Monday, 26 January 2015

Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness

One in five Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Nevertheless, fighting the stigma of mental illness is an ongoing battle in which victory is long overdue.  Research shows that:

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds. Sadly, Canada has the third highest suicide rate for youths in the industrial world.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.
 (Statistics are from the Canadian Mental Health Association's "Fast Facts about Mental Illness" at

We can start to help those affected by mental illness by debunking the myths associated with it. For example, many adolescents (and adults) think that depression is just part of “growing up” and will disappear on its own, but we need to appreciate instead that depression may be a life-long challenge. The Kids Help Phone helps youths who are suffering from depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other mental health concerns or who just need someone to listen to them. The telephone number for the helpline in Canada is 1-800-668-6868. 

One of the underlying causes of depression and suicide in adolescents is bullying (especially cyber-bullying).  This topic is finally receiving national attention, and there are numerous resources available.  The Kids Help Phone website at has extensive information on this subject and also has a bullying forum where teens can post questions. In addition, many websites now provide resources to combat bullying, including incident reporting for schools.  See, for example,

In Canada, there are also numerous other Internet and local resources for those of all ages seeking help. For a list of crisis intervention resources in the province of Ontario, please visit For further information and to locate the chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association nearest to you, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at

This Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Bell Canada is sponsoring its fifth annual “Let's Talk” Day. The four pillars of the Let's Talk initiative are anti-stigma; care and access; workplace health; and research. To download a complete copy of the "Let's Talk" toolkit, please visit

Mental health is a global concern.  Please check your internet and local resources if you live outside Canada.

Let's help put a human face on this suffering and end the silence.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Winter in the Limerick Forest

Winter is a time for writing. It keeps me busy and warm on these short, cold January days. I've been working on something new, The March and Walker Crime Novel series. Set in eastern Ontario, it features homicide investigators of the Ontario Provincial Police. The first novel, Sorrow Lake, has been completed in manuscript and is being read and evaluated. The second, Burn Country, is on my mind every morning when I wake up, and I expect it'll keep me busy until the snow is gone.

While the snow's here, however, I bundle up each day and take the dogs for a walk in the back forest. Our property is a long, narrow strip extending into former pasture that's now busily reforesting, if that's a word. The other day we were watched by a large barred owl as we meandered along my home-made foot path. We often startle ruffed grouse and cross the tracks of deer as they travel back and forth along their own trails. It's a great place to get out and clear my head, breathe the cold fresh air, and, yes, daydream.

Foremost in my daydreams these days is a plan to create an oval back there where I made a small clearing in the fall. It's a place where I've put a chair and bench for sitting when the weather's warmer. You can see the spot here, on the right. In the foreground on the right is the trunk of a white pine that fell a few seasons ago; it'll become another bench for sitting. There's a dead tamarack just out of the frame to the left that will provide logs for raised beds filled with wild flowers. When I cut it down, of course.

Meanwhile, we wander and daydream. My retriever, Charley, noses around beneath one of our tall white pines. If you look up, you may spot a porcupine who's spending the winter in this particular tree. He's something of a problem, because he's stripping the tree for lunch, and I don't want him to kill it. So far, stern warnings and cuss words have had little effect. Next I suppose I'll try a few snowballs. It's worked before on his cousins. Porcupines are shy and don't like people, particularly noisy ones like me, but this fellow's being stubborn. They really don't like snowballs, though, so I think I may change his mind about hanging around.

Back inside, at the keyboard, I'm in complete control of the world in which my stories are set. As much in control, I suppose, as any of us when it comes to the universe of the imagination. But out here, in the forest, control isn't an issue. I'm a participant. A partner. I've noticed in the snow that the rabbits and deer like to use my paths when I'm not back there.  I hope they find my oval beneficial, when it's done. On the other hand, I still have a bone to pick with that porcupine.......!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Upcoming Let's Talk Day for 2015

On January 5, Bell Canada launched its Let's Talk campaign for 2015. The official Let's Talk day when you can talk and tweet in support of mental health is January 28, 2015, and this will be a subject of a later post. In the interim, here are some suggestions from the campaign launch on how you can help in ending the stigma of mental illness:

  • Language matters - pay attention to the words you use about mental illness
  • Educate yourself - learn, know and talk more, understand the signs
  • Be kind - small acts of kindness speak a lot
  • Listen and ask - sometimes it's best to just listen
  • Talk about it - start a dialogue, break the silence 
For the full text of the campaign launch, please see

And please stay tuned for a future post on supporting the January 28 Let's Talk day.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Anne Tyler: Fifty Years of Writing

The British Broadcasting Corporation, in its online list of novels to look forward to in 2015, indicates that Anne Tyler will celebrate her 50th year of writing with the release of her 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, a family saga set in Baltimore. Ms. Tyler, whose understated writing style, quirky characters and family dramas, and ability to use symbols to convey complex layers of meaning and emotion, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Her previous novels include Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist.

The BBC interviewed Anne Tyler in 2013 when she was in the process of writing A Spool of Blue Thread. She was 71 at the time and speculated that this would be her last novel. Ms. Tyler obviously has a keen sense of humor as she jokes about her decision to put aside her pen. To listen to the interview, please click here.

For the full text of the BBC article, including other novels that will appear in 2015, please click here.

