Column: Mae Burrows brings message of hope to CYC Consult

Keynote presenter at the 21st annual Conversation on Chilliwack’s Childrenwas Mae Burrows, president of From Grief to Action

I recently attended the 21st annual Conversation on Chilliwack’s Children, held at City Life Church on April 4th. This year’s theme was Every Door is the Right Door, born out of last year’s event, which created awareness that navigating and accessing community resources and services can be difficult and intimidating.

One of the keynote presenters was Mae Burrows, president of From Grief to Action: when addiction hits home, a non-profit society in Vancouver that provides resources, support, and respect to friends and families affected by drug use. From Grief to Action was established in the early 1990s as a support group by a group of bewildered Kerrisdale parents who realized they each had children who were addicted to heroin. It began with the sole purpose of keeping people alive long enough to outlive their drug addiction, and has grown into an organization with national recognition devoted to building greater public awareness and empathy about drug addiction and concurrent disorders.

Mae’s speech was entitled Families searching for a door: what helped, what hindered, and  when she first heard the Every door is the right door theme for the event, she said she exclaimed, ‘Door? There’s a door? Seriously?’  She went on to state that the group is very much aligned with the principles of every door is right door, as their goal is to break down silos and not let people with lesser illnesses fall through the cracks because you can’t only provide services to those who are really declining.

She believes the key issues in the fight against addictions are as follows:

• We must start seeing addictions as a health issue, not a moral or criminal justice issue

• Undiagnosed mental health issues must be addressed before people start coping in unhealthy ways

• Addictions are unfortunately a user-pay system, especially for employed people who must pay to go to rehab

• Addictions must be brought into the health care system.

As she spoke, Mae kept returning to the same sentiment: families need help too, not just the addicts. There should be no stigma: addictions should be talked about like any other chronic illness, as those families are trying their best, too. When outlining what helps families, she had several words of wisdom: establish boundaries, get your own counselling, practice detached empathy and compassion, self-care is a necessity, take stock of how far down the rabbit hole you are, be able to recognize what’s not normal, support groups are normalizing, take what you need and leave the rest when it comes to advice, educate yourself especially about drugs, symptoms, mental health issues and treatment options, become an advocate for your loved one, and remember them as who they were.

However, Mae also had much to say about what hinders families and their loved ones in accessing help: privacy clauses excluding parents and secrecy of agencies; having to be clean before receiving mental health services; don’t treat all families the same, as some want to be, need to be, and should be involved; no matter how helpful professionals think they are, families are usually the ones there at the end of the day keeping addicts alive; don’t just include families but actually treat families because they are the clients, too, and they also need to be able to access services.

As Mae shared her closing thoughts, her sentiments echoed what I have said many times in therapy: self-care can save you; you don’t always have to do something, sometimes just being still is something; and remember the four Cs: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it, but you can care about yourself and them.

Eryn Wicker (M.A., RCC) is a mental health clinician with the Child and Youth Mental Health team with the Ministry of Children and family Development in Chilliwack, BC.

Just Posted

New $1.8-million CT scanner in operation at Chilliwack General Hospital

Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation steps up to raise $1 million, more than half the scanner cost

WorkBC Chilliwack officially opens doors to its new location

The local centre opened in April and since then hundreds of clients transitioned to employment

OPINION: A brief look at the present and past of Chilliwack federal elections

For those who are new to town, or just haven’t been paying attention

Missing man last seen in Chilliwack Sept. 7

Friends concerned for well-being of 44-year-old Jean Pierre Baril

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Pedestrian struck and killed by vehicle in Surrey

Investigators were asking anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

Most Read