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Youth and Yoga and Why it Matters

We are focusing on healthy living during March. Former Huck House caseworker and guest blogger Candace McDowall is a Connection Coalition volunteer who brings yoga to the crisis shelter.

My last paid day as a case manager at Huck House was almost 20 years ago. That place and those people still have my heart. You can tell, because I just can’t stay away.

Yoga Gangsters (now called Connection Coalition) is a non-profit organization that collaborates with schools, jails, foster homes, crisis centers and rehabs across 17 states to bring yoga, meditation and mindfulness to youth. As a part of this amazing group of volunteers, I knew that Huck House was the perfect place for this type of work with our young people.

One of the things I love best about teaching yoga in this setting is what happens to participants in the short span of 40 minutes or so. Every time I came, EVERY TIME, at least one person in the group, and often all of them, would start by saying “I can’t do YOGA.” And by the end, usually the loudest detractors were working the hardest to show off their moves or practice a crazy-looking pose.

But my favorite was always the one kid who would insist on not participating. Halfway through the class, when no one else could see, as I said to the group, “Ok, now take a really deep breath…”, I would get a glimpse of him or her, eyes half closed in feigned apathy, inhaling and exhaling deeply in rhythm with the group. To me, that was the most important breath in the room. The one who was trying not to be engaged, but couldn’t help being a part of something so simple and yet so brilliant. The deep cleansing breath.

Often, by the end of class, when the others were chatty and laughing at the crazy stuff we did, the loner who sat out the earlier stuff would agree to lie down on a mat for, what I always consider the dessert of yoga. The good stuff. The reward for the hard work that looks suspiciously like sleeping, but is actually a blissful respite from the chaos of their world.

In these moments, active, restless, young people who have rarely sat still for more than 30 seconds, whose parents and teachers would insist that they were incapable of self-controlled quiet time, would all lie down, in whatever positions they found comfortable, quiet, listening to the music, relaxed, and even, on occasion, meditative. Once, a staff person stuck her head back in the room, because she thought we must have left. “They’ve never been this quiet. Ever.”

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This is how I know it works. This is how every young person in the room begins to feel at peace within themselves, on their own, in control, and liking that feeling. Those otherwise elusive moments of calm and security, that they were able to accomplish inside their own bodies and minds, are the building blocks of the self-control and mindfulness they need to move on from Huck House back into a chaotic world, but now with the knowledge that they are in possession of skills they didn’t even know they had. And it all started with that one beautiful breath.

 

Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15), Huck House executive director Becky Westerfelt, and Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-3).

Homeless Children and Youth Act Reintroduced at Huck House

Today, Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) announced the reintroduction of the Homeless Children and Youth Act at the Huckleberry House. This legislation, which is cosponsored by Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA), provides a more accurate system for the federal government to understand the problem of youth homelessness and help better serve this population. Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH) […]

Why is it so hard to leave

Why is it so hard to leave?

I can only speak from experience……

Why is it so hard to leave an abusive lover? I have 4 main reasons why I didn’t.

My childhood, I watched my mom love a man who abused her, she never left and never told me those things weren’t ok. Somewhere in my mind, I thought things like this were supposed to happen. No one was around to teach and show me how a man really was supposed to treat you.

I loved him, this boy was my family, my best friend and more. It’s hard to let go of someone who was so close to you. Something that used to be strong and was planned to be forever. Some people stick to their vows no matter what happens. Even those that aren’t even married. Some people are just committed to what they want to happen. Sometimes your abuser can still be kind and be very sweet at times to the point you forgive him over and over again. But they turn around and do the same thing, that’s manipulated love. But of course we let them think that what they are doing to us is ok because at the end of the day that boy has you right where he wants you. He knows you will come back, he knows you won’t leave. This boy was the first guy I knew he took me in and protected me from the world. He became closer to me than any other male. The boy I once knew is gone, but in my heart I just knew that boy would come back, and all I needed to do was wait for him to return. But will he ever?

Low self-esteem, he made me think that no one loved me but him. He made me think I wasn’t pretty anymore. He made me think that there was no one out there that would love me like he did. So why leave? Who wants to be alone? But who wants to be with a stranger? That boy made me think I wasn’t capable of doing anything in life. That boy made me feel like a bad girlfriend, a bad daughter and the worst mother ever. Nothing I did was good enough for that boy. That boy made me give up on myself.

