(Click on this image to see the full-size version.)
Source: Modern Beauty Shop, August 1938

Creating an emergency plan: Knowing in advance what to do, where to go is key

In the event of an emergency, where would you go? Who would you call to let your family know you’re okay?

Thinking about these things in advance and developing an emergency action plan can help you and your family stay safe in the event of a natural disaster, a fire or a nationwide state of emergency. With a little bit of advance work, you can develop a plan you’re comfortable with and that you can execute quickly and efficiently.

Your emergency action plan should include:

Escape routes: Draw a floor plan of your home. Mark two escape routes from each room, and make sure everyone in your house understands the drawing. Establish a place outside the home to meet in the event of an emergency such as a fire.

• Family communications: In the event of an emergency – especially one that interrupts cell phones – would you know how to reach your family members? Complete a contact card for each family member and have family members keep them handy. Choose a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe.

• Utility shut-off and safety: It’s important to know where the utility shut-off switches are located and how to shut off your electricity, gas, water, etc. in the event of an emergency. Make sure you are familiar with these utilities and how to handle them safely.

Caring for animals: Humans are the most visible victims of disasters, but pets are often affected, too. To plan for Fido and Fluffy, identify shelters in your area, gather pet supplies, ensure your pet has proper ID and up-to-date veterinary records, and keep a pet carrier or leash accessible.

This works as a general outline of an emergency plan, but it’s also important to cater your plan to your family’s needs. Many government agencies and websites have action plan kits you can print out and complete. Check out the FEMA and CDC websites.

Tips on how to get good quality sleep

The clocks go back at the weekend and experts say it will take many of us three days to adjust to the change in our normal sleeping patterns.

It's bad news for anyone who already struggles to get enough shut-eye. So here Dr Neil Stanley, who has been researching sleep for 28 years, gives his tips on getting a good quality kip.

1) Your bedroom should be a nest to encourage sleep. Block out excess light and noise, especially from gadgets like mobiles, which could disturb you unexpectedly. Make your bed as comfortable as possible - after all, you spend a third of your day in it.

2) You should be in a relaxed physical state for sleep. Eat big meals at least three hours before bed or your body will still be digesting it. But don't go to bed hungry, either - if you're peckish, eat something simple, like toast and butter. And don't exercise three hours before lights-out, or your body will still be buzzing from the natural high we get from vigorous activity.

3) You need to be mentally calm to sleep. If your mind's still ticking over, you won't nod off, so don't tackle a tricky Sudoku last thing at night.

4) Sleep's as important to our health as diet and exercise and you'll feel the instant benefits of a good night the next day. Go to bed early for a change.

5) Our sleeping patterns are as individual as our shapes and sizes. Anything between three and 11 hours sleep could be normal for you.

6) Research has shown that half of disturbed sleep is due to our partner tossing and turning. Consider having separate beds or even separate rooms.

7) Nocturnal leg cramps affect 13 million of us a year and are one of the five main factors that cause us to wake in the night. It happens when our muscles shorten in our sleep and when we stretch, we feel an instant, excruciating pain. Crampex, which you can buy over the counter, can be effective if cramps frequently bother you.

8) Most people accept tiredness as part of life, but we owe it to ourselves to try to get a good sleep every night. If you're having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, the real cause might be due to stress or a medical problem, Your best course of action is to talk to your GP about it.


Following healthy lifestyle tips could prevent bowel cancer

A new study has indicated that almost a quarter of colorectal (bowel) cancer cases could be prevented if people followed healthy lifestyle advice in five areas including diet and exercise.

Researchers from Denmark found that following recommendations on physical activity, waist circumference, smoking, alcohol and diet could reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer considerably - by 23 pc.
There is much evidence that implicates modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity, body composition, alcohol and diet.

The Danish researchers wanted to study the link between following healthy lifestyle advice and risk of bowel cancer in middle-aged people. They also wanted to find out the proportion of bowel cancer cases that might be linked to lack of adherence to the advice.

They studied data on 55,487 men and women aged 50-64 (bowel cancer is rare amongst people under 40) not previously diagnosed with cancer. The people were studied over almost 10 years up to 2006.
All participants filled in a lifestyle questionnaire including questions about social factors, health status, reproductive factors and lifestyle habits as well as a food frequency questionnaire developed to assess average intake over 12 months.

The researchers created a healthy lifestyle index using internationally accepted public health recommendations from the World Health Organization, World Cancer Research Fund and the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations.

These included being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, having no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a week for men, being non-smoker, having a waist circumference below 88 cm for women and 102 cm for men and consuming a healthy diet.

During the follow-up period, 678 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer.

After looking at how the participants managed to keep to each of the five lifestyle recommendations, the researchers calculated that if all participants (except the healthiest) had followed even one additional recommendation, it was possible that 13 pc of the bowel cancer cases could have been prevented.

If all participants had followed all five recommendations, then 23 pc of the bowel cancer cases could have been avoided.

A second study shows that adults with low education who used a decision aid when considering whether to have a bowel cancer screening test were more informed, but were less likely to have the test. Despite the lower uptake, the authors state that the decision aid improved informed choice in people with low education. They recommend that such aids should be made available for people who want to make an informed choice about screening and could be integrated within primary care.


5 Lifestyle Tips that Lower Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Keeping a healthy lifestyle — by refraining from smoking, limiting alcohol intake, eating healthily, working out and maintaining a small waistline — can go a long way in preventing colorectal cancer, according to a new study.

Nearly a quarter of colorectal cancer cases could be prevented by adhering to these five lifestyle 
recommendations, said study researcher Dr. Anne Tjonneland, of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen.

"Bowel cancer is probably one of the cancers where lifestyle habits have the highest impact on risk," Tjonneland told MyHealthNewsDaily.

