connection magazine. As we prepare for our annual conference in the spring, we’re taking a closer look at the conditions that affect mental health in Nova Scotia, and opportunities to co-create change in our community. In these pages, we’re connecting readers to the recent report card from the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA-NS) which demonstrates the lack of progress in reducing child and family poverty in this province (page 17). Some of the stories in this issue are rooted in personal experience. On page 10, a social worker shares how she uses the ethical decision-making tool she helped develop, and how the questions it contains continue to challenge her. On page 20, a private practitioner reflects on her understanding of the interaction between alcohol and anxiety. Other articles are about opportunities for change, collaboration and innovation. Turn to page 14 to read about an upcoming book that explores possibilities for clinical social work and social resistance. The work and needs of unpaid caregivers are all too often made invisible in a capitalist, patriarchal society, but there’s an organization working to give them support (page 23). And SchoolsPlus offers a collaborative model of service delivery that literally meets Nova Scotian children where they are (page 26). And four future social workers are in our pages this month. A pair of social work students from Dalhousie University share highlights from their research into school-to-prison pipelines in Nova Scotia (page 28). Readers can turn to page 31 to celebrate the latest recipients of our student bursaries as well.

Alec Stratford, MSW, RSW Registrar/Executive Director

I invite and welcome all social workers to join us in honouring African Heritage Month in February. The 2020 theme, The Ties that Bind: Faith, Family and Community, recognizes the essential traits that sustain the strength, resiliency and togetherness of the African Nova Scotian community. This month offers an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of African Nova Scotians to our province; to consider the impact of past and current oppression towards the African Nova Scotian community; and to ask ourselves how continued prejudice and historical context has impacted our own perspective and bias, and how we can address this behaviour. And I hope that you’ll join me to celebrate National Social Work Month in March! This year’s theme is United in Diversity. Strengthened by Inclusion. I’ll be travelling across the province, from Sydney to Digby, to meet with our members in person. Check nscsw.org for our upcoming events. I encourage you to share this issue with friends and colleagues.

6 Connection | Fall 2019


Canadian Domestic Violence Conference 6 Marriott Harbourfront & A Hotel . Halifax, Nova Scotia March 3-6, 2020 EMBROIDERY AND TAILORING SERVICES

STITCH

ST SH CO

Networking the grassroots domestic violence movement from across Canada. https://canadiandomesticviolenceconference.org

CONTRIBUTE TO CONNECTION MAGAZINE Have something to say to Nova Scotia social workers? Visit the College website for editorial guidelines, advertising rates, and more: bit.ly/advertiseConnection

HALF PAGE, $200 FULL PAGE WITH BLEED $400

FULL PAGE w/o BLEED $400

• safe area: 7.5”x10” • t rim size: 8.5”x11” +.125” (bleed)

size: 8”x10.5”

7.5”x4.75”

FILE FORMATS 1/4 PAGE

1/8 PAGE

1/4 PAGE $100 size: 3.5”x4.75” 1/8 PAGE $50

• with bleed: 8.75”x11.25”

NSCSW members receive a 25% discount on all advertising

size: 3.5”x2.125”

• Preferred file format is a print quality PDF •A  ll images in artwork must be no less than 330 DPI • All fonts to be converted to outlines Your ad must be sent to us with the proper magazine specs as identified above

8.75”x11.25”

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR INQUIRIES, EMAIL REBECCA FARIA at rebecca.faria@nscsw.org

Fall 2019 | Connection 7


WELCOME TO THE NSCSW

8 Connection | Fall 2019


New Private Practitioners, Registered Social Workers, and Social Worker Candidates Approved by Board of Examiners October 2019-January 2020

PRIVATE PRACTITIONERS Deana Bryan Lorna Griffin-Fillier Kathryn Hominick Christina Hymers Donna McLean Jennifer Moss Leblanc Natasha Yvonne Raczkowski-Filliter Amanda Reid Angela Michelle Ring Reynold Van Oord Shawn Wood

REGISTERED SOCIAL WORKERS Marie Alexander Patricia Arnoldin Julie Balasalle Hayley Borden Christian Boudreau Julia Bremner Barbara Brown Samantha Collier Julie Dalley Vivian Dixon Jillian Dollimont

Stewart Dunbar Mackenzie Ells Janice Feltham Audrey Fordjour Edward Forsythe Alicia Francis Robert Gaudet Hannah Gerrits Chelsea Goodland Shaun Goodwin Samantha Harvey Amanda Hemsworth Eric Jonsson Calandra Kandziora Heather Kerr Misha Leach Alana Lee Lynn MacDonald Cianna MacKeigan Chidiebere Maduaklam Daniela Mayo Alison McPhedran Karis Mitchell Deanne Neufeld Maggie Newcombe Angela Nicholson Samantha Ormerod Alyson Pickens Christine Power Lindsey Joyce Power

Holly Richardson Kursten Riswold Shalyse Sangster Melanie Smith Angela Smith Angela Stella-Hall Haley Stinson Zhe Tang Joanna Thompson Patrick Wells Rachelle Williams Thomas Williams Kristine Windover Kaitlin Wolfe Brian Yee

