Communications Consultant, Linda O’Connor, BA interviews FAMILIES Educator, Gail Rutledge
Educator, Gail Rutledge, BA Psychology, may have seemed like a recent addition to FAMILIES in September 2015, but she also worked three years prior in Quesnel as a volunteer facilitator running the Your Recovery Journey program. A 22-year resident of Quesnel, Gail’s passion is to help others and to be involved in her community.
L: Has working for FAMILIES as a volunteer and now as a staff member changed you at all?
G: Oh yes! Four years ago I was more withdrawn, but helping others has really brought me out of my shell. I used to suffer with major depression and it was hard for me to talk about it. Now I’m open to those difficult conversations and it’s helped me in my work. I’ve always wanted to do this work. My job is like a dream come true – I absolutely love what I do!
L: Good to hear! What’s involved in your new role at FAMILIES?
G: I teach more programs as well as act as a mental health advocate. I talk to other professionals about the programs and services we offer and I collaborate with them to find ways to get that information to the people who would benefit. Sometimes we collaborate about new ideas for programs.
L: What help do you think Quesnel needs most right now?
G: Quesnel really needs addiction help for families. There are also mental health issues that go along with that. There are programs for people living with an addiction, but it’s difficult to find free programs that support family members and friends of that person – other than Al Anon – and that’s why our new SMART program is very important. SMART is for the families and friends of a person living with an addiction.
L: What does SMART do?
G: You receive many coping tools over a 14-week period, two hours per week. One focus is how to manage your own wellness so you can make stronger decisions. Another explains there is more complexity to addiction recovery than just stopping.
L: I see. Can you describe some of the tools?
G: Sure. One wellness tool analyzes the costs/benefits of continuing to enable your loved one to remain addicted. Then we look at the costs/benefits of not enabling. It’s powerful because in the end, people realize they can take care of themselves and help the other person get better at the same time. It’s about staying healthy and learning new ways to cope with the person living with an addiction.
L: And how would you do that?
Quesnel really needs addiction help for families. There are also mental health issues that go along with that.
G: One tool helps you learn when to step away and get help. Another teaches how to pinpoint the real issues. For example, you’ve told the person living with addiction there will be “no more drugs in the house.” And they agree. Next thing you know there are drugs in the house. A parent in that situation may think they’re angry for many reasons, but really they’re angry about the lie behind the betrayal. We help them pinpoint the exact issue that contributed to the anger so they can let it go and take appropriate actions to help everyone involved.
L: I can see why this program is so valuable because you are educating and helping people who are experiencing a lot of emotional pain. Any thoughts about programs for the future?
G: I’m working on Strengthening Families Together for later in 2016/17. This program teaches family members ways to deal successfully with a loved one who has a mental illness. That could be schizophrenia, bi-polar or paranoid disorder, for example. It’s an amazing program that will include lots of resource material so family members can get all kinds of help, including dealing with potential legal issues.
L: That’s exciting Gail – we’ll look forward that. Thank you for sharing your perspective.