Perceptions from the field:

stories of stigma, shame, & discrimination experienced by individuals living with opioid use disorder

Perceptions from the field:

I am going to share a few experiences from the field, telling the stories of individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting in the last nine or so years that I have been involved in this work. I hope it provides a unique insight into the lives of individuals living with substance use disorder (SUD), and the impacts of living with that medical condition. My hope is that by telling these stories, shining a light on the egregious mistreatment, discrimination & for some,
downright medical neglect, will reduce the consistent barriers and overall harm(s) people living with SUD experience while on their journey of recovery/remission from SUD/OUD.
The individuals who were brave enough to allow me to share their experiences with all of you will remain anonymous to protect their confidentiality. First, I thought I’d qualify a bit by sharing one of my experiences facing judgment, shame, and discrimination within a self-help community.


My Story
I recently celebrated 10 years in remission from opioid use disorder (OUD)! For the first 7.5 years of my journey, I had been extremely active in a well-known self-help group, I shared my experience, strength, & hope as part of the H&I committee, which is a program that brings members of the self-help group to treatment programs and inside jails/prisons to share their journey of recovery & stories of hope. I actively worked with a sponsor, writing the twelve steps, sponsored women, guided them through the steps, and held just about every trusted position one can hold within the organization. The thing is, to hold most (if not all) of those positions, to sponsor those women, to bring my message of hope to other individuals inside hospitals & institutions (treatment settings), I had to lie, or at least felt the need to omit a very significant part of my story of recovery. Because of the stigma associated with the use of Suboxone to treat OUD, I did not feel safe sharing that part of my story.
Secrets Keep You Sick
Secrets eat at you, they will grow into shame and guilt, and if you are not careful, may result in a setback/relapse. Luckily, that wasn’t part of my story. But the loss of my soulmate/best friend & the father of my son gave me the strength, to be honest with the friends who felt more like family, about being on a medication used to treat OUD, and those relationships changed. All of them. Talk about the feeling of shame and abandonment. But today, I live authentically & have friends who love me unconditionally, regardless of what medications or methods I use to continue my journey of recovery. Today, I get to use my experience to encourage others to live out loud, without shame. I like to say my biggest objective in this work is to provide a safe space allowing individuals to come just as they are, feeling safe without fear of judgment.

According to an Online NIH Journal, titled “Overcoming medication stigma in peer recovery: A new paradigm”, “This stigma has particularly been expressed as an issue among NA groups. NA states in its official literature that although all individuals should be welcome to attend meetings, those who use medications are not yet considered “clean” and groups may choose to prevent individuals on medication from sharing experiences or leading meetings (NIH, 2019).”

“L’s” Story
A woman I’ve known for many years shared many of the instances of shame, stigma, and discrimination and how its impacted her recovery journey. “L” shared with me a time she went to the emergency room with a torn ligament and another type of injury of the knee. “L” reported that before she even saw a doctor, she was told by a nurse, “we cannot give you narcotics!” Here’s the thing though, she hadn’t asked for narcotics, she wouldn’t ask for them, because she is on Methadone (medication to treat opioid use disorder). We all know the stigma associated with medications used to treat OUD. “L” was discharged with nothing but a list of local specialist doctors to call. It would take several more humiliating trips to the emergency room and many appointments with primary care and specialist providers before “L” found any relief for her pain. Medical professionals if you are reading this, PLEASE, do better.

“B’s” Story
Meaningful employment is another significant and continuous barrier that people who use(d) drugs face. “B” has been in remission for nearly three years, and has had no additional involvement with the criminal justice system in that time, yet continues to run into roadblock
after roadblock while trying to find employment. For instance, “B” has completed all the relevant qualifications and certifications courses to become a Recovery Coach, but as soon as a potential employer runs a criminal background check, they are excluded from the hiring process.
Remember, this is to work within the recovery community, if they cannot get hired here, then where?