SOCIAL WORK CANDIDATES Erinn Baillie Kyiaisha Benton Komal Bhuvela Jalen Borden Matthew Boudreau Hailie Burt Bryn Davies Skyla Dorey Tara Downey Lorenzo Dredge Janelle Duguay

Danielle Gallagher Zachary Garcia Georgette Googoo Jessica Goswell Maddox Greene Sarah Harvey Haley Heist Jerrica Jackson Monique Kelemen Kathleen Leaman Kiana MacDonald Charmaine Maloney Kathryn McNeil Brian Moore Jennifer Morgan Carol-Ann Parson Jessica Pelletier Rene Peltekian Sabah Randell Kathleen Rankin Nicole Slaunwhite Jenna Snelgrove Caitlyn Sullivan Ian Surrette Emily Sweeney Michelle van der Meer Hannah Wallace Emily Welton Alison Wright

Join the conversation Facebook.com/nscsw

Twitter.com/nscsw

NSCSW Blog: www.nscsw.org/category/blog

Fall 2019 | Connection 9


10 Connection | Winter 2020


STRIVING FOR OUR BEST ETHICAL SELVES Social work and ethical decision-making BY MALLORY MACLEOD, MSW, RSW

As a social work student, I, along with colleague Kelly Isenor, had the opportunity to work with the NSCSW to develop an ethical decision-making tool. At the time, being a freshly minted Bachelor of Social Work graduate, the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice seemed relatively straightforward and at a glance reflective of my own values. Given complexities of the environments social workers practice in, intersectional positionalities, and the influence of dominant discourses, the tool was meant to be a way to organize thought-processes when facing ethical dilemmas.

Having some years of social work experience, I find that my questions around what is most

with the protection of life have frequently left me wondering what the path of least harm is. As a clinical social worker, dilemmas concerning the accessibility of mental health services coupled with my beliefs in cultural humility and the code of the respect of the inherent dignity of all persons have left me wondering how to provide mental health services in an ethical way given time and session constraints. Given these constraints, taking time to analyze my own personal biases seemed sadly sometimes an afterthought. The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, which I once thought to be straightforward, are documents that I have frequently come back to when questioning my own decisions and the structure of the broader systems in which I have worked.

ethical have increased, and experience has not decreased the number of dilemmas I have faced. Practicing in mental health in particular has illustrated the complexities of using the Code of Ethics in day to day life. As a social worker, I feel I am often cognizant of my values, but I sometimes struggle to place these values in action given structural complexities that impact micro, mezzo and macro levels. Given such, I have used the ethical decision-making tool in a several instances and have come to it when I felt conflicted as a social worker. This conflict has been further complicated by my own privilege, as well as the culture of neoliberalism in which many social workers practice. Given my own privileged positionality and work expectations it has become clearer to me how easy it is to maintain the status quo and play a part in wider oppressions. Working in mental health has brought numerous ethical dilemmas in my practice within which I have attempted to follow the least wrong path. Having the privilege to have worked in adult mental health services, complex dilemmas juxtaposing a client’s rights to self-determination and privacy

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The importance of integrating theory into day-today practice to work towards goals of social justice has become clearer in navigating ethical dilemmas.

I often feel particularly ill at ease given the individualization of mental health problems that have arisen from and are intertwined with wider structural oppressions. Rethinking what the “pursuit of social justice” and “putting social work values into action” look like has challenged me to expand my practice. This includes linking macro systemic concerns into micro individual social work practice. The use of the ethical decision-making tool has brought about questions such as: • How can I work with those who have lived through trauma without recognizing the wider structural factors that have made these traumas possible? • What is the role of considering income inequity when looking at the impacts of depression and anxiety? As a result of ethical reflection, naming the oppressions we face and recognizing how these are intertwined in an individual’s mental health are tools I try to integrate into my daily practice. I have been surprised that re-visiting questions from the ethical decision making tool such as “what is the client’s perspective?” and “what are alternative courses of action?” have not always come naturally. In day to day work, it is re-visiting these questions, as well as the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, that remind me of why I am passionate about social work and choose to be a lifelong learner. Confronting and acknowledging ethical dilemmas with the backing of theory, codes, and standards holds me accountable to my mistakes in endeavoring to find the least wrong path forward.

12 Connection | Winter 2020

The idea of the best ethical self involves confronting uncomfortable questions and challenging the biases that come from my own experiences, culture and positionality. Through reflection, consultation, and reflecting on ethics in strategic and organized ways I hope to continue to present my best ethical self to work towards solidarity with clients.

