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Photographer Russell James’s long battle to help his mentally ill and drug-addicted daughter

Our best wishes go out to Russell and his daughter. Read there story here:
Photographer Russell James’s long battle to help his mentally ill and drug-addicted daughterTHE images of his daughter are as vivid in his mind as any photograph he has ever taken. At age 14 she is on her bed covered in blood.

The room, the one she wouldn’t let him into for weeks, is a mess. Dirty clothes line the floor and among the debris are empty bottles of alcohol and drugs. Hard drugs. He asks her where the blood has come from.

“I’ve been hitting myself with a stick,” she says, big black rings under her eyes. “Why?” he asks. “Because it makes me feel better,” she says.

As a young adult, she’s wandering the streets of Perth at 2am. She hasn’t been home for weeks.

Police, who find her naked and beaten like a “wild animal”, admit her to Royal Perth Hospital. They say she is too confused to make a statement. At least he can take her home, he thinks.In her early 20s, she is catatonic in a basement ward at one of WA’s biggest hospitals. He finds the “horrible” dumping ground is riddled with cockroaches. The doped-up patients range from the very young to the very old. One psychiatrist visits for about one hour every day. During this short visit, the patients clamour for attention. “It’s like watching a group of starving people desperate for a United Nations food drop,” he thinks.

Now, aged 23 and recovering in Sweden, his daughter is finally getting the help she needs.

“The help she couldn’t get in Perth,” he says.

The stigma associated with mental health issues has prevented us all from putting it front and centre. Shame on me, as I was one of those people.”

Russell James has never spoken in detail publicly about his daughter Emily’s nine-year battle with mental health issues.

It’s a fact of which the high-profile celebrity snapper, fine arts photographer and human-rights campaigner says he is “quite ashamed”.

But it’s indicative of the stigma still associated with topics such as suicide, self-harm and drug abuse.

This is despite one in five Australians suffering from a mental illness, with the prevalence being greatest among young people aged 18 to 24.

“Mental health is stuck in the dark ages,” James says. “One of the key reasons mental health hasn’t received the same level of attention, funding and research (compared with other medical issues) is that we haven’t listened to the experts calling out for it.

“And, far worse, the stigma associated with mental health issues has prevented us all from putting it front and centre. Shame on me, as I was one of those people.”

James has an international profile for his striking portraits of beauties such as Heidi Klum; his collaborative art project, called Nomad Two Worlds, with indigenous communities; and his books, which have forewords by the likes of Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson.

But behind the glitter and glamour is James’s anguished personal journey with Emily, his first child, who showed signs of mental health problems from a “very young age”.

“She would go from being wildly happy to incredibly morbid,” he says. “She had great struggles keeping relationships and she was fearless to the point of having no apparent regard for her own safety.

“The feedback we always received was that she was just being a kid. Or, if she was unable to adapt at school, then it would be that she was just ‘naughty’.”

James laments that schools simply don’t have the “tools” to identify and properly deal with children suffering from mental health issues.

When Emily was 14, her problems “started to manifest in the most frightening of ways”.

“Her depression and anxiety became so great she would use any drugs put before her,” James says.

“If there was meth available she would use it. If there was heroin she would use it. I was aware she was using drugs, but not the extent until recently — and also how easily they were available.”russell james daughters Emily

James says the situation came to a head when he found her lying on her bed one day with “blood everywhere”.

“I asked her what happened and she said she had taken a stick and hit herself. She did it because it made her feel better,” he says.

“She had tears rolling out of her eyes. I could see she was in agony, but I had no idea what to do.”

Feeling like he was getting nowhere with the medical help his daughter was receiving in WA, James sent Emily to a “wilderness retreat” in the US.

“Wilderness therapy has given my daughter long periods of wellbeing and being at peace with herself,” he says.

“Dedicated professionals take people, ranging from 13 to 35 years of age, into a remote wilderness setting and, working in groups of four, they bring them back to the basics of life.”

James credits the therapy with saving Emily’s life. He says it was the reason she managed to get back into the education system. However, he says his daughter went into a “tailspin” when she came home and “immediately returned to drug and alcohol abuse”. One of those drugs was the extremely addictive stimulant methamphetamine, known on the street as “ice”.