Peer Work’s Where It’s At
We know peer support works. It is a very effective method for engaging at-risk and underserved population(s), especially those living with substance use disorder. According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) study, titled, “Value of Peers”, peer recovery support provides the following, “improved relationship with treatment providers, increased treatment retention, increased overall satisfaction with the treatment
experience, improved access to social support greater housing stability, reduces emergency service utilization, reduced re-hospitalization rates, reduced substance use, and a decrease of criminal justice involvement (SAMHSA, 2017).”
If individuals with lived experience with substance use disorder can offer all these benefits to people currently struggling, why is their past criminal justice involvement held against them? We know people who use drugs often commit crimes to support their substance use. When individuals stop using and engage in the treatment, in most cases the criminal acts stop too. Program Directors and Human Resource Personnel must keep this fact front of mind
while seeking candidates to fill peer recovery support positions.

“D’s” Story
“D” is a participant of mine who reported he had gone to a local emergency room in opioid withdrawal, requesting to be started on Suboxone, which has been promoted in the addiction field as an option at this hospital. Not only did this individual NOT get to start treatment for his OUD, but a nurse laughed out loud and reportedly said, “We don’t do that here, I can give you a Tylenol.” He was discharged without any assistance for his medical issue, which
OUD, is, in fact, a well-documented medical disorder. This individual was not only discriminated against, but he was also humiliated, and most tragically, he was discharged with not even a list of resources. Luckily, he found his way to Perception Programs’ Mobile MAT Van and was able to start treatment for his OUD and begin his recovery journey.

Do No Harm
These stories are the rule, not the exception, when regarding how people with substance use issues, even those in remission, face mistreatment, and stigmatization, and often are either dismissed entirely or treated as if they are undeserving of resources, services, and support simply because of their medical disorder. My goal is to continue to shed light on this issue, increasing the community’s awareness of the problem, which will hopefully put pressure on institutions, organizations, and other treatment & hospital systems to ensure ALL individuals they serve receive the dignity & respect they deserve. The overarching goal, above all else… do not harm.

If you or someone you know may benefit from any of the services offered on the Mobile MAT Van, please contact Jess @ 860-336-9412. We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, our website, or by calling any of our three offices

References

Krawczyk, N., Negron, T., Nieto, M., Agus, D., & Fingerhood, M. I. (2018).
Overcoming medication stigma in peer recovery: A new paradigm. Substance abuse, 39(4), 404–409. https://doi.org/10.1080/08897077.2018.1439798
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6087684/
https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/brss_tacs/valueof-
peers-2017.pdf

Perceptions from the field:

stories of stigma, shame, & discrimination experienced by individuals living with opioid use disorder

Perceptions from the field:

 

I wanted to circle back to something I have put great emphasis on in my previous posts,which is the importance of raising awareness surrounding the stigma associated with substance use and how it impacts those living with substance use disorder (SUD), more specifically, opioid use disorder (OUD). I do not like raising an issue, without also providing solutions. I will discuss why I view stigma as a human right’s issue, as evidenced by what I observe in the field. I will also provide ways in which we can all help reduce the stigma & shame people living with SUD face.

One Peer’s Perception

Through my professional & lived- experiences working, living, & recovering within the substance use community, I have attained this deeply -rooted belief that stigma is a moral & social justice issue, that is causing significant barriers to people accessing treatment services & supports for their use, increases people using alone, which dramatically increases the chance for overdose & death.

In my role as a Mobile Outreach Worker (MOW), I spend countless hours, having countless conversations, with countless individuals, debunking myths & misinformation surrounding OUD

& MOUD. It is my job to provide people with facts about opioid use disorder & the medications used to treat it. Facts that are backed by science & grounded in evidence.

Somehow I am still amazed each time I hear people say things like they don’t support MOUD treatment because they don’t view it as really being in “real recovery”, or it is “replacing one drug for another.” Neither of these are true. In fact, SAMHSA’s website states, “Medications used for MAT are evidence-based treatment options and do not just substitute one drug for another (SAMHSA).”

The Impact

The stigma people experience around their substance use can have devastating results, which may include the loss of hope for themselves & their recovery, how they are perceived, or even treated within our systems and institutions (hospitals, jails, treatment facilities, self-help groups, etc.).

SUD stigma can also have a great impact on the families of these individuals, fostering a lack of understanding & support for their loved one who is struggling, instead of creating space that feels safe enough for them to ask for help .