A Spool of Blue Thread will be released on February 10, 2015. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Janet Evanovich on Writing

Fans of comic mysteries and offbeat heroines will enjoy the question and answer session with Janet Evanovich in the "By the Book" feature of the NY Times Sunday Book Review. She has some interesting--and of course amusing--things to say about her writing. 

Evanovich has written more than twenty Stephanie Plum novels. Asked what makes a good series' heroine, Evanovich notes the following: "Consistency of character. Forgivable flaws. Values we admire. Sense of humor. My heroines are all resilient, tenacious, forward-looking positive thinkers who are not self-absorbed, not perfect and not able to resist a cupcake." 

The author's "comfort" books are actually cookbooks, which she can read without gaining weight. 

When she is writing, Evanovich doesn't like to read other authors' works in case they stick in her head while she is trying to write. She reads magazines instead (including Guns & Ammo!).

For the full text of the article, please click here.

Monday, 22 December 2014

An Open Letter to E-Book Pirate Maraya21

Dear Maraya21,

Recently I received an electronic notification that you have uploaded unauthorized copies of my four Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novels to eight different pirate websites on the internet. Needless to say, I was very upset.

Not understanding why I had been targeted, I visited one of these sites and discovered you've made more than 100 uploads of copyrighted material belonging to dozens of authors. Visiting the page you've created for my e-books, I found an exchange of comments between you and an anonymous person--not myself or anyone I know--that was very interesting. Anonymous said:

  • Just love the ego/vanity thing you got going on with your name inserted not only in the metadata, but in the books themselves... hilarious. I guess if you're going to steal ebooks, you may as well get your name all over the real author's work as much as you can.

To which you replied:

  • First i do not STEAL ebooks, i PAY for them. With actual money. So that is why i tag the books with my name so other people would not take my work and present it as theirs. I do not tag books that i haven't paid for. Second i do not erase or alter ANYTHING inside the books, especially the Authors name! I put my tags on empty spaces and anyone reading the books would know that. Thrid [sic] since i PAY for my books i have the right to tag them. But if you people not like [sic] having ebooks then i can very easily stop and spend the money on shoes and stuff..

Wow, so much here to respond to, so much to say. I left a comment of my own, but unfortunately someone deleted it. Here's what I said to you, in case you've forgotten:

  • Hello, I'm the actual author of the books you're distributing. First, thank you for buying your own personal copies of my novels. I appreciate it. I should mention, though, that it took me about a year to write each of these books. I only sell enough copies to pay for the cost of publishing the next one. I will never make enough to come close to paying for my time. I'd ask, then, as a matter of dignity, that you respect the investment of time, energy and stress I put into these books and please take them down again. Beyond that, I hold the exclusive copyright on these works throughout the world. Period. You do not have the right to put your name in the metadata or text, nor do you have the right to distribute them to anyone else. Period. So I ask you, respectfully, to please withdraw them from the various sites where you've posted them... Please. Thank you.

Too bad this comment was deleted, but I think, Maraya21, I covered the basics there. Just to be sure, though, let me reiterate: as per s. 501 of the Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code, you have infringed my exclusive rights as copyright owner to claim sole ownership of these works and to distribute them. Read the subsequent sections of the act to see what my remedies are against you.

But enough about me. Let's talk about you. Curious to know more about Maraya21 the bold pirate, I ran a Google search on your handle and found information that I have passed on to the authorities. I've filed a complaint with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center of Homeland Security against you. I've also encouraged other authors victimized by you to file their own complaints. Hopefully, they will.

What will the future bring? For my part, I'm trying to set aside the feelings of violation and humiliation that go along with being a victim and write new novels that I hope no one will steal from me in the future. It's not easy, knowing that my e-books are being downloaded for free with your name in them, as though we were collaborators. I write and publish them, and you make illegal copies and distribute them for free, waving the skull-and-crossbones while shutting off my very modest source of revenue. Works for you, apparently, but it definitely doesn't work for me.

And for your part? Perhaps very soon an ICE team will knock on your door with a warrant to seize your computers and documents, freeze your bank accounts, and put an end to your night-time career as a pirate. Then you'll dearly wish you'd spent your money on "shoes and stuff" instead of my e-books. Think about it. Perhaps if you do, you'll understand the wisdom of removing my novels from the various sites to which you've uploaded them. Please, as an act of dignity and respect for all MY HARD WORK, take them down now.

Thank you,

the author

Monday, 15 December 2014

Change is Sometimes Slow

Canada converted to the metric system in the 1970s with the main argument being that the United States, Canada's largest trading partner, would convert shortly. Forty years later, the United States still has not converted to metric, leading me to wonder what all the fuss was about in the 70s.

If I ask my son what Fahrenheit means, he will give me "the look" that, roughly translated, means he is talking to a dinosaur. (In fact, when my son was very young, he once asked my wife if she was alive when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Her reply: "Some days it feels like it.")

This dinosaur prefers the old days of Fahrenheit, gallons and miles. My head has never quite made the conversion. My wife read somewhere that you can convert Celsius to Fahrenheit by multiplying the Celsius number by 9/5ths and adding 32 degrees. This is a bit too complicated for me to bother with. I enjoy listening to the odd weather forecast from Detroit that still provides temperatures in Fahrenheit. For me, 101 degrees is HOT and -10 is COLD.

And some of the metric measurements have never really caught on in Canada. Most people still prefer to give height in feet and inches rather than metres and centimetres, and weight in pounds rather than kilograms (although it does sound like you weigh less in the metric system because one kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds).

You can see my problem here. Old ways of thinking die hard--