I started writing this months ago but I have never been able to find adequate words to explain my thoughts. However, this is the day we remind ourselves of our need to talk, to share, and listen to those who are suffering. So I will try to express the feelings, words, despair, and pain so many in my own community live with.
Several months ago I sat and listened to group of people who lead many of our community organizations that deal with many of the people facing the biggest life issues on our Island. One of the conclusions they had come to was the root cause of so many of our social, addiction, and mental help issues was ‘trauma.’
I do not want anyone to think everyone in Cape Breton is struggling or have faced trauma. We in fact have incredible people. What we do have is an unusually large percentage of people who are facing life altering hardships.
Excessive alcohol use is everywhere, but we have the highest percentage of young adults who are problem drinkers. Opioid use is everywhere, but we have the communities with the highest per-capita overdose relate deaths. People self harm everywhere, but we have the highest percentage of youth who self harm. There are family issues everywhere, but we have the highest percentage of youth living with grandparents as their own parents can’t take care of them. There is needle use everywhere, but we have given out 400% per capita more than the mainland. There is child (family) poverty everywhere, but we have some of the worst.
What does this mean? We have an excessive and unacceptable amount of children, youth, and families on our Island who today who need help. Today they are experiencing trauma. Many are hungry. They are living in homes that are not safe. Some are living without anyone able to take care of them.
When you understand the scope of the issues it explains the level of hopelessness, disappointment, anxiety, pain, and even anger we see. However, I could never fully explain what it is like to go through what some of kids and youth are currently facing. I do not think I have ever come across anything that explains the pain of trauma better than this short video about a young man who lost his mom to addiction.
Before reading the rest of this post, please listen to this. https://youtu.be/wOzQMCyPc8o
In all my years of working with youth I have never seen the level of brokenness I have seen this year. Covid has exposed and multiplied the issues we have. Trauma takes hope, dignity, and value from people but I see so many experiencing it. I could quote more stats but they seem pretty meaningless as I have sat with parents who have lost their kids, and kids who have lost their parents and it is very real.
So Today We Talk.
Today I want to be the voice for some people you may not hear from, but they are here. Please remember.Our youth DO NOT just need to be heard one day a year. They need consistent safe space, safe people, and safe homes. Today, needs to be a reminder and wake up call that one of the solutions is to provide real, long term, reliable, loving connections, community, and mentorship EVERYDAY.
Today you can start to make a difference in someone’s life. You can volunteer. You can give to organizations who are already helping. You can call someone. You can listen. You can show someone they have value and are worth your time. Blessing gives Value. One of the greatest things that changes people’s lives is if they know they have at least one person who is watching out for them, cares for them, fighting for them. Please be that person for a child or youth in our community.
Those who feel they have no voice, need to be heard. This can only happen if we are PROACTIVE. As individuals, communities, organizations, churches, agencies, friends, etc we cannot expect those who are hurting the most, feel the most vulnerable, will always reach out to us. Today take the initiative to ask someone how they are doing. Do something incredible for some. Watch out for your friends and neighbours. You can never go wrong by doing good for someone else.
I want to thank everyone who is doing this in our community now. I have the privilege of knowing so many people who have given their lives to helping others succeed in the CBRM. Today we honour you. You have literally saved lives.
This is not going away without a community transformation plan which is capable of breaking hundreds, if not thousands, of kids and youth out of cycles of poverty and addiction across Cape Breton. (I will be posting lots about this in the next days and weeks)
As we move into a year which will be the most difficult for far too many, I hope today we each commit to do something. It is only together that we can make a healthy community, and be the healthy village that can raise our children and youth with care, dignity, value, and love.End the Trauma.