“Meth is a scourge,” James says. “It does irreparable damage, it’s readily available and it’s cheap.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week announced a new federal “ice taskforce” to tackle what he says is a narcotic “far more potent, far more dangerous, far more addictive than any previous illicit drug”.

She had tears rolling out of her eyes. I could see she was in agony, but I had no idea what to do.”

In many ways, James says his struggle with the WA mental health system is best told by comparing the medical journeys of his two daughters.

“In 2008 my youngest daughter (Lola) was taken to a paediatrician with an extended belly and a light fever in New York State,” says James, who splits his time between the US and Australia.

“The doctor immediately ordered her to be taken to a nearby major hospital and within a few hours she received an MRI scan. A specialist oncologist was brought in to review the MRI and informed us that our daughter had extensive tumours and likely a cancer they needed to identify.

“That same night she was taken to a hospital several hundred miles away … within three days we were informed that Lola had a cancer known as neuroblastoma, which is extremely rare and affects about 700 children per year worldwide.

“They literally dissected my daughter over a 12-hour period using human hands, robots, and life-support systems to remove tumours invading from her hips to her upper chest cavity, around her heart and other vital organs.

“During the next couple of years of recovery she was in the care of an oncologist, a gastroenterologist and a tumour review board that consisted of six experts.

“And, by the way, that is the identical care your child would receive in WA if they were diagnosed with neuroblastoma.”

For Emily, with psychological issues, the story could not be more different.

“Emily has been admitted to hospital and mental health facilities more times than I can recall,” he says. “Even after multiple near-death situations and major incidents there was virtually no continuity of care.

“If Emily was admitted to Royal Perth Hospital naked, beaten and in psychosis, the hospital would find no record of a previous admission to Fremantle Hospital for a suicide attempt.

“Then when Emily would be admitted to private care no records would be passed along from the public sector. Emily was assessed again and again from scratch.”

“A horrible, dark ward in the basement of the hospital,” he says. “Just one psychiatrist to visit the ward for one hour Russell james and daughter emilyevery day … many of the patients drooling in wheelchairs because of the level of medication they were given under a policy of, ‘Let’s keep everybody safe and calm’.”

James says it broke his heart seeing Emily there and he privately lobbied the Barnett Government to do something about its conditions.

Health Minister Kim Hames tells STM that the ward, which was opened in 1958, is due to be closed in early June. Dr Hames says that patients will be sent to a new $21 million,

30-bed facility at the site.

It’s not just public patients who face challenges. James says the private mental health system in WA is just as under-resourced — and only available to those who can afford it.

And, most frustratingly, he says the medical answer offered for Emily in WA has “almost always” been a “cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs that render her near catatonic”.

“The past nine years have been defined almost exclusively by my daughter’s mental health issues and by the continued misdiagnosis and lack of resources in Australia,” he says.

“My experience with my two daughters has served as a metaphor that has given me shocking perspective.

“For Lola, 190 days and a rare, highly complex disease is identified and a large group of professionals assembled to deal with it.

“She has since gone on to be a national gymnastics competitor and is a straight-A student.

“Meanwhile, Emily has languished for nine years slipping through the cracks of a system, or rather a non-system.”

Australian Medical Association state president Michael Gannon says the lack of continuity of care for mental health patients in WA can be frightening.

“In many ways, it’s a system in crisis,” he says.

“It’s not serving the patients well, it’s not serving the carers well and it’s certainly not serving the doctors who work in it well.”

Dr Gannon says doctors were worried the system was becoming too focused on “low-hanging fruit”, such as patients with low levels of anxiety or depression, rather than the sickest people.

“There needs to be better resourcing for people with severe levels of dysfunction, like schizophrenia or those suffering from ice addiction,” he says.

“We know that even in the private sector the resources available for child and adolescent psychiatry are poor. We also know that there is not enough ‘step down’ capacity for our sickest patients.”

I was willing to steal, borrow, beg — anything to save my daughter’s life. I owed my daughter a chance at living.”