Stigma is so deeply ingrained in how society discusses , views, and treats those struggling with SUD. This concept proves true whether discussing people in remission/recovery from OUD, those on a MOUD as part of their treatment regimen, such as myself, or, most importantly, individuals who are in current active or chaotic use.

MAT Stigma

Individuals who are prescribed medications used to treat their opioid use disorder (MOUD), like Suboxone and Methadone, often face additional stigma and discrimination surrounding their use of these medications, it’s impact felt on multiple levels. According to an Online Medical Journal, titled “Human Rights, Stigma, and Substance Use,” “medication assisted treatment (MAT) is the current gold standard of care for treatment for opioid dependence, since its use is associated with reduced risk for relapse and mortality, yet stigma may present a barrier to its use, including stigma associated with MAT use within sectors of the treatment community, (Wogen & Restrepo, 2020).”

A Silent Killer

I will never forget a participant I lost a few years ago because of the stigma associated with/MAT. Part of a self help group, he wanted to write the 12 steps with his sponsor. His sponsor told him he would need to get off of methadone before he could start writing the steps with him. Heeding his mentor’s advice he got off the methadone and died less than 2 weeks later from an overdose. “Some peer led groups and 12 step recovery support programs may not support MAT use, and consequently individuals in recovery who are on MAT may experience stigma from peers or group facilitators or, perhaps unintentionally, be persuaded to discontinue MAT use”, according to Wogen & Restrepo, (2020).

What can be done?

In my opinion, the single best way to combat the stigma associated with SUD is utilizing Person-First Language when discussing substance use, treatment, & recovery. Words are extremely powerful and the words we use to discuss SUD or any other mental health condition, undoubtedly has an impact on society’s perceptions, attitudes and behaviors toward those living with SUD. “Language frames what the public thinks about substance use, treatment, and recovery, and it can affect how individuals think about themselves and their own ability to recover ”, according to NIH’s Online Medical Journal (Wogen & Restrepo, 2020).

We also must be willing to hold the people around us, whether our friends, family members or colleagues, accountable for the words they use to discuss SUD. Of course there will always be those who refuse to increase their knowledge or change their views, attitudes or behavior towards people with SUD, but I refuse to be one of them. I always try to remain teachable in everything I do or know.

I have included a few resources that provided examples of person-first language surrounding substance use.

References

https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7348456/

https://www.safeproject.us/resource/person-first-language/

If you or someone you know may benefit from any of the services offered on the Mobile MAT Van, please contact Jess @ 860-336-9412. We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, our website, or by calling any of our three offices

Perceptions from the field:

stories of stigma, shame, & discrimination experienced by individuals living with opioid use disorder

Perceptions from the field:

Additional Barriers to Accessing MAT Services

In my last blog post I discussed the significance that transportation barriers can play in access to care. There are many other barriers individuals face while seeking treatment for their substance use, these include, treatment capacity (long waitlists) and a lack of willing and trained providers with available time is a challenge. Additionally, the stigma associated with MAT treatment cannot be underestimated, fear of losing employment or incarceration, cost of treatment, shame & stigma associated with SUD treatment, [especially stigma associated with MAT treatment], lack of treatment resource knowledge, and the fear of losing their children (DCF involvement). 

The Need for Mobile MAT Services

The Mobile MAT van will be going to six CT communities, including Willimantic, Danielson, Putnam, Jewett City, Norwich & Taftville. Estimates show that 53% of counties in the U.S. lack access to a MAT provider (Barriers to MAT, n.d.).” Before the Mobile MAT program servicing these rural CT communities, they would have most likely been included in the 53%. The need for these services is dire. An example of how desperately OUD services are needed. I went to Jewett City last week (before the official launch of the MAT van) to pass out flyers, introduce myself and get a lay of the land.  In less than an hour and a half I had had made connections with three individuals, connected another individual to Suboxone services, distributed 6 Narcan kits, 8 fentanyl testing strips, 3 safe use kits, 40 sterile syringes, 60+ condoms, and 3 wound care kits. 