In the United States, the National Cancer Institute anticipates 51,370 deaths from colon and rectal cancers in 2010. Together, these cancers were second only to lung and bronchial cancer in the number of U.S. deaths from 2003 through 2007.

According to the Danish study, the risk of colorectal cancer can be lowered by being physically active for more than 30 minutes every day, having no more than seven drinks for a woman or 14 drinks for a man every week, not smoking, having a waistline smaller than 35 inches (88 centimeters) for women and 40 inches (102 cm) for men, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Even modest differences in lifestyle habits can have a substantial impact on colorectal cancer risk, Tjonneland said.

The study was published online today (Oct. 26) in the British Medical Journal.

Following the rules

The researchers surveyed 55,489 men and women between the ages of 50 and 64 over the course of nearly 10 years to learn about their lifestyle habits. By 2006, at the end of the 10-year period, 678 people had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Researchers then compared how closely those with colorectal cancer and those without had adhered to the five lifestyle recommendations.

They found that if participants had adhered to all five lifestyle recommendations, 23 percent of the colorectal cancer cases could have been avoided. If all participants had followed just one of the recommendations, 13 percent of the colorectal cancer cases could have been avoided, the study said.
"What should be done as a next step would be to actually make people change their habits in an intervention study," Tjonneland told MyHealthNewsDaily.

The message isn't necessarily new, but the study itself is important because it looked at how lifestyle factors can act together to affect colorectal cancer risk, instead of looking at each factor on its own, said Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, a colorectal cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

"It's been well-known that avoidance of obesity, increasing physical activity, certain dietary things, lack of smoking, reduction of alcohol are all things that can relatively reduce one's risk of developing cancer, but most papers individually look at each of these things," said Meyerhardt, who was not involved with the study.
Research published in 2000 in the journal Cancer Causes & Control found similar results. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found, in a study of 47,927 men ages 40 to 75, that those who adhered to a similar set of lifestyle recommendations had a lower colon cancer risk than those who didn't. And a 2009 study published in the journal Colorectal Disease found a correlation between body mass index and colorectal cancer risk.

Explaining the events

The reasons why following the recommendations can help prevent colorectal cancer are not certain, but it is known that high insulin and diabetes are risk factors for the disease, Meyerhardt said.

"Obesity and lack of activity leads to high insulin states, which can lead to growth of cancer cells," Meyerhardt said.

An American Cancer Society official noted, however, that the new study doesn't address whether lifestyle changes have more or less of an impact on people with a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than on the average person.

The biggest risk factor for colorectal cancer is a family history of the disease, or a family or personal history of colon polyps, which are small clumps of cells that can turn cancerous, said , said Dr. Durado Brooks, director of Prostate and Colorectal Cancers at the society, who was not associated with the study.

"Regardless of lifestyle — you can do everything right — and you can still have significant chance" of developing colorectal cancer, Brooks said. "Getting screened for all adults starting at age 50, or earlier if they have risk factors, is the single most important thing that people can do."

Health tips

I would like to give the people of my beloved country some health tips. These are: 

1. Potassium is a mineral. It helps to maintain correct blood pressure. It also keeps a person young. It doesn't mean that one has to take potassium without consulting a physician. Too much potassium, or too little of it, can be fatal for human body.

2. Coffee is full of anti-oxidants which are essential for our body. Coffee (with or without sugar) increases gluconeogenesis (increases the production and secretion of glucose into blood by the liver). That is why drinking coffee makes us feel better. Patients of hyperglycaemia (diabetes mellitus) must be very careful about taking coffee.

Homemakers offer cooking, health tips

Participants in Saturday’s Blue Ribbon Recipes Cooking School had the opportunity to be served a five-course meal cooked by award-winning chefs.

They also had the opportunity to help make a difference to women statewide.

The Madison County Extension Homemakers hosted the cooking school, which featured chefs who have won first place, or blue ribbon awards, at the Madison County Fair and at a contest at Acres of Land.

All of the proceeds went to the University of Kentucky Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

This fund offers free ultrasounds to women age 50 or older who have no symptoms of ovarian cancer, as well as to women older than 25 who have a documented family history of ovarian cancer. This program was founded in 1987 and treats thousands of women each year. Kentucky Extension Homemakers help the program continue, by donating $1 per member annually.

Not only were the participants well fed, they also got the opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time.

Arritta Morris, a blue ribbon winner at this year’s county fair, made her peach mango ice tea and educated those in attendance about the origins of tea.

Morris is a retired school lunch coordinator for the Department of Education. She said the benefits of tea is its anti-oxidant power, thought to help slow aging. She suggested that tea always be brewed from leaves, as brewing through a bag interferes with the flavor of the tea. Black tea also contains tannins, similar to those found in red wine, which helps prohibit unhealthy levels of cholesterol, leading to better cardiovascular health, Morris said.

Pete Kensicki, also a blue ribbon winner at the county fair, delighted the audience with his teachings on the art of making homemade bread.

Kensicki said he fell in love with bread in his travels through eastern Europe. He taught audience members how to make a poolish, or a European type of bread starter. He also said that all good breads should be made with yeast and that yeast leaves holes in bread.

“The more holes, the better,” he said.

Making bread is an art, he said, one of love and of patience. Kensicki demonstrated to participants how to make his rustic hearth bread, which takes at least two days to complete.

“I like to say I have two things in my life that have taught me patience, baking bread and my daughter,” he said.

In addition, Katherine Land, owner of Acres of Land Winery, and winery chef Linda Burns, demonstrated how to make the winery’s eggplant parmesan. Pam Powell showcased her Tutti Frutti Baked Beans, made with blackberry wine. Both Powell and Burns won blue ribbons at Acres of Land’s contest. Also, Carol Kineslki demonstrated how to make her Hungarian Christmas stollen, a special type of fruit-filled cake. She, too, is a Madison County fair blue ribbon winner.