REFERENCES: 1. Code of Ethics. (2005). Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW). https://www.casw-acts.ca/sites/default/ files/attachements/casw_code_of_ethics.pdf 2. Dolgoff, R., Loewenberg, F. M., & Harrington, D. (2009). Ethical issues for social work practice. 3. Mullaly, R. P. (2010). Challenging oppression and confronting privilege: A critical social work approach. Don Mills, Ont: Oxford University Press. 4. Spencer E; Massing, D & Gough, J (2017). Social Work Ethics; Progressive, Practical, and Relational Approaches; Oxford Press. 5. Standards of Practice. (2017). Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW). http://nscsw.org/practice/ standards-of-practice

MALLORY MACLEOD (RSW) graduated from Dalhousie University with her MSW and currently practices in Halifax in the field of mental health and addictions. Mallory identifies as a lifelong learner working to understand processes of selfreflection and best practice in ethical decision making. To access the ethical decision-making tool she helped develop, visit ethical.nscsw.org


CULTIVATING MENTORSHIP We would like to thank the mentors who have guided our Social Worker Candidates through the successful completion of candidacy since the fall. Janis Aitken Leah Amirault Patricia Bates MacDonald Sherry Battiste Craig Besaw Adrienne Buckland Kaylin Comeau Leil Sacha Curran Scott Currie Patrick Daigle Helen Doyle

Christie Duru Janah Fair Erin Findley Jessica Heidebrecht Christy Hunt Dorothy King Cindy Knapton Brenda Lanigan Deborah Lantz Leeann MacDonald Marion Mackinnon

Lana Maclean Shalyn Murphy Melissa Nowe Valerie Shapiro Rebekah Skeete Janice Spencer Wanda Thomas Bernard Doug Thorn Laura Westhaver Shawn Wood Stephen Young

BECOME A CANDIDACY MENTOR Mentorship is underscored by a climate of safety and trust, where candidates can develop their sense of professional identity. We now offer optional mentor training for members of the College, in the form of a selfdirected online course. We also provide resources to help mentors support candidates’ learning throughout their candidacy. To learn more about the rewards of being a mentor, visit candidacy.nscsw.org/mentors

Winter 2020 | Connection 13


CRITICAL CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK Counterstorying for social justice in Nova Scotia BY DR. CATRINA BROWN, RSW & DR. JUDY MACDONALD, RSW

We have co-edited a book entitled Critical Clinical Social Work: Counterstorying for Social Justice which will be published by Canadian Scholars’ Press in May, 2020. The book is an edited collection by the faculty from the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University and includes their respective colleagues across Canada covering topics such as critical clinical theory and ethics, working with complex trauma and diagnosis; men who use violence; women who struggle with substance use; girls and women who experience violence; women suffering with chronic pain; veterans; and older people. We also explore animal informed intervention, intercultural child welfare practices and critical

14 Connection | Fall 2019

risk assessment, post-colonial, decolonizing and Africentric spiritual practices, AIDS and HIV criminalization, and the development of the School of Social Work Community Clinic. Case vignettes are used to demonstrate approaches to critical clinical practice. Consistent with social justice based approaches to mental health and addiction, these approaches do not medicalize or pathologize people’s struggles, but situate them within the social contexts and inequities in which they emerge. As such, there is a focus on making sense of people’s struggles and adopting a relational and collaborative approach to the clinical relationship.


BOOK: Critical Clinical Social Work: Counterstorying for Social Justice

practices these are too often taken up in individualizing and decontextualizing ways. The emphasis becomes one of selfmanagement and self-recovery which does not address the resources and supports people need, nor the social contexts and inequities which often increase the likelihood of struggle. The specific impact of neoliberalism on social justice in mental health is reflected in dominant medical model approaches to mental health which reinforce social injustice through its bio-medicalized and depoliticized emphasis on disorders, diagnosis and mental illness. These individualized, decontextualized, and pathologizing approaches fail to address the social and political contexts in which people live and the responsibilization of individuals to solve their own problems is reflected in the increasingly reduced provision of adequate social welfare services and supports. The book seeks to reconcile the long-standing gap between social justice and equity-based theory and clinical work. The School of Social Work at Dalhousie, like other schools in Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, has made significant contributions to anti-oppressive theory with a deep commitment to social justice. However, attention has lagged for intentional social justice based mental health, addiction and general clinical practices in social work.

While feminist empowerment and narrative approaches have been well developed for some time, there has not been a full integration of critical clinical practice into social work. Further, under the institutional and social climate of neoliberalism and its emphasis on fiscal constraint and the rationalization of all practices, we have begun to risk our social justice based professional identities when the workplace requires social work practitioners to adopt the knowledge and practices of other disciplines rather than our own. Resilience, strengths and empowerment have been important to social work practice, but under neoliberal institutional

Economic restraint has pressured social workers to adopt medicalized, short term, and often decontextualizing strategies, with a limited number of sessions. Allocating five or six sessions for many of our clients is simply inadequate. Baines and Waugh argue, “One of the main victims of this rationalisation of practice has been the hallmark trust-based, dignity-enhancing, time-intensive relationships generally thought to form the impetus and means for change within social work endeavour.� We know that many experience complex trauma in their lives, face extreme social and economic disadvantage, and/ or struggle with co-occurring mental health and addiction issues which require more long term practice and the building of a trusting therapeutic relationship. Instead, social workers spend increasingly more time on case notes, increased caseloads, adopting assessment tools not designed by social work, and being supervised by non-social workers. On the whole, dominant neoliberal discourse is at odds with a social justice approach to mental health practice in social work. This leads us to ask: what is happening to our identities as social workers when we must practice in these ways with little opportunity to shape the workplace differently? Critical Clinical Social Work: Counterstorying for Social Justice offers both a critique of the impact of neoliberalism on social work practice through illuminating dominant socially constructed and oppressive discourses, and providing alternative visions of social work clinical practice.