Mobile MAT Van Services & Supports

The Mobile MAT van provides a safe, non-judgmental & supportive environment for [all] individuals. Whether a person is ready to engage in Suboxone treatment for their OUD, or the individuals that may not be ready to stop their use, we have services & supports to help. The MAT van offers an array of harm reduction, prevention, and recovery support services, including community-based Suboxone induction, safe use supplies (syringes, safe use kits, Narcan), linkage to mental health & primary care services, referrals to treatment [detox, IOP, Methadone, etc.], access to peer support services, and connection to other community resources. 

I recall a time, not too long ago when individuals seeking MAT services (specifically Suboxone) would often be told to either callback in a few days or be given a first-time appointment 2 weeks out. I often wonder how many lives we lost to overdose due to those unacceptable long wait periods.  

MAT Saves Lives

Using a harm-reduction, person-centered approach, meeting individuals where they are [quite literally] to provide these critically important services, will most certainly save lives. 

If you or someone you know may benefit from any of the services offered on the Mobile MAT Van, please contact Jess @ 860-336-9412. We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, our website, or by calling any of our three offices

Perceptions from the field:

stories of stigma, shame, & discrimination experienced by individuals living with opioid use disorder

Perceptions from the field:

Welcome! We are Glad you are Here.

Thank you for taking time to read the first ever “Changing Peer-Ceptions” blog post. My name is Jess Morris, a certified community health worker, recovery coach, and a person in long-term remission from opioid use disorder (OUD). I have the privilege of being the Mobile MAT Outreach Worker at Perception Programs, Inc (PPI) for their brand-new Mobile Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Van. The non-negotiable qualification for the job? Lived experience. I could not have imagined that almost 10 years ago (walking into detox), I would end up with a career in which I got to use my experience to provide hope, support & empowerment for individuals with SUD. My work as an Outreach Worker feels like it was created just for me! I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to do the work I love, with the most amazing people. Work that has never felt like work. What a gift. 

The Hope

I hope this blog will increase the community’s awareness around substance use, reduce substance use-related stigma, and reduce the number of overdose deaths. By providing community education on medication-assisted treatment (MAT), promoting harm reduction practices, and highlighting the benefits of utilizing peer support services, we can increase access to evidence-based and effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD, and reduce the stigma associated with substance use & MAT services. Using my professional and lived experience will provide individuals with the knowledge to change negative perceptions associated with substance use disorder (SUD). Creating a safe space where anyone can ask for help without facing judgment, guilt, fear, or shame, no doubt will save lives. 

Opioid Overdose Crisis

The Mobile MAT program is an innovative approach created to help combat the devastating & ever-increasing opioid overdose crisis that has been ravishing our community (and many others), for years. The opioid overdose crisis has impacted Connecticut more significantly than most other statesConnecticut is in the top 10 states which have the highest overdose death rate in the United States, according to Trend CT, an Online News Article (Tran, n.d.). 

Why Mobile MAT Services?

MAT stands for medication-assisted treatment. There are a few different medications approved by the FDA which are used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), they include, Suboxone, Methadone, and Vivitrol. The Mobile MAT van uses telehealth to provide easy access to Suboxone MAT treatment. There are several barriers that impact individuals capacity to access MAT. Individuals living in rural communities have limited options in choosing a MAT provider because most treatment programs tend to be in urban areas. They also have longer drive times and fewer public transportation options for accessing MAT services, according to the Center for Rural Health (2021). Understanding the importance of reducing all treatment barriers, we (PPI) implemented the use of telehealth MAT services to remove the many barriers many individuals face while accessing treatment, especially those living in rural areas.

If you or someone you know may benefit from any of the services offered on the Mobile MAT Van, please contact Jess @ 860-336-9412. We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, our website, or by calling any of our three offices

Perceptions from the field:

stories of stigma, shame, & discrimination experienced by individuals living with opioid use disorder

Perceptions from the field:

Summer reading, the phrase always makes me think of hammocks and beaches. My summer reading is usually snatched early or late in the day as I succumb to all the summer outdoor activities and my gardens, not to mention work. This was not the case when I started reading Not Our Summer. I just didn’t want to put it down and powered through in a few days’ time. This is a Young Adult novel, but I found it a terrific read.