Then there’s fear, what if I did get up and leave, what would happen to me? Knowing that I can’t defeat this boy and battling is not what I wanted to do. When was the coast clear to leave? Will I even be safe if I go? Will he find me and hurt me even worse than before? I don’t want to see him hurting in jail because I still love him. I don’t want to go, I still love him. Even when we finally leave we somehow find a way back. Only because we were manipulated into believing that this is it.

Nobody out here loves me. I don’t have many options, I don’t know where to go. We look at everybody else around us differently. This boy was once my protector and now I need to be protected from him.

My abuser was insecure, an alcoholic and a cheater. He wanted everything to be my fault and to feel as low as he felt. Sometimes we don’t know what’s wrong with our abusers. Why they do the things they do. Maybe someone did the same thing to them that they are doing to you. Maybe they grew up believing certain situations are ok. A lot of people’s childhoods affect everything in their life….

Pay attention to change. Know what change is. Know when change is happening. Don’t be blinded by love. Don’t let love manipulate you. Don’t settle for less, learn what’s right, know what’s right and don’t ever let a boy take your rights away. Most importantly know that a boy and a man are two different kinds of people.

-Lucy, age 19, survivor in the domestic violence track of Huck House’s Transitional Living Program

First Date vs. Reality

While it would be nice to have a clearly written assessment of a potential new partner at the first date, this is not reality.

 

Imagine a first date. You arrive in a carefully-selected outfit at a casual restaurant to meet your date. Over dinner, you talk about your hobbies, work, and family. Conversation is fun and natural. You split the check. Before you decide to take off, your date reaches across the table and punches you in the face.

What would you do? Read more

2016 Year In Review | By: Katie Armstrong

Now that the holiday season is over and the new year has begun, I want to take a moment to reflect on the Holidays and 2016 at Huck House. Read more

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Beliefs Hanging in the Balance | By Jerome DeCarlo

December is a month full of anticipation, excitement and fear. We anticipate the fellowship of family, the excitement of the Holidays and fear the rapidly approaching end of the year. In our daily interactions we may also experience these same emotions. The anticipation of meeting new people, coupled with the excitement of developing a connection […]

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Adolescent Development: Staff Perspective

Adolescence is a difficult and exciting time of life.  Teenagers go through physical, social, and emotional changes during adolescence.  The major focus on this stage in life is teenagers’ desire to gain more independence from their family and to form their own unique identity.   However, teenagers still need structure, security and support.  It is often times families who give teenagers this sense of structure, support and security.

A list of helpful information about adolescent development:

  • Your teenager’s brain continues to develop until age 25.
  • Teenage decisions can be influenced by a strong emotional response because of the influence of the limbic system (which controls emotions) in an adolescent brain.  Eventually, the limbic system in your teen’s brain will be under greater control of the prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning, controlling impulses, moral reasoning and high order thinking.  This is the last part of the brain to develop.
  • As previously mentioned, the last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is in charge of understanding cause and effect.  Sometimes teenagers may engage in negative behavior and not know why, and not truly understand the potential consequences of the behavior.
  • Teen brains are wired to seek out rewards and seek instant gratification.  This means that teenagers are likely to engage in risky behaviors (drug use, sex, unsafe driving, etc.) because they have challenges delaying gratification.

  • Hormonal changes in the brain make teenagers more aware that they are not alone in this world. This results in a teenager feeling more self-conscious than ever before. They may think everyone is thinking about them, judging them, or watching them.
  • Social media CAN influence the brain. Studies have shown that when teenagers look at pictures on social media that display risky behaviors, it decreases activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling impulses.

A list of what guardians and parents can do to support their teenager through adolescence:

  • Spend quality time with your teenager, even if they resist.
  • Show them unconditional love.
  • Set boundaries and follow through with consequences.
  • Give them opportunities in SAFE spaces to practice skills such as delaying gratification, controlling impulses, and making decisions. The more they practice in safe places, the better they can use these skills out in the ‘real world’.
  • Give them structure and predictability. Teach them how to be organized.
  • Do not give long lectures. The average teen will stop listening after 4-8 minutes. Make it short, sweet and to the point.
  • Limit the amount of time your teenager spends on social media. It is important for your teenager to have time away from social media and cell phones so they can learn to regulate their emotions and develop appropriate social skills.