This was the sixth annual cooking school.

“It started as a fun little thing and I think it’s grown into our most popular event ever,” said Mary McCurdy, president of the Madison County Extension Homemakers.

“The purpose of the event is to have fun, but it’s also to make people aware that cooking can be fun,” said Gina Noe, Madison County Extension agent for the University of Kentucky Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. “It (cooking at home) is healthier than eating out and this class gives people tips on how to make cooking easier and the products it takes to make cooking easier.”

The event was conducted at the Madison County Extension office.

Emily Burton may be reached at or at 624-6694.


(Click on images to see these brows in all their glory.)
Source: Hairdo Magazine, July 1972

Be safe this Halloween

Halloween will be here this weekend. Here are some tips to make sure it's a healthy, fun holiday.

This Fact Sheet from the American Academy of Pediatrics has a lot of great safety information -- from pumpkin carving to costumes to actual trick-or-treating activities -- in simple bullet points. US CDC and FDA have similar advice.

Check out these resources for additional information:


When purchasing a costume, masks, beards, and wigs, look for the label Flame Resistant. Although this label does not mean these items won't catch fire, it does indicate the items will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source. To minimize the risk of contact with candles or other sources of ignition, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.
For more safety information, read this US Consumer Product Safety Commission's Halloween Safety Alert.

Does your costume involve face paint or other makeup? Make sure you check out FDA's website on novelty makeup before you apply it.

Candy and Treats

Some candies have recently been recalled due to allergy and safety concerns. Stay on top of FDA's recalls. Chocolate past its expiration date can cause illness -- check out this article on shelf life.

These Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents include basis information about inspecting your children's candy and not accepting anything that isn't commercially packaged. It also describes how to avoid bacteria from apple cider and if you go bobbing for apples.

Does your child have nut allergies? Find out how you can make sure Halloween is safe and fun despite allergies.

Do you want to provide more nutritious treats? Here are some excellent ideas from Clemson University Cooperative Extension in South Carolina.

Lines for Evening

(Click on image to see full size.)
Source: Modern Beauty Shop, August 1938

Get Ready Day, Preparedness Month help people prepare for emergencies

A video launch, a preparedness pledge campaign, and games and giveaways at local events were hallmarks of a busy month for APHA’s Get Ready campaign, all to help people better prepare for emergencies.

APHA kicked off its participation in September’s National Preparedness Month by promoting the Get Ready Preparedness Pledge. The effort amassed thousands of pledges from people promising to get a flu shot, build a stockpile, create an evacuation plan or take other simple steps to be more prepared for a public health disaster. Pledge signers also shared Get Ready resources with others by posting information at their recreational center, doctor’s office or library.

APHA’s fourth annual Get Ready Day provided communities around the country an opportunity to spread the word about the importance of preparing for emergencies.
APHA promoted the Get Ready Event Guide (PDF) to help those interested in hosting their own Get Ready Day event, and released a new Get Ready viral video to help spread the preparedness word by giving a classic tale a new twist. Watch and share. Are you an ant or a grasshopper?
Closer to home, APHA's Get Ready team hosted a booth featuring games and giveaways at a preparedness festival for kids organized by the District of Columbia. The event drew 150 elementary and middle school students to learn about emergency planning and featured local emergency responders, including the departments of health and homeland security, police and fire units and the National Guard. APHA staff also took to the streets and set up a table in the plaza near the Association’s headquarters. During lunch hours, staff passed out information and freebies to remind local businesses and employees that emergency preparedness isn’t just for individuals and families; it’s also important to plan and practice for emergences in the workplace.
Visit our Flickr page to see some photos from the events. And mark your calendars because Sept. 19, 2011 — next year’s Get Ready Day — is right about the corner. Start planning today so you’re prepared for tomorrow!

Obesity and the Brain

Nature Genetics just published a paper that caught my interest (1). Investigators reviewed the studies that have attempted to determine associations between genetic variants and common obesity (as judged by body mass index or BMI). In other words, they looked for "genes" that are suspected to make people fat.

There are a number of gene variants that associate with an increased or decreased risk of obesity. These fall into two categories: rare single-gene mutations that cause dramatic obesity, and common variants that are estimated to have a very small impact on body fatness. The former category cannot account for common obesity because it is far too rare, and the latter probably cannot account for it either because it has too little impact*. Genetics can't explain the fact that there were half as many obese people in the US 40 years ago. Here's a wise quote from the obesity researcher Dr. David L. Katz, quoted from an interview about the study (2):
Let us by all means study our genes, and their associations with our various shapes and sizes... But let's not let it distract us from the fact that our genes have not changed to account for the modern advent of epidemic obesity -- our environments and lifestyles have.
Exactly. So I don't usually pay much attention to "obesity genes", although I do think genetics contributes to how a body reacts to an unnatural diet/lifestyle. However, the first part of his statement is important too. Studying these types of associations can give us insights into the biological mechanisms of obesity when we ask the question "what do these genes do?" The processes these genes participate in should be the same processes that are most important in regulating fat mass.

So, what do the genes do? Of those that have a known function, nearly all of them act in the brain, and most act in known body fat regulation circuits in the hypothalamus (a brain region). The brain is the master regulator of body fat mass. It's also the master regulator of nearly all large-scale homeostatic systems in the body, including the endocrine (hormone) system. Now you know why I study the neurobiology of obesity.

* The authors estimated that "together, the 32 confirmed BMI loci explained 1.45% of the inter-individual variation in BMI." In other words, even if you were unlucky enough to inherit the 'fat' version of all 32 genes, which is exceedingly unlikely, you would only have a slightly higher risk of obesity than the general population.

Link: "Beehive"

How to create a "beehive" and other Halloween hair ideas from Martha Stewart:

I want to wear my hair like this - maybe I should go out and buy some yarn.