            What caught my attention and made me think you would want to read it? This is a well-crafted story with realistic young women as main characters. It is a family tradition that these girls should hate each other. Their real knowledge of each other comes only from seeing the other’s picture on the wall of their grandfather’s house. This multi-generational family feud was well orchestrated, so they didn’t have to cross paths. That is, until their Grandfather dies, and his will turns their world upside down.

            Casie Bazay helps us explore a dysfunctional family and how the hurt of one generation is projected onto the next.  The book leaves compelling ideas for discussion or deep thought. How do we build a friendship in the framework of hate? How do we push past long instilled barriers to find our own truth? What changes do we make in ourselves to form a new and better picture of our world? Can a hatred learned in childhood be undone or forgiven? Every family must explore these problems on their own for each family is different. Author Casie Bazay opens the gateway to all these thoughts and more. I won’t give any more of the storyline away. I am hoping you will be swept up in it just as I was.

            I have requested Willimantic Public Library to order a copy for their collection, they will soon. Don’t have a library card? They are free just call the library (860-465-3079) to find out how to get one and borrow all the great materials offered there.

Review by Carol Stearns

UCONN Share Project / PPI

Perceptions from the field:

stories of stigma, shame, & discrimination experienced by individuals living with opioid use disorder

Perceptions from the field:

The 30th anniversary Steeple Chase Bike Tour fundraising event will take place on Saturday, August 21. The event will start and end St. Mary-St. Joseph School in Willimantic (35 Valley Street) and wind through the country roads of Windham and surrounding towns.

Registration is now open at https://steeplechasebiketour.org/register/ and www.bikereg.com/steeple-chase-bike-tour.

This year’s event will start in the school’s parking lot at 35 Valley Street and will feature three supported cycling routes and a 5-mile ride/walk tour through the parks of Willimantic. Cyclists and walkers can also participate virtually by choosing their own route – in-state, out-of-state, on-road or off.

The Steeple Chase Ride/Walk benefits three critical social service organizations in eastern Connecticut that help people struggling with drug addiction, homelessness, mental health challenges, and poverty. For the fourth straight year, every dollar raised by participants, donors and sponsors will be matched by the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation, doubling event proceeds.

“So many people took up cycling during the pandemic that there was a bike shortage,” remarked Victoria Nimirowski, chairperson of the Steeple Chase planning committee and executive director of Windham Area Interfaith Ministry. “This is a great opportunity to use those bikes to do good for others. Our non-profits – Perception Programs, Windham Area Interfaith Ministry, and the Windham Region No Freeze Project – help the most vulnerable, most at-risk members of our community every day. Throughout Covid, our organizations worked overtime, exceeding our already tight budgets, to keep people safe and healthy. This event is the biggest fundraiser for all three organizations and will help replenish our budgets so we can continue our life-saving work.”

Event organizers have created three dedicated cycling routes and one official walk/ride for the 30th Anniversary Steeple Chase. These in-person routes will start and end at St. Mary-St. Joseph School.

  • The classic 20-mile route is almost as old as the event and travels through the low-traffic backroads of South Windham, Windham Center, Chaplin, North Windham, Mansfield and Willimantic. 
  • The new 30th Anniversary route celebrates this event milestone by traveling 30 miles through Windham, Chaplin, Mansfield and Willimantic.
  • The Half Century route covers 50 kilometers – or 62.5 miles – of eastern Connecticut backroads and is one of the most beautiful rides in the state, with sweeping views and challenging hills.
  • A newly-designed 5-mile ride/walk will take participants through nine Willimantic parks and gardens and will showcase the community’s rural beauty.

Cyclists committed to the event’s beloved 100-mile Century Ride are invited to ride the route unsupported. In addition, virtual Steeple Chase participants can ride or walk wherever they want – through their neighborhood or hometown, on one of Connecticut’s traffic-free Rail Trails like the Hop River or the Airline Trail, or on out-of-state roads or trails. Virtual participants can ride or walk whenever they want, starting and finishing their route at a convenient day and time and donating by August 21.