Michelle Geeting
Crisis Program Supervisor

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Adolescent Development: Youth Perspective

This October, our focus at the Huckleberry House is Adolescent Development. To start the month, we hear from some youth in our shelter about what it’s like to be their age.

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Mental Health: No Longer the Hidden Disease | By Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Mental health used to be “the hidden disease,” something to be ashamed of and not talked about. Persons were locked away in “insane asylums” and hospitals.

In the 1950’s, a well-meaning movement to take people out of sometimes horrible conditions and put them back in the community took root. Alas, the program was a failure because we never invested in the resources to take care of them in the community. As a result, many ended up homeless or in jails and prisons. Because they had little voice, budgets that supported their care were cut.

Today, there is hope on the horizon. We now understand that mental illness is a disease like any other. We understand that diagnosis and treatment can help many recover or manage their illness and lead to meaningful lives.

There are many reasons. Several advocacy groups, like National Alliance on Mental Illness, are speaking up and advocating. Ohio has one of the strongest NAMI chapters and have partnered with many groups. Many famous people, like actors, actresses, and elected officials, are now sharing their personal stories. The Governor of Ohio has been a strong advocate and leader.

In Ohio, I have worked for over 15 years on this issue and have seen great changes. When I started, there were 6 mental health courts, 2 in Ohio, where the court tries to deal with the issues that landed someone in court, and break the cycle of recidivism and homelessness. Now there are 38 in Ohio, hundreds nationally. Each one involves the community in treatment.

A program called Crisis Intervention Teams trains police on how to respond appropriately to calls for persons with suspected mental illness. When I started working on this, there were 100 Ohio officers trained. We just passed 9000 trained officers. I am now Project Director of Ohio’s chapter of a national program called Stepping Up that works with jails in identifying and treating persons with mental illness. These are but a few of the many programs in Ohio on this issue.

We now recognize that people with mental illness need support, care and treatment, not jail or prison. We need to provide resources for families and children so that they can keep their loved ones safe, and we must all openly talk about it as a disease that deserves treatment like any other, and advocate for funding and programs to do so. If you have an illness or a family member with one, speak up and share your story so others can understand. Only then can we remove the stigma.

Evelyn Lundberg Stratton
Project Director, Stepping Up
Retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

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Mental Health: The Many Parts of One | By Toni Jo Coppa

Fresh A.I.R. Gallery presents

The Many Parts of One

by Toni Jo Coppa

August 17 – September 23, 2016

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Coppa explains that her work is both cathartic and socially motivated. “The disgraceful stigma of mental illness labels a person and puts them in a stereotyped group. I’m hoping to break the negative attitudes towards common mental conditions like depression, anxiety and/or addictive behaviors,” she says. “These disorders have affected my mood, thinking, behavior, and most obviously my art. Conjuring my feelings into a tangible form helps me to identify and manage them more clearly.”

Toni Jo writes in her artist’s statement: “I have come to know the many distinct parts of me that make up the ‘Self.’ I chose the work in this exhibition to illustrate what these diverse parts (feelings and emotions) look like for me. When I express mental issues this way, I am able to objectify them (and even subjugate them, if necessary) for a new perspective. I am not an art therapist, but my work is indeed cathartic. Like Louise Bourgeois, I am inspired by a conflicted family life, the human condition, and psychoanalysis. I use materials and styles to best capture the part I am addressing.”

Toni Jo Coppa received her BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an MFA degree from the Maine College of Art, and was honored with a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

View more of Toni Jo’s work on her website: http://www.tonijocoppa.com/

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About Fresh A.I.R. Gallery

Fresh A.I.R. (Artists In Recovery) Gallery exhibits the works of individuals affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. Through art, we educate the community and work to break down stigma of mental illness and substance abuse disorders by bringing focus to the artistic vision. Fresh A.I.R. Gallery opened its doors in September of 2004 to celebrate Southeast’s 25 year anniversary and typically sponsors between five and eight exhibits a year. Fresh A.I.R. Gallery is a project of Southeast Healthcare.

www.southeastinc.com
614.744.8110

131 N. High Street Columbus,
OH 43215

Gallery hours – Monday through Friday 8:00 am – 5:30 pm

Gallery Manager – Lauren Pond, (614) 225-0980
PR Contact – Myken Pullins, (614) 225-0980