Different from the Other Kids

A Book of Interviews for Parents of Challenging Children

Jailing the Vulnerable — March 1, 2017

Jailing the Vulnerable

This blog is brought to you by a member of the DFTOK team, Jesse Bickerton. Jesse is the Project Manager and coordinates things from start to finish. Today Jesse discusses the criminalization of mental illness.

By: Jesse Bickerton

Children with mental health challenges face a number of additional day-to-day issues that other children may not have to typically face. One topic that comes up often during the weekly “Different from the Other Kids” podcast is how often these challenging children end up dealing with the justice system some point in their lives. Over the past few years, this trend has been termed “criminalizing mental illness” and it creates a whole list of issues for the person entering the criminal justice system due to a mental health emergency.

Unhealthy Prison Populations

In a report from The College of Family Physicians of Canada reviewing the Health Status of Prisoners in Canada, it is specifically noted, “Most persons in correctional facilities have mental disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” existing in over 4 of 5 youth currently in detention. When lined up with the statistic that 30% of youth are affected with mental health challenges, there is a large number of youth that get admitted into the criminal justice system.

Why are so many of these individuals with mental health challenges entering the criminal justice system? According to a report from the John Howard Society of Ontario titled, Unlocking Change: Decriminalizing Mental Health Issues in Ontario, “the criminal justice system is more involved with persons with mental health issues than ever before.” The report notes that once an individual enters the criminal justice system, “they do not fare well” and that “practices rooted in punishment and control often only exacerbate the challenges facing people with mental health issues.” The report is fairly extensive, discussing different recommendations to the Province of Ontario surrounding improving mental health through policies and early treatment programs (to name a few).

There are no easy answers when dealing with mental health challenges. Each day can present a different obstacle. We have to change the way we respond to mental health emergencies. There is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, no matter his or her mental health. As I’ve stated before in a previous blog, stigma is still a major factor surrounding mental health and mental health awareness. This stigma can be further increased with the addition of a criminal record. These factors contribute to the cycle of mental health challenges and incarceration, effectively jailing some of these people for life. This is not the solution.

To check out all of the interviews from our latest season of the Different from the Other Kids podcast, check out the Player Page for links to listen for free! Different from the Other Kids: Law & Disorder Edition features interviews between Angela Tsounis and different parents and professionals who care for or help children with mental health challenges. Check out the Season Three Guide for information about each episode’s guest.

Thanks for reading! Check out Jesse’s information here or check out the DFTOK blog for more posts from the DFTOK team. Don’t forget to check out the Different from the Other Kids podcast, available on iTunes or by clicking here!


Health Status of prisoners in Canada from the official journal of The College of Family Physicians of Canada

Unlocking Change: Decriminalizing Mental Health Issues in Ontario from the John Howard Society of Ontario

Five Things in my Toolbox — February 1, 2017

Five Things in my Toolbox

This week the Different from the Other Kids team would like to welcome frequent podcast guest and Angela’s daughter, Christina Tsounis. If you listen to our weekly podcast, you might remember Christina from both season one and two. Here’s a note from Christina regarding some of the tools she uses in her daily wellness routine…

By: Christina Tsounis

I started medication at the age of six for anxiety, depression and OCD, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17. After searching for answers, following many bouts of depression and hopelessness, I decided to escape the emotional jail built for me. About eighteen months ago, I did a complete 180. Below are a few things from my “toolbox” that have helped me live a life I never thought possible. I spent all those years looking for someone or something to save me, all I needed was to look within myself.

1. Intuitive Movement

Doing some sort of gentle movement with deep breathing is essential for me. Yoga or Thai chi are some great examples. Vigorous exercise works well too, but I find doing slow controlled movements creates a stillness in mind and my body. Taking care of your body is the first step into taking care of your mental well-being.

2. Meditation

Everyone should practice meditation even if it’s just several minutes a few times a week.  By meditating daily I am able to give my mind a break. I still find it hard to focus during the meditation, that is ok. Even if I can only get to that place of stillness for one second of the whole meditation, my brain still experienced that one moment of being quiet. The more I practice it the more my thoughts slow down.