By registering online and asking friends, family, employers, and others to sponsor the ride, participants can generate desperately needed funds used to shelter and secure housing for people experiencing homelessness, offer a path to recovery for people with addiction and mental illness, and provide basic needs from clothing to heat for individuals and families living in poverty. Over its history, the Steeple Chase Bike Tour has raised approximately $1.75 million to help fund its beneficiaries’ important work.

Pre-registration for the event is $25 for individual riders or walkers. In addition to registration, each rider is asked to raise a minimum of $75 in donations. Online registration for the Steeple Chase will continue through August 21 at www.steeplechasebiketour.org and www.bikereg.com/steeple-chase-bike-tour.

The Steeple Chase benefits from the generosity of corporate sponsors and donors including The Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation, The Chronicle Newspaper, Eversource Energy, Thread City Cyclists, Home Selling Team, Sarazin General Contractors, WILI AM, Willimantic Waste Paper, the board of directors of the Windham Region No Freeze Project, and many others. Companies and organizations interested in sponsorship should call Perception Programs at 860-450-7122.

For more information, visit www.steeplechasebiketour.org, call (860) 450-7122, email steeple.chase@perceptionprograms.org, or follow the event on Facebook @SCbiketour, Twitter @SCbiketour, Instagram @steeplechasebiketour, and on LinkedIn.

5 Quotes About Nature That are Metaphors to Help Cope with Life

By Melanie Grieco

5 Quotes About Nature That are Metaphors to Help Cope with Life

Now that summer has arrived, like many I have been spending more time outdoors. Research shows that simply spending more time outdoors is associated with extensive benefits, from improved mood, empathy, and attention, to lower stress (Nurtured by nature (apa.org)). In contemplating the importance of being in nature, as a therapist I have been reflecting on how nature itself—from canyons, rivers, and mountains to insects, animals, flowers, and the four seasons—is filled with endless metaphors that we can apply to our lives and the way we view problems, challenges, and what it means to be human.

Here are 5 quotes about ways that nature mirrors life in inspiring and surprising ways:

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson

I find this quote is by Neil deGrasse Tyson is best met with a pause to really let his words sink in. We are literally stardust. To me, this quote speaks of belonging and how each of us may feel very separate, but we are connected even at the most fundamental level. You, just like anyone else, are connected to every living being and inanimate thing on Earth and in the universe. This quote also reminds me that it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae and forget how improbable our existence is, and what a miracle it is to be alive.

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” –Alice Walker

The bends, contortions, and weirdness in nature mirror how we can never be perfect ourselves. And yet that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. It is often these very imperfections that make nature so beautiful because they signal strength, adaptation, and perseverance to unique circumstances. For example, some trees grow sideways to best reach sunlight, and others grow crooked branches for stability against the wind (Why do tree branches grow like that? | Earth |  HYPERLINK “https://earthsky.org/earth/tree-branch-growth-direction”EarthSky). Each tree has adapted to its particular challenges in exactly the way it needed to in order to survive, which gives us the amazing diversity we see in nature. Just like the tree, your unique quirks and “contortions” make you who you are: another diverse and valuable member of humanity.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” —Rachel Carson

This quote is a reminder that even in the darkest and coldest of times, there is hope. Our lives have ups and downs, just like the days and the seasons. Even when it seems like the dark will never end, the sun rises again in the morning. The rebirth of plants in the spring also reminds us that we are resilient and have the power to keep going. The tree that loses its leaves in the winter is still living, but just dormant. Its leaves will grow again, and flowers will bloom. This is a powerful cue that you can get through hard times, and that many problems you are facing today are impermanent and always changing.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” —Robert Louis Stevenson

Many people measure their self-worth based on the “harvest reaped,” or the outcomes they are currently seeing in their lives. The problem with this is that it places your self-worth outside of yourself rather than it being an unchangeable and innate part of you. Harvest time also doesn’t come around every day, but is based on repeated seeds being planted, watered, and bathed in sunlight. In other words, every small step taken toward your goals counts because together they add up to huge outcomes. If you find yourself overwhelmed by how far you need to go, remember that small steps taken consistently will get you to the harvest.