Emily’s bleakest moment came when she suffered a cardiac arrest and contracted a staph infection.

“It is unclear whether she contracted the MRSI during her treatment at the hospital or from drug use,” James says. “I was willing to steal, borrow, beg — anything to save my daughter’s life. I owed my daughter a chance at living.”

James says mental health experts told him Emily would die if she was left in Australia.

After much research, about a year ago he found an “assisted living” program in Sweden for Emily.

“The program she is in is very small and heavily funded,” he says. “It was specifically created in addition to programs that are entirely for either mental health or addiction.

“So often mental health issues lead to addiction and once addiction has taken over it’s impossible to treat the root cause, mental health. So this is an ‘and’ approach.

“What they are doing, though, is really having a go at bringing research and development into this century and out of the dark ages.”

James says his daughter has now reached a point where she is willing to be “very open” about her struggles with depression, eating disorders and drug addiction.Russell James daughter Emily relaxes

Emily will soon move into her own apartment, where she will still receive about 15 hours of care a week through the Swedish program.

“I can’t tell you the guilt I feel because I was fortunate to find the money to get Emily treatment,” he says.

“We have also had a strong family advocating for her care.

“Most people aren’t so lucky. The end result for them is to likely perish in miserable conditions.”

James says by talking candidly he feels he is finally “taking personal responsibility” for putting mental health on the agenda.

He wants everyone reading his daughter’s story to speak up as well. If enough people share their stories, then maybe the stigma can be broken down.

“WA is a world leader in many health categories,” James says. “However, mental health is stuck in the dark ages.

“The stigma of mental health issues is literally killing millions of people around the world.”

He also wants to raise awareness of how crucial the crisis support service Lifeline WA is. He says its 13 11 14 helpline deserves more government funding and donations from philanthropists.

“My daughter has told me that somebody pushed the Lifeline number into her hand after she was being discharged from a hospital and a couple of months later she found herself homeless, on the streets, in unbearable pain and lost to us and suicide felt like a relief,” James says.

“She called the number and in her own words, ‘It saved my life’.”

James uses another parallel when discussing his motivations for speaking out.

There were about 1150 people killed on our roads last year. This compares with nearly 2500 suicide deaths on average every year.

“Suicide is one of our biggest killers — bigger than the road toll,” James says. “It deserves the level of inquiry, research and understanding we give to road deaths.

“As a community we need to put our heads and hearts together and just get on with it.”

If you need help, contact Lifeline WA on 13 11 14 or at crisischat.lifelinewa.org.au

Reposted with permission from Anthony.
Follow Anthony DeCeglie on Twitter: @AnthDeCeglie

 

The Dad documentary

FOUR DADS, ONE MUM, A JOURNO, A PROFESSOR OF FAMILY LAW, A JUDGE AND A POLITICIAN, ALL COME TOGETHER TO TELL THE STORY OF BEING A DAD.

In May 2013,  a Dad desperate to spend more time with his children asked me to research the injustices within the Australian Family Court and The Child Support Agency.

I couldn’t believe this worldwide problem was buried so deep, one which affects every person, young and old and is detrimental to our future, the cornerstone of society – family.

Parents all over the world are being alienated from their children, costing society millions and increasing the rates of depression and suicide.

Our Family Law system is “grossly overstretched”, court orders are not enforced and there are no repercussions for perjury.

Is our current judical system really working in the ‘best interest of the children’

Directed & produced by: Karen Hodgkins
Virtual Reality Media

Note: There will be campaigns run around Australia, I will keep you updated once we know their plans, dates and locations.

The top 5 reasons why Men and Woman cheat

CheatingYou see them and their smile melts you… and they’re into you, too. A few months pass and you’re in a committed relationship with “I love you’s” and great times. Then… the unthinkable: They cheat. The emotional reaction is one we know well: “How could you DO THAT!??!” However, the act — while the ultimate expression of physical betrayal— is a symptom of the real issues. What really needs to be looked at and discussed is: What were the precursors to their infidelity? What were the challenges in the relationship? What was said and unsaid, and what were the warning signs?