3. Essential Oils

Essential oils have been one of the biggest factors that have helped me go from sick to well. I only use Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils because I ingest them for medicinal purposes. The most important oil for me is Frankincense which acts as a natural chemical to help balance my moods. A close second is lavender. I frequently roll lavender oil over my heart, behind my ears and under my nose to help soothe me whenever I get into an anxious situation. It works magic. It’s crazy that something natural can change my state so quickly. There’s an oil for everything!

4. Mindfulness

Something so small like stopping for a moment to take a deep breath can change our moods. As an example, when I have my cup of coffee in the morning, I stop and take a sip and say out loud, “I am grateful for that delicious coffee”. When I am stopped at a traffic light, I will look up at the sky and take a deep breath and just acknowledge how beautiful the sky is. Those tiny moments are where I feel grateful to be alive. The more I put them into practice the more my attitude changes. When I focus on being grateful, I feel grateful.

5. Affirmations

Affirm yourself every day. At the end of the day, I used to lay in bed and analyze everything I did that day and tear myself apart for it. I would criticize and beat myself all the imagined missteps I did that day (as I’m sure a lot of you understand). This was where affirmations changed my life. When I find myself in a negative headspace I place my hand on my chest and say, “I love you,” and, “You are enough”. It sounds silly and so simple, but the effects are incredible. If my best friend were getting verbally beat up, I would comfort them. I had to stop judging myself and to learn to comfort myself.

Final Thoughts

I want to mention: what works for me might not work for you. Whatever you decide to try, if it doesn’t work the first time, please don’t give up. I tried all of the above things once or twice and they didn’t work so I believed that they wouldn’t help me. It wasn’t until I committed to not letting this be my story that things changed. It’s not just one thing that is going to fix everything, it’s about creating a tool box that is loaded with tools you can pull out whenever you need them. Find what makes you feel good and just keep doing it. With some faith and some hard work your “life sentence” can become your biggest opportunity.

Want to know more? Check out Christina’s episodes from Different from the Other Kids: Natural Alternatives Edition… Here is Part One, Part Two and Part Three of Christina’s second set of interviews on the podcast. You can also find Christina’s bio here.

Two interviews with Patrick James! — January 10, 2017

Two interviews with Patrick James!

Have you checked out our podcast episodes with Patrick? Angela introduces Patrick James, a lawyer with wide-ranging experience in Different from the Other Kids: Law & Disorder Edition. They discuss the intersection of Human Rights and mental illness, and strategies parents can explore when working with schools to best accommodate their children. It’s definitely worth a listen to – so check it out and let us know what you think!

Click to listen to the Part One and Part Two of the interview or for the whole series on iTunes here.

Patrick James is a Partner at the law firm Pinto Wray James LLP and practices in the areas of civil and commercial litigation, workplace law, municipal law, planning law, administrative and regulatory law, defamation, and human rights.

New #podcast episode with Elizabeth — November 1, 2016

New #podcast episode with Elizabeth

This week on Different from the Other Kids: Law & Disorder Edition Angela introduces Elizabeth. They discuss the issues that Elizabeth’s daughter has faced with addiction and ADHD, how she hit rock bottom and finally realized that she needed to change her life. Elizabeth’s candid account highlights that mental health is not a life sentence and that through compassion she was able to help her daughter.

Click on the links to listen to the latest podcast on iTunes or Player.FM and leave us some feedback! And, have you checked out the Sneak Peak of Angela’s upcoming book, Different from the Other Kids: Natural Alternatives Edtion? It launches November 11, 2016!

Welcome back Jacquie Tyas for another great interview! — October 11, 2016

Welcome back Jacquie Tyas for another great interview!

Hello everyone! We are back from Thanksgiving with another interview with Jacquie on Different from the Other Kids. Angela sits down with Jacquie once more as they discuss youth engagement and the power of giving young people a voice. Things as simple as giving input on meals and participating in group activities can have a major impact on how young people come to view themselves and the world they inhabit. Listen now at http://bit.ly/ListenDFTOK!