Fall 2019 | Connection 15


With growing social inequities and injustices, there is now an even greater need to intentionally advocate for and adopt

5. Pease, B., Goldingay, S., Hosken, N., & Nipperess, S. (2016).

critical clinical practices.

for social justice. Australia: Allen and Unwin.

(Eds.). Doing critical social work. Transformative practices

REFERENCES: 1. Baines, D., Bennett, B., Goodwin, S. & Margot Rawsthorne, M. (Eds.). Working across difference. Social work, social policy, and social justice (pp. 247-260). Australia: Red Globe Press. 2. Baines, D., & Waugh, F. (2019). Afterword: Resistance, white fragility and late neo-liberalism. In Baines, D., Bennett, B., Goodwin, S. & Margot Rawsthorne, M. (Eds.). Working across difference. Social work, social policy, and social justice (pp. 247-260). Australia: Red Globe Press. 3. Brown, C. (2016). The constraints of neo-liberal new managerialism in social work education. The Forum. Canadian Review of Social Work. 33, (1), 115–123. 4. Morrow, M., & Weisel, J. (2012). Towards a social justice framework for mental health recovery. Studies in Social Justice, 6(1), 27-43.

16 Connection | Winter 2020

CATRINA BROWN (PHD, RSW) is an associate professor at the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University. Her teaching, research and writing focuses on women’s health and mental health issues, including “eating disorders,” substance use problems, depression, trauma and post-trauma and sexualized violence within a feminist postmodern/narrative lens. She is a private practitioner psychotherapist, and adopts a feminist, narrative, discursive and collaborative approach.

JUDY E.MACDONALD (PHD, RSW) is a social work academic and the director at the School of Social Work, Dalhousie University. Judy’s areas of research are (dis)Ability rights, inclusion and access, and she continues to support students with (dis)Abilities through their research and life story writings.


THREE DECADES LOST Nova Scotia’s legacy of child and family poverty DR. LESLEY FRANK & LAURA FISHER It has been 30 years since the all-party resolution in the House of Commons to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. It is also almost 30 years since Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. Article 27 of the Convention directs signatories to “recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.” As we enter the beginning of a new year and of a new decade, we mourn for the generations of children whose parents want nothing more than to provide them with what they need to thrive.

Unfortunately, a significant number of children remain in poverty across Canada.

WHAT WILL THIS NEW YEAR AND NEW DECADE BRING? Canada now has a poverty reduction strategy, passed into legislation in June 2019 by the federal government, signaling a renewed commitment to reducing if not eradicating poverty in Canada. However, aspects of this legislation disappoint, including weak targets, long timelines, and the absence of reference to economic security as a human right.

As a society in the 10th wealthiest nation in the world we have an obligation, moral and legal, to support these families, to uphold the rights of the child and to end poverty.

Winter 2020 | Connection 17


Scotia government boasts about the likelihood that 2020 will mark the fourth consecutive year that it has tabled budgets with surpluses. Doesn’t a surplus really mean underspending while thousands of children live in poverty?

ENDING FAMILY AND CHILD POVERTY Social investment in families and children is required to secure our province’s future. Poverty impedes the rights of parents to raise children in safe and healthy conditions. Poverty also harms children’s ability to grow up healthy and to develop their potential towards full participation in society.

As is shown in our 2019 Nova Scotia Report Card on Child and Family Poverty, while there has been an important trend downwards in the national rate of child poverty since 2015, the latest data for Canada continues to reveal stark differences depending on where the family lives in Canada, or within our province, and depending on their social group. While the Nova Scotia government challenges the validity of the numbers, families continue to struggle under the weight of the daily stress to meet their daily needs.

Since Nova Scotia is nowhere near ending poverty, the focus should not be on whether there is a small

Poverty is not just a measure of inadequate income to meet need. It is realized in food, housing, and transportation insecurity, poor health outcomes, and the frequent despair of ends not meeting due to structurally imposed conditions beyond individual control – i.e. low wages, precarious employment, weak income supports, racial and gender discrimination, continual colonialization, social and geographical isolation, and lack of affordable and accessible early childcare. The province’s poor record of poverty reduction since 1989, and more recent failure in mirroring the progress made in other jurisdictions in Canada, shows the urgent need for more robust public policy and investment. It is long past the time for Nova Scotia to act on the evidence before us. We know that redistribution of income through the tax system has proven to be effective in lowering poverty rates.

decrease or increase in the percentage of children

Three decades have been lost.

living in poverty because that is not the point of

No more children should be left behind.

these report cards.