Does that mean there’s an excuse? Hardly. Despite recent articles and studies that suggest the existence of a cheating gene ingrained into the DNA of some people (nothing like being the victim of your own choices), there is no excuse for infidelity. There can be explanations , but there is no excuse. Ultimately, if you are unhappy in your relationship that you are looking externally to fulfill your emotional/physical needs, you need to leave… close one chapter before starting another, and allow every their dignity and honor as things end. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the way things go sometimes.

FLINGS AND AFFAIRS
There are two types of extramarital relationships: Flings and Affairs. Flings are the most common, most often involving opportunity, lust, and lack of self-control. Whether you are talking about a man or a woman, you can hear the excuses/justifications in your head: “Babe, I screwed up. I got drunk in Vegas with the [guys/girls] and ended up sleeping with this stripper I met at the club. It didn’t mean anything, and I promise it won’t happen again. Please forgive me.”

Okay… people aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. They make bad choices. And sometimes, opportunity can make good people do bad things. But Flings are really about no self-control, and they showcase how the cheater is willing to sacrifice their honor—and their partner’s honor—for a one-night-stand. Choosing to forgive a Fling means you need to think long and hard about it. I’m not a believer in”Once a cheater, always a cheater,” (because cheaters can choose to follow a faithful path with different partner with different relationship dynamics), but Flings are about selfishness… and that doesn’t just go away.

Affairs are different, as they aren’t fast hit-it-and-quit-it acts of misguided lust and sexual wanting. These are long-term relationships—sometimes involving sex, sometimes not—and they are trickier for someone to get over because their has been investment over time—and it’s also an emotional investment, as well. People sharing the inner-workings of their personal lives, their activities, their kids—all while dropping back from their established relationship. All-in-all, forgiveness and moving past an Affair is wrought with challenges.

Which brings us to a different kind of cheating for the web-based era: Online Affairs. There are an endless number of websites that advocate and enable real-world affairs (whose highest spending advertisers are divorce lawyers). But meeting someone online and then quickly transferring the relationship to the real world is really just a fling. Online Affairs are different. With the use of social media and community-centric websites now ingrained into our everyday lives, connecting with others in remote locations isn’t just the activity of a small subculture. Bottom line: Online cheating—without any physical contact—is the most damaging type of infidelity. The reason? The entire “connection” between the two parties is emotional.

BUT WHY DO THEY CHEAT?

In surveying 1,000 men and women (483 men, 543 women), two things became clear: 1) Women cheat just as much as men (dispelling the myth that men cheat more); and 2) The reasons the genders cheat are very different. 86% of the women polled reported that they cheat mostly for emotional reasons, stating the following top reasons for pursuing an extramarital affair:

  • Lack of emotional intimacy
  • Marital or relationship unhappiness
  • Reaffirm her desirability
  • To re-experience feelings of romance
  • Loneliness

Of the men polled, 82% openly admitted to cheating largely for physical or sexual gratification with no emotional tie. Rounding out the top reasons men cheat included:

  • Just want to have sex or sexual variety
  • Presented with an opportunity to have sex, without getting immediately caught
  • Satisfy sexual curiosity about having sex with a particular person
  • The “thrill of the chase”
  • The desire to feel important or special (an ego boost)

However, in delving further into the mens’ reasons, I discovered that many of the men felt that they were “unable to get out of their relationship” prior to their infidelity, which translated into the simple fact that they lacked the skills/respect to maturely discuss their unhappiness with their significant other. In short, they acknowledged that they were unhappy and looking for a way out, but they couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger on the relationship. If they cheated and got caught (most long-term cheaters do end up getting caught), they were able to quickly turn the tables, telling their spouse how it was THEIR fault they cheated because [insert reason here: not enough sex, boredom, etc.].

This lends credibility to thousands of discussions interactions I’ve led on my Facebook page— cheating is a symptom of an already failing/failed relationship. Communication has broken down and a disconnect already exists. The cheater is looking outside of the relationship to have their emotional/physical needs met because they are [usually] already mentally checked-out.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Monogamy and exclusive relationships aren’t for everyone. But, if you’ve made promises, stick to them, or have the common courtesy to close one chapter before starting another. That way, everyone can keep their honor and integrity… and move on.