Public Health Updates

· Infectious Disease Conference. Since 1983, Maine CDC’s Division of Infectious Disease has organized an annual infectious disease conference targeting public health issues of emerging concern. This year’s conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 9 at the Augusta Civic Center. Health care practitioners, laboratorians, and public health partners are invited to receive current information on surveillance, clinical management and diagnosis, and disease control interventions. The conference will feature cases of interest, epidemiology presentations, and clinical updates. The conference brochure and agenda are now available online. Click here to register.

· Bed Bugs. Bed bugs are small insects that feed on human blood. Although bed bugs do not transmit disease, infestations are very difficult and expensive to control. Unlike head lice, bed bugs do not live on a person. However, they can hitchhike from one place to another in backpacks, clothing, luggage, books and other items. Maine CDC has established a web page with links to information and a list of resources related to bed bugs following a number of recent calls for consultations. The page is accessible at

· EEE and West Nile Virus. There was unprecedented EEE activity in Maine in 2009. Several surrounding states have already seen EEE and WNV activity this year, including increased risk of EEE in southeastern Massachusetts resulting in aerial spraying in that area (more information can be found at For the most recent surveillance reports on EEE and WNV, visit:

· Animal rabies. Maine CDC provides quarterly updates on animal rabies to veterinarians and other animal health professionals. This update may be used as an educational tool to increase the understanding of pet owners and other members of the public regarding the risk of rabies in Maine and in their communities. The third quarter report can be found here:

· Fingerstick devices and bloodborne pathogens. US CDC has become increasingly concerned about the risks for transmitting hepatitis B virus (HBV) and other bloodborne pathogens to people undergoing fingerstick procedures for blood sampling, such as people with diabetes. As reports of HBV infection outbreaks linked to diabetes have been increasing, CDC issued an important reminder that fingerstick devises should never be used for more than one person ( For more information, visit:

Time to roll up your sleeves and soap up: It’s Global Hand-Washing Day!

Join hands — clean hands, that is — with people from around the world today and celebrate Global Hand-Washing Day.

Who knew that something as simple as washing your hands with water and soap can help prevent hundreds of diseases in your community? In fact, the United Nations says hand-washing is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and respiratory infections that take the lives of millions of children around the world every year.

Yet despite that fact, far too few people wash their hands with soap and water regularly. But you can help.

This year’s global campaign focuses on the importance of hand-washing among children and the role schools play in teaching about hand-washing. It highlights five key facts everyone should know:

• Washing hands with water alone is not enough. Using soap works to break down grease and dirt that carry most germs.

• Hand-washing with soap can prevent diseases that kill millions of children every year.

• The critical moments for hand-washing with soap are after using the toilet or cleaning a child and before handling food.

• Hand-washing with soap is the single most cost-effective health intervention.

• Children can be agents of change.

Get involved and check out the many games, lesson plans (PDF), videos and resources available on the Global Hand-Washing Day website.

And don’t forget to check out APHA’s Get Ready hand-washing handouts, available in English and Spanish, and our new frequently asked questions about hand-washing.

Roll up your sleeves, break out the soap and help spread the word about proper hygiene. Happy hand-washing!

Depression Rates in Maine and US

The current issue of U.S. CDC’s MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) contains updated data on current depression among adults in the United States and for each state. Maine’s rates are listed as: 3.5% reporting major depression; 4.4% reporting some kind of depression; for a total of 7.9% prevalence (or 1 in 13).

These rates are comparable with the U.S. rates of 3.4%, 5.7%, and 9.0% respectively. The link to the full report is: A separate analysis of Maine data indicates that about 20% of adults have been told at one time during their lifetime they are or have been depressed.

Below the Line –Transcript of Louise’s Poverty Story for CFRC Radio

Hello my name is Louise and I’m here to share my poverty story. I'm doing this as part of the Queen’s University Symposium on Poverty that is being held in Kingston Ontario from October 14-16, 2010. When the opportunity to produce this radio show came up, I was thrilled. But then I thought, ooh. How do I do this in a way that will educate, keep the audience interested, and not sound too negative? Well, by asking myself this question, I realized that I had my work cut out for me. I rose to the challenge.

I have a mix of stories to share and it is my hope that, by sharing them, it will educate the listening audience in such a way that they will think differently about a person who is in poverty. Many of these stories will illustrate that people who are in poverty are caught in a trap. They are caught in a web of social services programs that don’t always work together, or they lack the skills, education, and background, that are necessary for an employer to decide if a person is eligible to be hired for a job.

If you add a disability to the mix, either visible or invisible, then the extent of poverty can be much greater because the ability to get hired, so one can break free of the poverty trap, will be greatly diminished.

As a person who has a disability, I am going to focus on this aspect of the poverty story because it is the one I know about the most.

Let me start out by explaining why I am in poverty. I was not born into it. I was born into a family where both parents were professionals. They earned a decent income and they were able to give us lots of opportunities as children. We went camping. We had a summer cottage and were taught the basic life-skills that are so necessary for us to function well in society and later on. My parents encouraged us to be the best we could be and, because nobody would do anything for us, we had to learn. It was their goal to give us the guidance to figure out how to do things and they would help us only if we got stuck and couldn’t solve the problem. It was an environment that was conducive to learning.

Despite being born into this land of opportunity, I was an insecure kid. I didn’t fit in well at school and I was bullied unmercifully. I learned to hate and avoid school because I was so afraid of the other kids. At the age of 10, I became so depressed that I was prescribed the anti-depressant, Sinequan. The doctor also recommended that my parents send me to another school. For grade 7 & 8, I went to boarding school in Toronto. I hated it at first but then I loved it and it wasn’t long before I was doing really well. I developed self-confidence, I was involved in many school activities, and I finally started to get some really really good marks. I felt great. However, at the end of grade 9 my family decided, regardless of this, that I better to go back to public high school in Peterborough because it was expensive to send me to boarding school. The sad part was, when I returned to high school the kids started to resume their bullying. They’d found out I had been to boarding school, so I was now dubbed as a snob, and was shunned.