GOVERNMENT BENEFITS MATTER The welcomed improvements made by the federal government with the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit in 2016 are not enough to maintain meaningful poverty reduction for children in Nova Scotia. Given the depth of poverty faced by so many families, and complex reasons for poverty rooted in historical inequalities (that lead to low incomes), much more investment in families and children is necessary. The Nova

18 Connection | Winter 2020

LESLEY FRANK (PHD) is a CCPA-NS research associate, and associate professor at the Acadia University’s department of sociology. LAURA FISHER is a master’s student in sociology at Acadia. They are also the co-authors of the 2019 report card, which you can download at https://www.policyalternatives.ca/ offices/nova-scotia


CHILD POVERTY IN NOVA SCOTIA BY THE NUMBERS

67,350 The number of children living in poverty in Nova Scotia, which amounts to 24.2% or close to 1 in 4 children.

75% The child poverty rate in in the rural postal code of Micmac, which includes the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

The number of children that would be living in poverty if not for government income benefits.

LESS THAN

1%

50

2-3 TIMES HIGHER The difference in poverty rates for those who face additional barriers and discrimination

The percentage decrease of children living in low-income circumstances in Nova Scotia since the 1989 promise to end child poverty.

The child poverty rate for children aged 0-2 years, representing 7,910 infants

Postal areas in Nova Scotia have child poverty rates at 30% and higher


20 Connection | Fall 2019


ALCOHOL AND ANXIETY Clear eyes, full heart, quitting booze BY JEN MORRIS, MSW, RSW

It’s been four years since I’ve had a drink and I can say unequivocally that nothing that I have tried over the past 20 years to manage my anxiety has come close to sobriety. As a therapist who specializes in anxiety, this has been an enlightening discovery. As someone who has struggled for years with chronic and often acute anxiety, it’s ironic that until I stopped drinking, alcohol was my main anxiety management plan.

If you had asked those who knew me over the last couple of decades, they would have told you I seemed to be doing just fine. I got married, had a family, went to university and stayed active. I also drank about one bottle of wine a day. Sometimes more. For most of my life alcohol had been both relieving my anxiety, and then doubling back and adding to it. The poison was the remedy, the remedy the poison. I see the same cycle happening in the lives of many of my clients; turning to alcohol to reduce anxiety in the short-term only to make it worse in the long run. With such a clear upside to sobriety, I’ve wondered why more people don’t make the same choice. I figured that if people can recognize the barriers to choosing sobriety as a lifestyle,

then they may be easier to tackle, and perhaps more people would consider it. This article addresses some the challenges I have personally faced.

IT’S JUST A PHASE. WAIT…ARE YOU AN ALCOHOLIC? In many ways, telling the world that I was sober felt a bit like coming out did 20 years ago. No one said, “awesome!” and left it at that. Some of my friends laughed and asked when I would come to my senses. Finding support was tough. The people in my life who I would typically rely on seemed to be either just waiting for me to drink again or convinced that I was an alcoholic. Telling people that you are sober is usually met with questions at best, condemnation at worst and always seems to be an invitation for commentary. Sobriety is rarely just accepted without judgement. For example, why do we think that everyone sober is a recovering alcoholic? This can be the case, and that is ok, but sobriety can also just be a good choice and not one that is subsequent to alcoholism. Also, why do people assume that sobriety is just a phase? I got a lot of that when I told people I was gay.

AA (ANXIETY AND ALCOHOL) There is an undeniable link between anxiety and drinking. It’s no coincidence that many people who identify as an alcoholic remember how incredible that first drink made them feel. It’s not the just the alcohol that was magnificent though, it was also the break from their anxiety. I remember wishing that I could live my entire life three drinks in, that spot where I felt perfectly at ease without being drunk.

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sports, relaxation and even parenting. Drinking is encouraged. What we don’t talk about is how it also leads to waking up to two little ones with a pounding headache and no energy and going to work four days a week feeling seedy. We skim over the less attractive parts. It’s problematic that there only seems to be one acceptable reason to abstain from alcohol. That is, you are an alcoholic or a problem drinker. The reality is the way we consume alcohol right now is destructive, and you don’t have to be an alcoholic for it to have a negative influence on your life. It’s astonishing how we can ignore the staggering toll that alcohol takes on our health. A recent global report in The Lancet found that in 2016, alcohol was the leading risk factor for premature death and disease in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 across the world. Other research found the economic cost of alcohol-related harm across Canada is $14.6 billion per year and that any amount of alcohol is hazardous to your health.

MAINSTREAM SOBRIETY

When you have anxiety, things like therapy, exercise, meditation and medication can all help, but finding the right combination takes guidance, time and patience - things that are often in short supply when you’re struggling. The ability to pro-actively manage anxiety also requires a level of privilege that many people don’t have. I have had that privilege and therefore, can’t speak for those who have not, but I suspect that choosing sobriety in the absence of such privilege would be far more difficult. Alcohol was dealing with my anxiety for me. What I didn’t realize was that every time I drank, I missed the opportunity to find adaptive ways to cope. Meanwhile, the underlying issues were just lying in wait, growing bit by bit, making the alcohol more necessary as time passed.