“Original article on charlesjorlando.com. Reposted with permission.” http://www.theproblemismen.com/rants/whytheycheated

How to talk to your child about the News

how to talk to your kids about the newsNews gleaned from the TV, radio, or Internet can be a positive educational experience for kids. But when the images presented are violent or the stories touch on disturbing topics, problems can arise.

Events all over the world but recently in America such as the explosions at the Boston Marathon and the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School might naturally cause kids to worry that something similar might happen to them or their loved ones. It also can make them fear some aspect of daily life — like going to school — that they never worried about before.

Reports on shootings, attacks, natural disasters, and child abductions also can teach kids to view the world as a confusing, threatening, or unfriendly place.

How can you deal with these disturbing stories and images? Talking to your kids about what they watch or hear will help them put frightening information into a reasonable context.

How Kids Perceive the News

Unlike movies or entertainment programs, news is real. But depending on their age or maturity level, kids might not yet understand the distinctions between fact and fantasy.

By the time kids reach 7 or 8, however, what they see on TV can seem all too real. For some youngsters, the vividness of a sensational news story can be internalized and transformed into something that might happen to them. A child watching a news story about a bombing on a bus or a subway might worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?”

Natural disasters or stories of other types of devastation can be personalized in the same manner. A child in Melbourne who sees a house being swallowed by floods from a storm in Brisbane may spend a sleepless night worrying about whether his home will be OK in a rainstorm. A child in Adelaide, seeing news about an attack on train station in Sydney, might get scared about using public transportation around town.

TV has the effect of shrinking the world and bringing it into our own living rooms. By concentrating on violent stories, TV news also can promote a “mean-world” syndrome and give kids an inaccurate view of what the world and society are actually like.

Talking About the News

To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be honest and help kids feel safe. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in.

Although it’s true that some things — like a natural disaster — can’t be controlled, parents should still give kids space to share their fears. Encourage them to talk openly about what scares them.

Older kids are less likely to accept an explanation at face value. Their budding skepticism about the news and how it’s produced and sold might mask anxieties they have about the stories it covers. If older kids are bothered about a story, help them cope with these fears. An adult’s willingness to listen sends a powerful message.

Teens also can be encouraged to consider why a frightening or disturbing story was on the air: Was it to increase the program’s ratings because of its sensational value or because it was truly newsworthy? In this way, a scary story can be turned into a worthwhile discussion about the role and mission of the news.

Tips for Parents

Keeping an eye on kids’ TV news habits can go a long way toward monitoring the content of what they hear and see. Other tips:

  • Recognize that news doesn’t have to be driven by disturbing pictures. Public TV programs, newspapers, or newsmagazines specifically designed for kids can be less sensational — and less upsetting — ways of getting information to children.
  • Discuss current events with your child regularly. It’s important to help kids think through stories they hear about. Ask questions: What do you think about these events? How do you think these things happen? These questions can encourage conversation about non-news topics too.
  • Put news stories in proper context. Showing that certain events are isolated or explaining how one event relates to another helps kids make better sense of what they hear. Broaden the discussion from a disturbing news item to a larger conversation: Use the story of a natural disaster as an opportunity to talk about philanthropy, cooperation, and the ability of people to cope with overwhelming hardship.
  • Watch the news with your kids to filter inappropriate or frightening stories.
  • Anticipate when guidance will be necessary and avoid shows that are too graphic and inappropriate for your child’s age or level of development.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with the content of the news or if it’s inappropriate for your child’s age, turn it off.
  • Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, kids may gain a sense of control and feel more secure if you help them find ways to help those affected by the tragedy or honor those who died.

 

Thank you to Kidshealth.org for content.

Changes to Family Law from 7 June 2012

The Australian Government strongly supports happy, healthy relationships between children and their parents and supports shared care where this is safe for the child.