Being isolated at school, it didn’t take long before I sunk back into a depression and I really missed my friends from school in Toronto. In fact I became so depressed that by January, I had to be admitted to the psychiatric ward of the hospital for the first time. It was there that I was medicated and I had to stay there for 2 months. This made matters worse with my peers at school because, when I returned, the kids found out I’d been there, and they further stigmatized me not only being a snob, but as also being crazy. Now everyone started to avoid me. When I tried out for sports or tried to join a regular club, I wasn’t accepted. Life became so unbearably lonely, that it was hard to keep out of the depression. The only bright spot I could find was when I joined the school choir. I was in a class that was held at night because it was designed to serve all the high schools in Peterborough and it was there I started to make some friends. We had a common bond in song and that was a good thing. It helped to ease the loneliness a bit, but it was still hard to go to my own school and face the kids.

Because of the medication that I was being given for a depression, my marks weren’t great and it started to look like I was going to fail a few courses. I went to the guidance counselor and, on his advice; I dropped from a 5-year level course, to a 4-year level. This meant I would no longer go to grade 13 and ultimately to University. This is unfortunate because my parents had been investing in The Registered Educational Fund for most of my life and, back then, it would only pay for University. Dropping to a 4-year level closed a lot of doors.

I somehow managed to graduate from grade 12, despite having three more admissions for 2-months each time, but I did it because the school board was able to supply me with a tutor who could help me to keep up. I wasn’t so lucky when I applied for, and was accepted to, Community College. I had no idea what to take because I was interested in tinkering with things rather than working with some of the traditional women’s jobs. However, for a woman in the 70’s to follow a career where I would be in a classroom full of men was not a good idea with my mental health issues. For this reason I decided to go into nursing. Well, that was a big mistake. It was not part of my personality and, within 8 weeks, I got depressed again. This time the doctor certified me to the hospital so I had no choice but to stay there. I was there for 3 months and, as a result I lost the funding that had paid for the course and, of course, I lost the course.

Shortly after I was discharged from hospital I had to go onto welfare because the course was now gone and I was having too many problems at home. My parents wanted me to buck up, cheer up, and stop feeling so sorry for myself, but I couldn’t do it. The stress of trying to meet their expectations was only making matters worse so the psychiatrist recommended I apply for welfare and move away from home. He said that was the only way I was going to be able to heal.

Well, I followed the psychiatrist’s advice having no idea what kind of trap I was walking myself into. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to later break away from the social services program and the poverty trap. If I had known then, what I know now, I would never have done it. I was an insecure and confused teenager and I who couldn’t figure out who was the best person to listen to; the professional or my parents. Unfortunately I chose the professional and I now realize that was a big mistake. But you can’t undo the past. The best you can do it share your story, and hope that others don’t make the same mistake.

When I went onto welfare I was 17 years old and, back then, it was mandatory for a person to apply for 3 jobs a day. You not only had to apply for the jobs, but you had to also get a signature from the employer to prove that you did it. I certainly wanted to get a job but it was very hard to go looking for work when you’re so medicated that your mouth is twisted slightly out of shape, you’re drooling, and you’re slurring your speech. You know full well you’re not making a good impression to the employer and it wasn’t a surprise that they weren’t calling me to give a job interview.

I spent many months of trying to meet my commitment with social services but when I never got one call for an interview, I got demoralized, started to self-doubt, and wonder what is wrong with me and I eventually got depressed.

This meant that, by the age of 20, I’d been in the hospital five times and I was taking up to about 20 – 25 pills a day. I had no work history, other than a few summer jobs, I had no post-secondary education, and I was rapidly losing the chance to ever get enough work history or background that would give the job references that are so necessary for one to even get an entry level job.

In 1980 I eventually heard of a government program called OCAP (Ontario Career Action Program) and I applied for it. With that program, you work for a regular employer for 4 months and the government will pay your wages. You are expected to show up for work every day and they are expected to write weekly evaluations on your job performance. I had excellent performance reports because I was a quick learner, I showed up for work every day and I volunteered to do everything. At the end of the 4 months I was hired but then I made a mistake. I had to get a wisdom tooth out and I decided to get it done on my lunch hour. Well I did this on the Thursday before Thanksgiving and unfortunately I ran into complications. Within hours I had developed a dry socket and the next day I had an infection, so I had to take the time off work. I was fired the following week.

This meant I had to go back onto welfare until I could find another job. I eventually found one at a Chinese Restaurant. It didn’t give me a lot of hours and it was an awful place to work, but at least it was a job and it was better than nothing. In fact this employer was pretty good because whenever I had to go in hospital he would keep my job for me to go back to when I got out. It was hard to stay hopeful though and I was having multiple hospital admissions. So, after about 3 years of this, I finally got so depressed that I gave up. I became suicidal and I started developing behavior problems; fighting out against the world and against the trap I was in.

In 1983, Peterborough could no longer manage me so I was transferred to Kingston Psychiatric Hospital. By this point I’d not been able to get a decent job, I was not integrated into society, I could barely afford to survive on the income I was earning at the Chinese Restaurant, and it seemed next to impossible to ward off the demons of depression.

At one point I remember even asking a social worker to share the results of the psychological testing, capacity assessment testing, and career interest testing with a potential employer because I thought that would help me to actually get the job. I knew the employer was not getting a good impression of me by a visual look alone. However, the social worker didn’t agree that she could share this information with the employer and she wouldn’t.