INSIDIOUS The fact that alcohol is repeatedly normalized and promoted everywhere can make sobriety a difficult and unappealing choice. Popular culture tells us that drinking goes with everything including family events, corporate functions,

22 Connection | Winter 2020

Sobriety needs stronger roots in mainstream culture. My hope is that what is now a niche conversation will continue to develop into a strong, supportive, diverse and inclusive sober community. My choice to live a sober life is not a response to drinking culture at all, nor is it oppositional. It is just another valid and healthy way of living your life. I am so thankful that I stuck with sobriety. There hasn’t been one day in four years that I have secretly wished my kids would just stay in bed a bit longer so I could sleep it off or rushed them to bed so I could spend some time with wine. One day I’ll wake up and these days of parenting young children will be gone forever. I hope that someday I can say the same about our culture’s adherence to promoting alcohol as self-care.

JEN MORRIS (RSW) received her MSW and BSW from Dalhousie University, as well as a BSc. from Saint Mary’s University with a concentration in psychology. Her private practice, Anxiety Anchor Counselling (anxietyanchor.com), specializes in therapy for anxiety. She is also the chair of NSCSW’s private practice committee.


A JOURNEY OF CARE Supporting caregivers in Nova Scotia THERESE HENMAN-PHILLIPS, RSW

In November 2017, my father became ill and was eventually diagnosed with a form of dementia. Coming from a supportive family network, we rallied to try and provide the care he needed at home, eventually supporting a hospitalization and a journey towards long term care.

As a social worker for the past 35 years, I have prided myself on my ability to be resourceful. This was a system and experience I was unfamiliar with. It was personal.

Navigating the complicated health and long-term care systems, supporting my 82 year old mother in decision making while working full time and juggling family responsibilities as a working caregiver, left me mostly exhausted, discouraged, and emotionally barren. My father died in March 2019. Although a difficult journey, I take pride in being one of his caregivers in his final years but it did come with costs personally and I know I am not alone. In May 2019, two months after my father’s death, I discovered Caregivers Nova Scotia (CNS), a non-profit that, for over 20 years, has been dedicated to providing recognition as well as information, support, and education to unpaid family and friend caregivers. A little late maybe, but statistics would

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suggest there are many more care recipients in my family’s future! In September 2019, impressed and excited by the organization, I joined their ranks as an outreach coordinator.

along the way. It’s a different perspective and role being the actual caregiver. I regret I wasn’t aware of this gem of an organization and able to receive their support during that difficult journey.

Caregivers Nova Scotia supports all caregivers

My situation as a caregiver was not that unusual. Many Nova Scotians are providing care or help to someone with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or challenges related to aging. Unpaid caregivers are performing many essential tasks such as transportation, housework, home maintenance, scheduling and coordinating appointments, managing finances, and helping with personal and medical care. Often times, caregivers are doing this while caring for a family of their own, juggling employment, and other demands. Unpaid caregivers are an important resource for the care recipient supporting their comfort and safety, and allowing them to remain at home as long as possible.

who are looking after someone either at home or in a facility, regardless of the age, disease or the underlying health condition of their loved one.

Their programs and services are all free and include confidential phone and email support, monthly peer support groups across the province, information and health system navigation, and educational workshops. When facing challenges they advocate on behalf of caregivers. All of their employees have lived caregiving experience, a critical asset for understanding and peer support. I often question why this resource wasn’t shared with our family during my father’s illness. At times, the caregiving journey with my father felt very fragmented despite the many kind, helpful professionals, and people we met

The unpaid caregiver is also supporting society at large. Our population is aging, there are increasing health challenges and family systems have changed. We have scarce resources available to help caregivers perform this important and often invisible role. Unpaid caregivers fill a gap and support our healthcare system. In Nova Scotia alone, nearly 1 in 3 Nova Scotians or 32% of the population, higher than the national average based on the Statistics Canada 2012 General


Social Survey on Caregiving and Care Receiving, identified themselves as caregivers. Those numbers are only expected to grow. Many people with chronic and/or acute health care challenges are dependent on their caregivers. Unpaid family/ friend caregivers in Nova Scotia spend an average of 12 hours each week helping others, the equivalent of 149 million hours of unpaid caring. Estimated conservatively, this resource saves the Nova Scotia Health Care System approximately 1.64 billion dollars each year.

While caregiving can be very positive, the demands of being a caregiver can and do have an impact on the caregiver’s physical, mental-emotional, and financial situation.

Even with a supportive family and employment situation, like most caregivers, I struggled. Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, health issues, loss of personal time, loss of friendships, changed family relationships, deferred life plans, loss of income or employment mobility are just a few of the consequences caregivers experience. Young caregivers, aged 15-29, who make up 18% of caregivers in NS are even more vulnerable and invisible, with their childhood, adolescence and young adulthood impacted by the demands of caregiving. While there are some health condition specific organizations in the community that offer information and support to caregivers, many of their programs target the care recipient first. CNS and their programming target the caregivers and provide them with a safe space to discuss their challenges and successes and to share their frustrations. Most caregivers are experiencing stress, isolation, and loneliness. While CNS does not replace professional help for identified difficulties, they are a support to assist with the burden and stress that can sometimes be associated with caregiving and potential burnout. Many times, so busy with the demands, caregivers neglect to take care of themselves. At CNS, the focus is on empowering caregivers, supporting their efforts, and recognizing the invaluable contribution they make both to those in need and to society in general. Whether one requires information, would like to talk to someone on the phone, or attend one of the peer support groups or

educational workshops available across the province, the organization addresses and supports the caregiver’s need. That is the vision at CNS — that unpaid caregivers are recognized, valued, and fully supported as essential partners in care.

