5:30AM! I blinked more than a few times as I looked at the time. My mind was in disbelief. It cannot be 5:30AM. It is too dark. I have had one of the worst night sleeps imaginable though it was more of a string of punching the pillow and then tossing from one side to the other. While I hadn’t slept and was awake I also didn’t want to get out of bed. I looked over at my Assistance Dog Buddy, and said, “you don’t REALLY want to go for a walk yet do you?” Buddy’s response was to jump on the bed and back down a couple of times. Hmmm I guess he did want to go for a walk. So up I get and off we go.
I walked out into the morning after. Yesterday of 46+ degrees on the Celsius scale which would be around 116 in Fahrenheit. It was hell hot. I don’t handle heat well. I am not a summer kid but love autumn and spring weather the best. Crisp air is great! I love autumn for the colours of the leaves turn on the trees and listening to the fallen one’s crunch as I walk. Spring holds the promise of growth and renewal. Summer in Australia is relentless. So today as Buddy and I walked out of the house and up the driveway in the grey early morning light I felt like I survived a major natural hazard.
The air was without sounds! Things were quiet. No cars. No music. No people. Nothing! I love it when there is no one around. I am not a people person. I also love the soft pastel light just before the sun comes up. As we walk we see it slowly happen. Silently. Ever so slowly, kind of like a smile the creeps on one’s lips when you remember a happy memory. The red begins to tickle the clouds like a lover slowly running the tips of their fingers on the cheek of the one they are kissing. It is only lightly at first. For me it is like being part of a precious moment as the day is ready to appear out of the darkness of night.
I look up and see the day break. It is a wonderous thing. To feel the breeze on my face and to hear Buddy walking over dried grass and fallen leaves is like beautiful music to my ears. With my mental illness there are times of great struggle to keep on living but in this moment I am content. Something I rarely feel. I am looking at something that will never ever happen again. Sure there will be more sunrises but there will not be another one today. I am witness a miracle. How can I be right in the middle of suburbia and still feel at one with the natural?
I wish I could begin to describe how my skin tingled and my heart raced as I watched God give life to this day. This day when so much would happen for so many. People will be born today and their mothers will know the joy of holding their baby for the first time. Someone somewhere will laugh or giggle. People will wake with blurry eyes after the struggle that was the night before. Some might have to clean up the mess after the night before. Without a doubt what will happen today will become the memories in times to come.
Summer days in Australia are often heralded in by a riot of colour and light. Today was no different. This is one of the most iconic things to see as an Australian, the dawn of a new summer day. The colours are bold and brash. The heat is already beginning to build. There are many times I wish I could be somewhere cooler but at seeing this sight my heart knows I am an Australian. I once heard someone say that whenever a scot hears the bagpipes they long for home but whenever I see a day like this begin I know that in ever fibre of my being I am Australian and glad to be alive!
Today a report surfaced that read, “POLICE have cracked down on a Batemans Bay food outlet after a blind customer with a guide dog was refused entry on Saturday, September 12… The shop owner would not let him enter the store because it was a food outlet”. (Read the article)
I am a person who has an Assistance Dog and while Buddy is not a guide dog it doesn’t make him an less needed for me to live as normal a life as possible. Buddy is a mindDog. You haven’t heard of mindDog, well, you probably aren’t alone there. The point is that business owners and managers need to know the law. Assistance dogs have been around for sometime now and so the concept is not new. In the short time that Buddy and I have been a team and going out in public (October 2014) we have been kicked out of 3 businesses and one physically. This is an embarrassing event when it happens and it shouldn’t happen. I never mind if a person in any business ask about Buddy and Assistance Dog status. I try and stay calm and explain, show his ID card.
It is time for all the discrimination to stop. I personally think that this man was right in calling the police over being refused entry to a business. I do know a lot of people with Assistance (Service) Dogs think we need to tread carefully and educate the owners and managers. As a person with legal rights I do not think that this is my responsibility. I agree we who have Service Dogs have responsibilities but we also have legal rights. Discrimination in all its forms needs to be ended and if defending our legal rights via legal means maybe the only way. Once businesses know that we are not going to give in, give up or crawl away then things might change.
There are now service dogs assisting people who have impaired vision (guide dogs), impaired hearing (hearing dogs), a physical disability (physical assistance dogs) and psychiatric service dogs (mindDog). I know that there are other assistance dog organisations for other impairments and illnesses but you get the idea. There are more and more ways that dogs help people but none of this is new. If you own a business it is time to know the law and more than this you need to let every member of your staff to know the law to do with Assistance Dogs. It is not my job to do your staff training.
Since Assistance Dogs have been around for some time now this should be a no brainer!
Today is what I consider a day of froth and bubble or one without substance, this is R U OK day. I know that these thoughts run counter to the media hype and positive vibe we are suppose to feel. I guess this will make me Mr Unpopular!
In my humble opinion I think that R U OK day is so incredibly stupid that it would be funny if it wasn’t about such a serious topic. As I have made clear in previous blogs I suffer from mental health issues. I am probably one of the most out there people when it comes to being open and honest about my illness (quiet I ain’t). What is my problem with a day that is to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day. Well, here is one day in 365 that you ask someone R U OK and tomorrow people won’t ask and won’t care. It is like an abusive husband buying flowers on Valentines Day for the abused wife or an alcoholic father sitting with his kids as they unwrap the Christmas presents. It is both in-congruent and without real meaning.