When I got to Kingston Psychiatric Hospital I no longer had an interest in life, I didn’t want to be alive and I honestly had no idea how to break out of the trap. For the next 2 years I continued to deteriorate in my behavior and it was no surprise when they decided they were going to send me to St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital. I was there for 10 months.

Thankfully when I did get out I was past that stage of rebellion and I moved back home with my parents who were now in Cobourg. I lived there for 10 months. When I was there I went back to high school as an adult student to get used to studying again and then my parents agreed to fund me taking a course at St. Lawrence College in Kingston. I took 2 years of business administration with a major in accounting before I, ended up getting depressed and had to back in the hospital again. I lost the course. However, I had gotten lot further than I had ever got before. Being aware of that progress helped me to develop a high level of energy and this was helping me to keep moving forward.

Unfortunately, the psychiatrist became concerned about this new level of energy because he’d never seen it before. I was going at a pretty high pace and I was not sleeping very many hours, so he was concerned and he diagnosed me as being manic. He gave me new medication to slow me down.

I don't remember the names of the medication I had been on over the years, but I know the names of at least 28 of them. In my opinion, I was on too much. The loss of hope and the bad behavior that I had started to exhibit did not help me one bit.

There really is no one you can blame or point fingers at, but I do see this as a trend goes on throughout the system. It is a systemic issue that needs to be changed. It is a trend that has led people into needless poverty and often to our prisons or out on the streets and this is so unfortunate.

When I got out of Kingston Psychiatric Hospital I moved into The Friendship Homes, which is a supportive living environment for people who have had a mental illness.

In 1995 I got my first part-time job at a convenience store and my life started to take a turn for the better. However, at the same time I started to have problems walking and I was falling for reasons I could not explain. My legs weren’t going where I wanted them to go and I had a lot of pain so, when I got home from work, I did everything in my power to conserve my energy so I could go back to work the next day. There were times I literally had to crawl up the stairs to get to my room so, the staff started to become concerned about my safety. I had been trying to get an answer about the leg problem from the doctor for about a year at this point, but I was getting nowhere. The family doctor would say it was not physical and she would send me to the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist would say it’s not mental and he would send me to the GP.

It wasn’t until a worker from Friendship Homes decided that she would come to an appointment with me and tell them that we were not leaving until they’d come up with an answer, that the two doctors talked to each other and it was decided that I was to be admitted to the psychiatric hospital. They never really did find out the problem at that point but I ended up in a wheelchair. It wasn’t until several years later that I finally found out what the real problem was. All that medication that I had been taking over the years and that was twisting my mouth out of shape and causing me to drool had caused permanent nerve damage with my legs.

It sounds pretty devastating to say that medication had caused the problem and put me in a wheelchair. Now that I’m over the shock, I have to say it did open the door to new opportunities. The first thing it did was force me to move out of the Friendship Homes because their houses where not wheelchair accessible. I had to move into a full-priced apartment that cost $604 per month and I was only getting $930 a month from the disability pension. In addition to this, I had to pay $100 a month to buy the wheelchair because my family was not allowed to help me at that point. The program that was the precursor to the ODSP program was the Family Benefits Allowance and it never used to allow the family to financially support you.

Because the rent was so high I decided I had no choice but to get a job so I could pay for the rent so I joined the Job Club. When the job club ended every single person said to me that when they saw my drive and energy, and they heard me speak about my methods of how I was looking for work, they were motivated to do the same. The irony is that in the end, they all got jobs, and I never got one call for an interview. I can only assume that it is because of my lack of work history, viable work references, and possibly the wheelchair, but I don’t know this for sure.

Another thing that happened that I call a miracle because it helped lead me on the road to recovery was, believe it or not, developing sleep apnea in the late 1990’s. I had been falling asleep without warning, and nobody knew why. I finally went to the sleep specialist and that’s when I discovered I had severe sleep apnea. For a year he tried to treat it with the CPAP machine and even an oral appliance. But it didn’t work. Try as he might, he could not bring the apnea down to a controllable level. He happened to make a comment one day about how the sedation of the medications would be what was causing the problem and thankfully that sent alarm bells off in my head. Enough so, that I went back to the psychiatrist and said I wanted to reduce some of the medication, but he would not agree. I then went to my family doctor and I asked her the same thing. Thankfully she took over the prescribing and was able to taper me off of them all. By getting off the pills off I had another little miracle happen that I never would have expected.

I’d been on them for 32 years and was frequently getting depressed, often giving up, and having far too many admissions to hospital. But when I was off the medications I discovered the symptoms of the mental illness vanished. So did the sleep apnea (almost) and the stomach reflux. I was finally on the road to recovery. My first goal was to go back to school, and then to look for work.

I found a College fund to apply to and I took a course in web design. Unfortunately I discovered upon graduation that I cannot be self-employed and work from home when I live in subsidized housing. I would have to find another location where I could work.

Undaunted I went to ODSP, applied for Employment Supports and, with their help, I looked for a job. The first thing the employment counselor did was have me go and do some psychological testing and capacity assessment testing. They wanted to make sure they would find a suitable career path that I can do from a wheelchair.

The results that came back, were nothing sort of miraculous. Previous testing had shown that I was functioning at a rather low level, but now that I was off the medication, the tests showed the complete opposite. Psychologically, there was no evidence of a borderline personality disorder or a bipolar disorder. I had a healthy adaptive approach to coping with pain and, intellectually, I scored average or slightly above average in all the categories that I was tested in. I was so thrilled that I shared those results with everyone. Little did I know that this would result in the services being cut off from the Mental Health Care Team? They had been helping me find services, overcome barriers to the wheelchair in the community, and help me deal with the frustration of its limits. By using their service to stay grounded it kept me from getting depressed again. However, in order to receive their service you had to have a diagnosed mental illness and I had just ruled them out.