REFERENCES: 1. Info sheet December 2019 - Research on Aging, Policies and Practices (RAPP) and Caregivers Nova Scotia co created by Jacquie Eales, Choong Kim, Angus Campbell and Janet Fast based on analyses of Statistic Canada’s 2012 General Social Survey on Caregiving and Care Receiving

THERESE HENMAN-PHILLIPS (RSW) is a family caregiver herself, and is currently under contract with Caregivers Nova Scotia in the role of outreach coordinator. If you would like to learn more about Caregivers Nova Scotia or require support, please visit caregiversns.org follow @CaregiversNS on social media, or call 1.877.488.7390.

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SCHOOLSPLUS: CREATING A CIRCLE OF CARE FOR STUDENTS BY ARLENE MCASKILL The SchoolsPlus program has placed mental health and addictions clinicians where we can best reach our 120,000+ Nova Scotian students: in schools. SchoolsPlus is a model of integrated service delivery, partnering with a range of government departments, such as Justice, Health, Community Services and agencies to provide wraparound supports for children and their families. SchoolsPlus is also offered as ÉcolesPlus to Nova Scotia’s 5,000+ francophone students. Two key partners in the delivery of this program are the IWK Health Centre and Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), two distinct health entities in our province. This highly successful initiative grew out of a vision to have schools serve as a center of service delivery, bringing together professionals, community partners, and other service providers to help children, youth and their families overcome barriers, and navigate services while seeking opportunities for enrichment to help students fulfill their potential.

Services offered by the SchoolsPlus mental health clinician create a unique opportunity to work with children in their own school setting, while also being attached to an interdisciplinary team in mental health and addictions programs at NSHA and IWK. Clinicians work within a child and family centred care model, resulting in early identification and treatment of children and adolescents, while working in collaboration with a wide range of professionals as part of the SchoolsPlus team. Other SchoolsPlus team members include facilitators and community outreach workers. Morgan Moore is a social worker and SchoolsPlus clinician with NSHA, and is pleased to be able to meet the students in their environment and yet have the child-adolescent team support behind her work. “Some youth are in complex situations and the clinician role is key to providing

continuity of care for the student, while our presence in the school reduces barriers to a child or youth accessing care,” says Moore. That circle of care is a vital component to the ongoing success for students accessing SchoolsPlus. “Once connected to a student in the school, I can represent all the services our health centre can provide,” says Natalie Steele Quinn, MSW, a community mental health clinician with SchoolsPlus at the IWK. Quinn’s passion comes from the variety of work and her ability to be in front of youth, doing different things every day. “I have an open door to collaborate and partner with all the people who work in the school to provide the best care for the young person and their families,” she says. The opportunity to provide some public health information about mental health and well-being is also a valued aspect of her work.

As our population continues to grow, SchoolsPlus/ÉcolesPlus has expanded, and as a result there are strong recruitment needs across the province, for English-speaking and bilingual clinicians. If you are a masters-level trained mental health professional with competencies working with children and adolescents with a minimum of two years post-masters clinical experience working in child and adolescent mental health services and registered/eligible for registration with the appropriate regulatory body, you can apply to positions with the IWK or NSHA. We are two distinct employers with a variety of positions across the province, all accessible through one link: https://jobs.nshealth.ca. If you’d like to have a confidential conversation about the opportunities, contact Amanda Boutilier at NSHA (902.794.8910) or Arlene MacAskill at IWK (902.470.3939), ou si vous souhaitez communiquer en français, contacter Adela N’Jie (902. 433.7056).

Tonya Grant (left) Sherry Battiste (right) Have a look at our SchoolsPlus video: http://bit.ly/SchoolsPlus Regardez cette vidéo d’ÉcolesPlus: http://bit.ly/EcolesPlus

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Photo contributed by authors | JJ Wilson, Bria Symonds, Ashely Hill, Vanessa Gray, Vanessa Thomas, Angelina Simmonds at Dartmouth High School after speaking to students.

THEIR EDUCATION, OUR FUTURE Changing the narrative of the school-to-prison pipeline in Nova Scotia schools BY BRIA SYMONDS & JJ WILSON

WHY SCHOOL PIPELINING? As we finished our first semester of our introduction into social work, we realized that we both have a passion for working with youth and improving correctional facilities. The discussion of school-to-prison pipelining was appearing more frequently in social settings and we felt it was time to start doing research. Originally our research around the school-toprison pipeline was for a class project that unpacked critical

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race theory (CRT). With CRT originating in America, much of our research was American based. We saw similar outcomes of pipelining happening in Nova Scotia with Black students being mistreated in classrooms, and thought a change needed to happen. The school-to-prison pipeline is a phenomenon that has been happening for decades, but the term started to be used in


the 2010s. Our prison systems are disproportionately filled with people of African descent and the pipeline is a large contributing factor to this. In schools, Black youth learn from a Eurocentric curriculum, receive harsher discipline penalties, and face discrimination on a daily basis. These factors lead to Black youth being pushed out of the school system and into the prison system because of a lack of opportunities to gain meaningful employment. These issues are seen across North America but have a specific impact on African Nova Scotian (ANS) youth. Although there is a lack of research on ANS students in correlation to school pipelining, we knew beneficial research would come from first voice stories.