To all those who don’t give a flying fig for the other 364 days I hope you feel good about yourself today. After all R U OK day is all about you and you feeling good about yourself. If you ask if I am ok today and if I choose to off myself tomorrow you can at least say “I tried to reach out to him” thus clearing your conscience. As John Lennon said “whatever gets you through the night is alright” so at least this is one night you can get through feeling like a great person for asking the question.
Trust me any clown can paint a smile on their face and make you believe they are happy.
The R U OK question doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t start a conversation. Is anyone really listening to the answer? Don’t be fooled the world is not going to suddenly become a more caring and loving place. The chill of apathy will descend upon us all tomorrow. Life will go on as it did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. The only mental health issue ever spoken about is depression so there is no new understanding of other mental health issues. There won’t suddenly be a longer que of people wanting to be psychologists or psychiatrists. Governments are not suddenly going to give money to help with mental health issues or to community based groups that can help those who need it. So R U OK?
Then there is this ridiculous “world suicide prevention day” surely you don’t believe that there will be a world without suicide. If you do then you can head home with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell to Never Never Land. I guess once we get the people to stop killing themselves we can have other great days like:
- No car accident day
- No drunk people day
- No domestic violence day
Because by just saying things like R U OK will stop suicides so surely saying Don’t Crash will stop car accidents or Keep Your Hands To Yourself will mean women and children will be safe. If I were to suggest these other days or
agitate for any of these days you would say I was barking mad. Which means we are treating mental health frivolously by giving a day to ask R U OK and that band-aid will not fix the open gaping wound that is suicide.
The life line statistics on suicide in Australia are chilling and state:
- There are 7 deaths per day by suicide.
- For every completed suicide it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt suicide.
- That is around 200 attempts per day.
- That is more than one new attempt in Australia every 10 minutes.
- It is estimated that around 250 people will make a suicide plan every day.
- It is estimated that around 1,000 people will think about suicide at some stage in their day.
- Men account for 3 our of every 5 deaths by suicide which makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death for men.
- For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, the suicide rate is 2.5 times higher for men and 3.4 times higher for females than the national average.
R U OK?
While I do understand that words have power. They have power to hurt, injure and tear someone down they also have the power to heal, sooth and lift up. However, these three words R U OK won’t bring us any closer to either an understanding of mental health issues or stemming the torrent of suicides. This is like trying to hold back a flood using a thimble.
We need to become a more compassionate nation that stops being so focused on our own wants and needs to be able to see that a neighbour might be hurting, or a work colleague or a family member. One day a year isn’t going to do it. R U OK day isn’t going to change a thing. It is like putting lipstick on your granny.
R U OK?
This could have easily have been titled “The Politics of Public Attention”. There are a few threads that need to be unravelled so we can understand the yarn.
There is a national and local focus that seem to emulate one another. Firstly, let me look at the national. Once again the idea of a republic has been raised. Now don’t get me wrong while I am not opposed to the idea I am opposed to the timing. It seems to me that every time a federal government is in trouble they suddenly come up with a topic that will draw attention away from them. The first time that I noticed was when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. Here we now have Joe Hocky backing the idea. He has not been faring well because when the last budget was handed down he was basically marginalised. He need to re-establish himself and regain power. Could part of this be the once powerful wanting to be back where they think they should be? If one has a belief that you were born to rule then this could be a possibility. I don’t have to go into a list of things that are far more important than if we do or don’t have a President. Every day, I see things that need to be done. We have taken money from charities and community groups because the federal government has deemed them unaffordable or unneeded. Over years we have lost personal rights and society has been moved into a less generous and dare I say less Aussie by governments who have cut costs with the mantra of reducing deficit. No one has ever asked me but I would vote for services to the community over mean spirited politics.
Why now? Why a Republic debate? Could it be that the current Federal Liberal Government are on the nose so badly that they need a smoke screen? Is it a matter of adjusting the deck chairs on the Titanic? Is this just a cynical view of politics? The problem is that the older I get the more I seem to have seen it all before and it is time to stop the smoke and mirrors and govern. It is said that you can tell how compassionate a nation is by how it treats the least in society. How do we fare on this score card? It is not time to treat the elite to more power. In my opinion it would be best to bring back the egalitarian society where all are treated with respect.
Now let me turn to a local issue for those living in the Blacktown LGA. There was a vote held in council to have a type of referendum on a name change for the city. Again the push has come from the Liberal’s and one (1) independent. This topic seems to come up with some regularity… Is this another smoke and mirrors trick? I can’t help but wonder what we are not meant to notice. Is there at least one development application that we are having our attention taken away from? Are services being cut? To be honest I don’t know but what I do know is that I have lived in and around Blacktown for a long time and I am extremely proud of my city. If these elected officials aren’t proud to call Blacktown home then here is a novel idea: retire from office.
No matter if the idea is a nation one of a republic or a local one of a name change both are attention grabbing sleight of hand tricks. Whatever you do just don’t fall for it!