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mental health mondays :: alarming

we have a huge mental health problem. it can be solved and that will take work on a lot of different fronts. people are killing themselves in astounding numbers. people are killing themselves at a greater rate than at any time in the last twenty years and the situation is getting worse. relationship problems, financial struggles and [or course] mental health issues all contribute to the staggering rise, along with a number of other factors. there are no rules about who kills themselves, although there are some groups where the risk is higher.

improving mental health care, reducing the desperation that financial struggles can cause, and finding effective ways to deal with problems like substance abuse take time because they require larger scale action, but relationship-building is something that is built from the ground up. so while we're all calling for change on a larger scale, it is at least somewhat mollifying to know that we can do some things that make a difference without having to wait.

two celebrity suicides in the last week, two people who seemed to be winning their battles with bipolar disorder and addiction have come as a shock and, for those with mental health issues, such stories are immensely frightening. when i talk to people about my own past urges, i liken suicidal thoughts to have a snippet of a song stuck in your head: they seem inconsequential or annoying at first, but then build until it feels like a cement truck parked on your head. a dark thought enters and rattles around and it seems like something that you can control, but when you're ill, the balance of power tips quickly and you realize too late that you don't have a way of just expelling it, that you can't assert control over your own thoughts. that evil little thing can stay in your brain for weeks or months, or it can overwhelm you in a matter of hours and there is very little protection when that happens. even for the wealthy. even for those in a happy relationship. even for the privileged.

many, many people in my extended network have posted on social media virtually begging people to reach out to them if they are feeling suicidal or depressed. others have plaintively responded by stating the sad truth that the more depressed a person is, the less likely they are to reach out. the key then seems to be making honest, meaningful communication the standard for those we care about.  so that "reaching out" is just what happens on an ongoing basis, from both sides.

reach out when you're panicky and desperate. reach out when you're worried about someone and want to do anything you can to help. those are both important things. but even more important is reaching out just to make a connection that can let you can grab hold of when you're dangling. and be choosy. none of us have the time and energy we'd like to help and support others. making judgments is necessary and most of us will make mistakes on that front. that's not a reason to stop trying.

this is a suicide risk assessment checklist. it's used by medical professionals but, for once, you don't need to be a professional to use it. just keep it on hand. look at it. think about who you know who meets the criteria for either the long- or short-term group. think about how you relate to the descriptions. are you drifting? is someone you care about? you don't need to quiz anyone about their state of mind to know how at risk they are. and it can only help if we all just get used to trying to recognize the signs as part of our regular interactions with each other.

p.s. :: i've seen a few instances of people getting upset at others for not placing content or trigger warnings on posts about suicide. please, please, please don't do this. one of the major components of the battle against mental illness and suicide is that they are so heavily stigmatized, that getting people to talk about such things is incredibly difficult. demanding that people issue warning statements before bringing up the subject reinforces the idea that suicide is something that people should feel wary of discussing because it makes others upset. i know that that isn't the intention. i know that people post vile, ignorant, stupid things about suicide and mental illness because they want to seem shocking or rebellious. those people are pathetic and deserve your scorn. suicide needs to be discussed, without guilt and that isn't happening because it's upsetting. please.  


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eat the cup, 2018, part one :: open up and say 'da'

as always at the beginning of the world cup tournament, i spend my first couple of days trying to decide which country to feature first. i had pretty much made up my mind that i would follow last cup's example and honour the hosts first off, but then i decided that it would be even more fun to come up with a meal that combined the cuisines of both teams in the first game.

of course, that would mean accepting that there were two teams on the pitch in the first game and i think some fans would say that was arguable. no one expected much of saudi arabia, to be fair. but no one expected a lot from russia, so having the hosts welcome everyone by stampeding over their first opposition like a herd of rabid camels was, to say the least, unexpected. their 5-0 mauling of the saudis gave produced a new hero, denis cheryshev, a man who didn't even rate inclusion in the "panini" sticker booklets that fifa produces, and the first meme of the tournament when russian president vlad…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…

eat the cup 2018 :: welcome, comrades!

even regular followers of this blog might be surprised to learn that the longest-standing tradition on more like space is not tied to politics, makeup, mental health or even writing, but sport. i started the quadrennial eat the cup "challenge" [in quotes because i'm not actually challenging anyone but myself] way back in 2006 as a way of combining my growing love of soccer, my love for cooking and my still-new blogging habit. i determined that, as i followed the world cup, i would cook dinners to honour the winners of different games, meaning that the meal would, as far as possible, feature traditional dishes from those nations. in subsequent iterations, i started to do dishes that were combinations of different winners from the same day or, as the competition wore on, combinations of the different combatants.

finding certain ingredients can be a challenge, even in a diverse city like montreal [and i live on the cusp of some of its most diverse neighbourhoods], but what…