RESEARCH We spent many hours collecting qualitative research on the school-to-prison pipeline in Nova Scotia. We analyzed articles, books and documentaries, attended public schools to speak with Black students, and facilitated workshops and youth summits to hear personal stories. The information gathered was helpful in terms of educating others on what the schoolto-prison pipeline looks like in Nova Scotia and how it is

impacting Black students. However, some of the information we came across was not surprising to us as we are ANS students ourselves and continue to face these negative factors in a university setting.

FINDINGS The articles produced around ANS students in public schools stated that ANS students and Black students in general are failing academically due to systematic oppression in public schools. Learning from a Eurocentric curriculum is pushing Black students to marginalization and lack of Africentricity is impacting Black youths’ identity. Black students described they feel underrepresented, neglected, targeted, angry, unheard, and uneducated on their own Black history. We had many vulnerable conversations with Black youth and Black educators and understand it is extremely difficult to excel in an environment that is not made for you to succeed. In order to subside the school-to-prison pipeline impact, several changes need to be made within our school system.

Photo by George Thomas Bernard, contributed by authors JJ Wilson, Ronke Taiwo, Bria Symonds and George Willis at the ABSW conference after JJ and Bria’s workshop on the SchoolTo-Prison Pipeline.

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CHANGING THE NARRATIVE Firstly, there needs to be more diverse representation among teachers. Having a Black teacher allows the students to feel much more comfortable in the classroom. Africentrism should be introduced and implemented into the curriculum. Not only does it allow Black students learn about their culture and be in the center of their education, it allows those from diverse backgrounds to become more culturally aware.

As it stands currently, Black History Month is the only time of the year when Black culture is focused on in schools, and even that only scratches the surface. We believe youth should have the option of enrolling in Africentric or Indigenous studies the same way the current school system allows children to be in English and French immersion. This would allow for students from various backgrounds to have an education they feel fits their needs. Finally, we would like to build towards the implementation of an Africentric school in Nova Scotia. This would include a Black faculty and curriculum. This idea has been proposed in Nova Scotia previously, but has not received positive response from the public. However, if Black students continue to face marginalization, exclusion, underrepresentation, and discrimination in the classroom, drastic measures need to take place to ensure that ANS students are being valued and reaching their full potential.

BRIA SYMONDS is a professional student in her last year of Social Work at Dalhousie University. (BSW), and has a B.A in women’s studies and family studies from MSVU. She is an African Nova Scotian community advocate who works on many community projects. Bria has also conducted research around Black Feminism and racial factors impacting the achievement gap in schools. Bria hopes to further her social work education and continue to work in marginalized communities.

JJ WILSON obtained his B.A. in sociology with a minor in philosophy from Dalhousie University in May 2017. After taking a year off school following this degree to work with underprivileged youth in a place of safety, he realized his passion for social justice and working with marginalized populations. JJ is now in his last year of his Bachelor of Social Work and plans to further his social work education. JJ works closely with African Nova Scotian youth in community and educational settings.

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Photo by Dena Williams, contributed by authors Bria Symonds and JJ Wilson


SPOTLIGHT Congratulations to our 2019 student bursary recipients! These student members are from Nova Scotia and are completing accredited social work programs at Canadian universities. They have each received $500 to help them achieve their professional goals. As part of their application, we asked them what professionalism in social work practice means to them, and what they hope to gain from their social work education.

CANDICE BRIGLEY | DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY It’s hard to have trust and confidence in social workers without it. Being professional is keeping things confidential and establishing a relationship with clients so that they trust you and feel comfortable confiding in you, so that you can begin to help them address and seek supports for their needs. It is also knowing when to take a step back and be an active listener. I hope to acquire the values and skills needed to adequately support my African Nova Scotian communities in addressing the systemic racism they have endured and continue to endure.

NIKHEA BERNARD | ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY It reflects back to the people I will work to serve. Professionalism ensures that I am respectful, and knowledgeable of the work ethics, guidelines and responsibilities as a service provider. This will benefit service-users, and ensures they are receiving the skills, resources, and appropriate services necessary to meet their needs. I hope my program can prepare me to work and help Mi’kmaw families.

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N AT I O N A L S O C I A L W O R K M O N T H

MARCH 2020

UNITED BY

DIVERSITY STRENGTHENED BY

INCLUSION Social workers make a real difference in the lives of people, families and communities across the country. Every year in March, Canada celebrates the important contributions of these social justice professionals.

Get involved in National Social Work Month casw-acts.ca/en/March2020 #NationalSocialWorkMonth

Profile for Nova Scotia College of Social Workers

Connection Magazine Winter 2020 — Volume 2, Issue 4