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Awhile ago I traveled to Utah and Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and other national parks. The canyons there are almost unfathomable to the human mind, created after millions of years from a combination of the impact of moving rivers, weathering, erosion, and tectonic activity (canyon | National Geographic Society.). The beauty of these canyons was incredible, but as this quote suggests, would never have been possible if it was shielded from these influences. One thing I’ve learned from my clients as a therapist is that often some of the greatest beauty within a person is created through struggle. As humans, being metaphorically “carved” into canyons is inevitable. Not only can we not shield ourselves from it, but in some ways the struggle is what unites us as humans. It can at times push us to be more empathetic toward others, more self-aware, more grateful, better able to handle future difficulties, and to be better versions of ourselves. This does not mean that we would ever wish to revisit those hard times, but that in some way they can bring useful life lessons or positive benefits. It is important to love the gorges and canyons within yourself, for they are a part of your story.

Next time you hear the chirps of birds on a walk in the forest, feel the soft and blazing sand beneath your feet, or see the vibrant oranges and purples of a sunset on a drive home, I challenge you to meditate on what nature means to you. What feelings does it bring up for you? Can you identify any other metaphors that nature can teach you? While the above quotes may not apply to every situation in life, which ones resonated with you most and why? Nature has so much to offer; keep exploring, be mindful of any sensations that come up for you, and remember to savor those moments!

The meaning and history behind the rainbow flag

The meaning and history behind the rainbow flag

Every June, whether it’s on television or social media, whether you’re walking down the street or visiting your favorite establishment, rainbow flags can be seen everywhere. Most of us know these flags are representative of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride, and that June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, but how many of us know what those flags represent — and why there seems to be so many variations.

Let’s explore the history of LGBT Pride Month and the meaning behind the LGBTQ+ Pride Flag — and its many iterations.

Shortly after the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, pride marches and demonstrations were being organized in cities throughout the United States. By the 1980s and 1990s, the tenor for many of these events had shifted from protests to celebrations of pride and acceptance. LGBTQ+ Pride Month has become an annual occurrence each June commemorating the violent events at the Stonewall Inn. In 1999, Pride Month gained official national recognition by President Bill Clinton who declared June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.”

The rainbow flag itself was first adopted in 1978 as an eight horizontal stripe rainbow colored flag. Created by Gilbert Baker at the request of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade. Previously, LGBTQ+ communities had commonly used a downward pointing pink triangle as their symbol, a reference to the World War II Nazi practice of using pink triangles to identify gay men in concentration camps. Milk and others sought a new symbol for LGBTQ+ communities that focused on inspiration rather than oppression

In its original design, each of the eight stripes had a specific meaning:

• Pink: Sex
• Red: Life
• Orange: Healing
• Yellow: Sunlight
• Green: Nature
• Turquoise: Art
• Indigo: Harmony
• Violet: Spirit

Originally, each flag was hand sewn and dyed, but as demand grew, they had to shift to mass production. Production issues involving the availability of certain dye colors led to the removal of pink and turquoise, and indigo was changed to a more common blue color. The resulting six-color flag is now the most common version of the LGBTQ+ flag.

While most of us are most familiar with the six-color version of the rainbow flag, there are dozens of variations and other flags now used to represent different communities. Among the more recognizable pride flags are:

Transgender Pride Flag: Created by Monica Helms in 1999, this flag has five horizontal stripes‚ two light blue, two pink, and one white. The light blue represents the traditional color for baby boys, the pink represents the traditional color for baby girls, and the white (the center stripe) represents those who are transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender.

Progress Pride Flag: Created by Daniel Quasar in 2018, this flag features — in addition to the common horizontal rainbow stripes — angled black and brown stripes to represent people of color, as well as light blue, pink and white to incorporate elements of the Transgender Pride Flag. In 2021, a purple circle surrounded by yellow was added to the Progress Pride Flag to represent intersex human rights. 

Bisexual Pride Flag: Created by Michael Page in 1998, the Bisexual Pride Flag features three horizontal stripes — a wide pink stripe (representing same sex attraction), a wide blue stripe (representing opposite sex attraction), and a narrow purple stripe in the middle (representing attraction to both sexes).