Despite losing the worker, I was still determined that I was going to get a job. I went back to the employments support counselor and I asked for her help to resume looking for a job. They set me into a 4-month placement at a place where I could work in web design, but at the end of it I didn’t have enough skills for them to justify hiring me. They needed me to learn another web design skill. I rose to the challenge. I went to the employer that I had been working under and I asked her if she would be willing to be my mentor if I were to teach myself the new skill. I thought I could extend the length of my placement, work under her mentorship, and if I did a good job, that they would consider hiring me to actually work full-time. She didn’t say no to the idea so I made an appointment with employment supports to see if this could be done. When I got up there I discovered unfortunately, the government had restructured the program and because I would not be employed by the newly appointed deadline, they would have to close my file and I would have to wait a year before I could reopen it again. I couldn’t believe it. But what do you do? That’s how the government works.

The good news is, being emotionally stronger; they were not going to knock me down. I was determined that I was going to get a job and break out of poverty, no matter what. I went to another employment agency and I asked for their help. The employment counselor wasn’t sure what to suggest I work at given my level of skill so he made a comment, why don’t you just work at one of the 2 Call Centres in town? Well, I hadn’t applied to them because they were open 24/7 and I had been told that they do not accommodate shifts for anybody, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get there when I use public transit and it doesn’t run at night. However, his statement was a challenge and I went up and applied. In both cases I was accepted for the job. I took the job at the one that I liked the best and I was there for 18 months. I loved it.

For the first time ever I was actually able to get off ODSP. But it wasn’t easy. The ODSP program has a lot of incentives built into it so this meant that even though I was working full time and getting double the income I was on ODSP they couldn’t migrate me off in a way that would allow me to qualify for the rapid reinstatement program. I had to earn another $18. I signed up for every over-time shift I could, earned the $18, and that was the end of ODSP. It was exhilarating. I was so happy to be off it. The thing is I got another shock. I discovered the Social housing program has 2 different formulae; one for those receiving social assistance, and one for those who are not. Well, as soon as I left ODSP, my rent increased by 680%. It went from $78 per month plus hydro, to $533 plus hydro. I also had to pay more for my Access Buses and other cost were getting to be very expensive. I was not getting further ahead. I wasn’t worried about this though. I was used to not earning a lot of extra money, and I was thrilled to be working. The only thing that got difficult was when they closed No Frills grocery store and S & R Department Store in the downtown. All of a sudden there wasn’t enough hours in the day to work and get my daily essential tasks of living done. I managed but I was doing it by cutting down on my sleep and pushing myself harder and faster than I had before.

My high level of energy enabled me to do it, but then we had an Access Bus strike. Because I have a severe scent-allergy I could not take conventional transit. The only way I could get to work was by leaving home at 5:45 in the morning and traveling 11 kms. to work by power wheelchair. I was able to charge the chair when I was there, and then, if I was lucky, I could take a bus home.

With a grocery store and a department store no longer being downtown I had to do without a lot of things. There are no delivery services that you can call for someone to pick up items for you, nor do I have the help of family and friends. I managed to sustain the pace throughout the whole Access Bus strike, but then tragedy hit. The employer changed the time of my shift to one that would not leave me enough time before or after work to take transit to stores while they were still open. Emotionally, I broke down. I couldn’t stop crying because, no matter how hard I tried, I could not overcome the physical barriers I was suddenly having to face.

The stress of trying to sort it out, coupled with only 4 hours of sleep at night to accommodate for the Access Bus strike finally got the better of me. I couldn’t stop crying and this doesn’t work well in a Call Center. So I went to my doctor and was advised to take time off work. He diagnosed me with an Adjustment Disorder. Well, Shepell FGI, an agent for my employer rejected his medical and I was given 30 days to appeal. It too was rejected and I was now facing job abandonment.

Throughout the summer I was so frustrated, not only with the problems with getting to work, but also from the lack of support from my relatively new doctor. I asked him why he would label me as mentally ill instead of naturally stressed out with all the things I was trying to overcome so I could continue to work, and he got up, walked out of the room and told me to find another doctor. That almost finished me, but I am too determined to quit.

I went out to the woods at Lemoine’s Point and I traveled through the woods very very slowly. That’s when I heard this.

(Sounds of birds and crickets were cut in)

When you listen to these sounds, it calms your whole body down. My heart rate slowed. It was restoring my soul. Out there I could do a lot of thinking, write a lot of letters, and try to take steps necessary to salvage my job. In the end, I lost the battle. The appeal medical had been rejected, the doctor had walked away, I was facing job abandonment, I was devastated, and I felt I had no choice but to quit. I was too tearful to return to work right away.

When I went back to get ODSP, I discovered, much to my horror that because I had been an optimist and applied for the E.I. Sick Benefits with the hopes that I could return to work, I could not get back on ODSP through rapid reinstatement right away. This is because it is mandatory to exhaust all other sources of income before you return.

Employment insurance gave me an income but it was not enough to cover my rent and all my medical expenses. Now I had to wait 4 months in order to get that. It was beyond belief.

I didn’t even have bus fare to go to Martha’s Table or the Food Bank to get food.

Finally after 4 months I had one more return to the psychiatric ward. I had a situational depression that no medication could treat. I got to stay there for 9 days, eat some healthy food, and restore myself.

I am now back on ODSP but the hardest thing I have ever done is try to do nothing. I apply for jobs and volunteer jobs on a regular basis but I don’t always get called because I cannot do the equal tasks to everyone else.

If you were to ask me to sum up, in a nutshell, why I am in the poverty trap, my answer would be I did not gain enough self-confidence and strength as a teenager to overcome the bullying at school, the many depressions, and I did not get the post-secondary education at a normally young age. The longer you go without getting that good start in life, the harder it will be to break free of the poverty trap.

It is wrong for the government to be cutting funding for things like the special diet allowance. We need to speak up collectively to ask for more income for people who are disabled and, through no fault of their own, cannot get a job.