Unfortunately, more than half of the parenting cases that come to courts involve allegations by one or both parties that the other has been violent. Family violence and child abuse cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. This is why the Australian Government has amended the Family Law Act to:

  • Prioritise the safety of children in parenting matters by giving greater weight to the protection from harm when determining what is in a child’s best interests.
  • Change the definition of ‘family violence’ and ‘abuse’ to reflect a contemporary understanding of what family violence and abuse is by clearly setting out what behaviour is unacceptable, including physical and emotional abuse and the exposure of children to family violence.
  • Better target what a court can consider in relation to family violence orders as part of considering a child’s best interests.
  • Strengthen advisers obligations by requiring family consultants, family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners and legal practitioners to prioritise the safety of children.
  • Ensure the courts have better access to evidence of family violence and abuse by improving reporting requirements.
  • Make it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings.

These changes will help people within the family law system to better understand, disclose and act where there are family violence and child abuse concerns. Family courts will be able to access better information on which to assess risk to families and the best interests of children, helping to improve the appropriateness of parenting orders.

The Family Law Act will continue to promote a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents where this is safe for the child. Changes to Family Law from 7 June 2012

For further information about the changes to Family Law, contact: Attorney-General’s Department Website

What the Family Violence Act does not do
The Family Violence Act does not ‘roll back’ the 2006 shared parenting reforms. Parenting arrangements will continue to be made in a way that promotes a child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents where this is safe.
The Family Violence Act will not impact outcomes for separating families where there are no family violence or child abuse concerns. For those cases where there is no risk of violence or abuse and it is in the child’s best interests, the courts will continue to apply the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and consider equal time or, as the case requires, substantial and significant time.
The family courts will not lose the ability to award costs where a party knowingly makes false statements.  The family courts will retain a broad power to make costs orders. In addition, it remains a criminal offence to knowingly make a false statement during court proceedings.

Cyber Bullying

“Adults use the Internet, but children ‘live’ it”
John Bertrand, Chairman of
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

Young people see digital technology – including the Internet, social networking services and mobile phones – as a normal part of their social life and connecting with their friends, as well as sourcing information and for education purposes.

I remember a friend who told me that the primary school where their daughter attended set up an email account for all the students – remember they are primary school aged children!  When the children received their own personal email address they (as young people do) shared passwords! Friends logged into each others email account and sent emails out to their friends saying things like “I hate you” “you are ugly” “I don’t want to be your friend anymore” etc.

How could that school think for a minute that children could handle the responsibility associated with email and understand the consequences of actions like that is beyond me? You have probably guessed that the email accounts were shut down within a week.  Ask your school if they are registering for the program, I certainly will be! If not, what measures are they taking to educate and protect children within their school from Cyber Bullying?

This News update is to let you all know that The Alannah and Madeline Foundation in conjunction with  The Victorian and Queensland State Governments are rolling out a Cyber Bullying education program called “eSmart” for schools.  The uptake of the program has been huge with over 1000 schools signing up within weeks of it being launched.

A little about The Alannah and Madelaine Foundation,  The Centre Against Bullying and eSmart.

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation is a national charity protecting children from violence and its devastating effects.

They care for children who have experienced or witnessed violence and run programs which prevent violence in the lives of children. They play an advocacy role and are a voice against childhood violence.

The National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) is a peak body working to advise and inform the Australian community on the issue of childhood bullying and the creation of safe schools and communities, including the issue of cybersafety.

NCAB is made up of a number of experts and works closely with school communities, governments and industry. It plays an important role in speaking out for children and advocating for their right to be free from bullying and other forms of violence.

About eSmart

eSmart equips everyone in the school community with the skills and knowledge they need for smart, safe and responsible use of technology.

eSmart helps schools to embed a culture of positive technology use, create policies and procedures, gain access to evidence-informed resources and track their progress in becoming eSmart.  Follow this link to more  information for Parents on eSmart and here for more Information for Schools

“As a parent, I would know that when I enrol my child in an eSmart school, it is a school where cybersafety and bullying are dealt with effectively. The teachers will know how to deal with incidents, children will look out for each other and can safely report bullying. As a parent I would know who to go to if my child was involved in anything risky online.” Dr Judith Slocombe, CEO, The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
For more information on what Cyber bullying might look like follow this link.