Pansexual Pride Flag: Originated from an anonymous social media account in the early 2010s, the Pansexual Pride Flag consists of three horizontal stripes — pink, yellow and blue. Unofficially, pink represents attraction to women, blue represents attraction to men, and yellow represents attraction to non-binary people.

PPI is an open and affirming agency and welcomes the LGBTQI+ community. At present, we are offering a transgender support group at our Storrs location. Please call 860.420.2450 for more information.

The meaning and history behind the rainbow flag

The meaning and history behind the rainbow flag

Employees faced significant challenges throughout the past year, and these changes have affected nearly everyone — regardless of occupation or workplace. 

Many felt stress or anxiety about their job status — will my company survive the pandemic? Is my job safe?

Others had to deal with adjusting to new workspaces — at home, distanced from co-workers and transitioning areas normally reserved for relaxation into office space. Conference rooms were replaced with Zoom screens. Water cooler conversations became instant messages and texts. 

None of this was easy. There was no real precedent for these enormous shifts to our work environments and to our work-life balance. And now, just as many employees have finally begun to adjust to their new workplace situations, we are seeing workplaces reopen and start to resume pre-pandemic activities. 

This can also be stressful. 

Maybe your children are still at home distance learning. Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to a commute down your hallway instead of off the highway. Maybe you just really enjoy attending team meetings in your sweatpants. 

Change is always difficult and often stressful. If you find yourself struggling to adjust (and then re-adjust), you’re not alone. However, it’s important to recognize that you might need some support to help with these transitions.

Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) — a great way to help employees experiencing burnout. An EAP can include employees participating in stress-relief workshops, receiving counselling at a discounted price, or even attending work-mandated therapy sessions.

If your employer offers an EAP, it may be beneficial to take advantage of the opportunity to help reacclimate to your environment. Even if your employer does not offer an EAP, you may want to speak with a professional who can guide you as you seek to get back on track. Contact us today to make an appointment. 

The meaning and history behind the rainbow flag

The meaning and history behind the rainbow flag

It’s been over a year since we’ve been able to safely attend social gatherings and community events. It’s been hard for adults, and often more difficult for young children who have been unable to attend school, partake in playdates, or go on family outings — important elements to a child’s social and behavioral development.  

There is, however, a light at the end of this quarantine tunnel. As adults continue to get vaccinated, many places that were forced to shutter are beginning to re-open; many community events that had to cancel last year are moving forward with modified plans for 2021. 

We aren’t out of it yet, and it might be quite a while before we are 100% back to “normal,” but there are many things to look forward to, and many opportunities to re-socialize your children. Many might be joyful about the prospect of increased social opportunities, but it is important to continue to exercise caution — keep safe distances, wear masks, and wash hands and surfaces regularly. 

Check-in with your local library

In addition to being a great community resource, many local libraries host or coordinate children-friendly events such as storytime, cooking classes, scavenger hunts and more.

Parks and recreation

Participating in recreational sports at a young age has been shown to benefit children (and parents) in many ways. In addition to promoting exercise, it also helps to develop teamwork, discipline, and serves as a terrific way for kids to socialize with peers outside of the classroom. If your child is not interested in team sports, most parks and recreation departments offer a wide range of engaging activities — from hiking and nature walks to yoga and arts and crafts. 

A day at the beach

What’s better than a day at the beach? You’ve got the sun, snacks, water, and activities — and most of them will be open for Summer 2021. Plan ahead and check the State of Connecticut website for waterfront updates to make sure your favorite beach is ready for you and your family to take a dip.

While getting back to normal summer activities may be exciting to some, it is important to recognize that after a year of isolation, many children may be feeling stress and anxiety over leaving the house, interacting with strangers, and socializing with other children. It may be necessary to ease your child back into these activities, giving them some time to readjust. 

If your child is struggling to readjust, is demonstrating behavioral challenges, or is generally feeling anxious, upset, or nervous about social interactions, it may be a good idea for you to talk to a professional. Perceptions Programs Inc. offers individual, group, or family therapy, and our child and adolescent program includes individual therapy, play therapy, and medication management. Call 860-420-2450 today to make an appointment.