Until this happens, the poverty is going to continue and, much as I hate to say it, I’m going to be thankful for those hard-earned tax dollars that you are paying in order to keep me alive. If you are willing to take the risk and hire me contact CFRC at 613-533-2121 and they will tell you how you can find me.

I want to thank you so much for listening.

I have blown a lot of minds yesterday at the Queen's University Symposium on Poverty that is going on from October 14 - 16th in conjunction with the production of this radio show.

It has been top-notch fantastic. I actually had someone reach out and hug me yesterday - actually touch me and make me feel like a welcome, and very valuable human being. It put me into tears of joy.

By sharing this story and that about the effects of trying to survive under these very broken and flawed social services policies. One guy, a nurse by trade, spoke about his experience working at Street Health in London and in groups that are trying to eradicate homelessness. He spoke of the behaviours observed and how policies were being set to try to keep people in line, and then I spoke about how I responded on the receiving end of those policies.

For example, he mentioned how they used to give away socks and bus tickets and how some people could never seem to get enough - they were too needy.

And I said, I am one of those needy people. That's because I don't want your socks or your bus tickets to be just given to me. I want to be accepted for who I am, treated like a valuable person who can contribute in some small way to society - either by working, volunteering, providing input or feedback and then working TOGETHER to help solve the problem - not have the input taken and then the person (who is getting paid) take my input and adopt it into a thesis or theory that will carry them on as a valuable contributing citizen in this world, etc.

I even shared how, when they caged me in the psych system and had me locked up in seclusion, how I would fight out. I couldn't break free of the stigmatization and overmedicating being done by the psychiatrists so I changed my mindset to one of, I'm going to give you a run for your money. If you're going to keep me locked up, I'm going to fight out and make you work hard to keep me under control.

I was identical to that Ashley Smith teen who was incarcerated in a youth detention facility for throwing an apple at a cop, and then who fought out about being caged for such a minor offence. She spiralled out of control, was eventually transferred to 19 different prisons, and finally committed suicide in Kitchener.

The only difference between her and me is she was in prison, I was in the psych, she finally succeeded, and I made multiple failed attempts to do the same thing. Thankfully the drugs caused the walking problem and sleep apnea so that the psychiatrists finally turfed me out on my ear. When they realized they caused permanent damage to my legs, they washed their hands of me, my GP got me off the medications, the mental illness vanished, and I have never looked back.

Please read my other Blogs:

Health Reform Update 10/14/10

School-based Health Center Funding Opportunity

US HHS Secretary Sebelius has designated $100 million in new investments from the Affordable Care Act for school-based health centers (SBHCs). The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expects to award an estimated 200 grants in FY2011 to construct, renovate, or purchase equipment in SBHCs. An eligible applicant must be a school-based health center or sponsoring facility, and should certify that the SBHC site(s) serves children eligible for medical assistance under the state Medicaid plan. The application deadline is December 1.

Recent Health Reform Grants in Maine

· Maine DHHS, Husson College, and the University of New England were awarded a total of $822,796 from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to purchase equipment for training current and future health professionals across disciplines at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate education levels.

· Maine was one of 20 states funded to strengthen Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) Options Counseling and Assistance Programs for community-based health and long-term care services. Options counseling programs help people understand, evaluate, and manage the full range of services and supports available in their community.

· Maine was one of 16 states funded to coordinate and continue to encourage evidence-based care transition models which help older persons or persons with disabilities remain in their own homes after a hospital, rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility stay. These grants will help break the cycle of readmission to the hospital that occurs when an individual is discharged into the community without the social services and supports they need.

· The University of New England in Biddeford was awarded $990,000 to fund its primary care physician assistant training program by providing student stipends.

· Maine DHHS was awarded $747,632 to develop and evaluate a competency-based uniform curriculum to train qualified personal and home care aides. Personal and home care aides (PHCAs) are projected to be the fourth-fastest growing direct care occupation in the United States between 2008 and 2018. Maine is one of six states participating in the 3-year project.

· The Maine Jobs Council was awarded a $150,000 planning grant to assess the state’s current health workforce. These activities are expected to result in a 10 to 25 percent increase in the primary care health workforce over a 10-year period.

· Maine CDC was awarded $250,000 for a personal responsibility education program as part of $155 million in national teen pregnancy prevention grants.

· US HHS awarded nearly $49 million to help plan for the establishment of health insurance exchanges, a key part of the Affordable Care Act set to begin in 2014. In Maine, the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance was awarded $1 million to support the development and implementation plan for the Exchange.

· US HHS awarded $727 million in Affordable Care Act funds to 143 community health centers to address pressing construction and renovation needs and expand access to quality health care. The following table shows the 19 Maine health centers that received a total of almost $20 million:

Health Center Grantee Name


Total Award

Bucksport Regional HC



City of Portland Maine



DFD Russell Medical Center



Eastport Health Care, Inc.



Fish River Rural Health

Eagle Lake


Harrington Family HC



Health Access Network, Inc.



Healthreach Community HC



Islands Community Medical Services, Inc



Katahdin Valley HC



Maine Migrant Programs, Inc.



Maine Primary Care Association



Penobscot Community HC, Inc.



Pines Health Services



Regional Medical Center at Lubec, Inc.



Sacopee Valley HC



Sebasticook Family Doctors



St. Croix Regional Family HC



York County Community Action Corporation



Other Health Reform News

People who retire early often have a difficult time finding affordable coverage, and are too young to be eligible for Medicare. But today, more early retirees can rest easier knowing that their health security won’t be compromised by their early retirement after today’s announcement that more employers and unions will participate in HHS’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. For more information:

This web site lets you search your insurance options:

For more information about Health Reform in Maine, visit the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance’s web site: