By anyone’s standards, the Walking Each Other Home Charity Gala at the Humboldt Uniplex on Friday, May 12 was a resounding success. The sell-out crowd was treated to a wonderful meal, excellent company, and a laugh filled and thought provoking 90 minutes with Dr. Jody Carrington. Carrington is the author of multiple books on the topics of mental health and connection. 

With an arsenal of personal stories and experiences, Carrington took the audience of a ho-holds-barred and mirthful night of reflections, always with a sobering message about the precarious state of mental health for many. 

Through the laughter of the presentation, Carrington made it clear that we’ve entered a period of unparalleled mental health crisis. At the heart of it is a feeling of disconnection like no other time in our history. 

“It is estimated that our grandparents looked at their children 72 percent of the time more than we look at our babies,” Carrington intoned during her presentation. “The only way that we learn we matter, or we’re going to do a great job is that somebody has to show us. And if we’ve never been this disconnected in the history of the free world, one of the issues we’ll continue to struggle with is ‘do we matter’.”

Carrington brought her experience as a woman having grown up in rural Alberta, a mother, a scholar and a counselling psychologist to the forefront, sometimes with bombastic stories and sometimes with quietly spoken, heart wrenching truths. During the evening, Carrington made the connection between loneliness and a host of physical and mental health issues. Some of those issues stem from a multi-year lockdown in the pandemic, along with our failure to address the seriousness of that experience. 

“You can’t address what you don’t acknowledge,” Carrington cautioned. The 33 percent increase in divorce in recent years is indicative of this struggle, she asserted. The challenge is to maintain and nurture our important connections and avoid taking the plentiful “off ramps” from connection. 

Carrington delved into behavioural conditioning and the reward vs punishment system which tends to be the platform for which we seek to establish behaviour in our children, our students, our families and friends. Carrington maintained that the reward and punishment philosophy will only get you so far. Instead, people need to be shown behaviours and actions that help them cope with loss, mourning and trauma. The act of showing and nurturing helps young people develop the neural pathways that allow for successful self-regulation. 

“We need people to be connectors.”

The title of the evening event, “Walking Each Other Home” is borrowed from American spiritual teacher Ram Dass. Carrington acknowledged that in spite of our instinct to “fix” the impact of traumatic events, the best we can do is help others walk through it. She also emphasized the importance of the nurturers and “walkers” in our society - like teachers, coaches, first responders, and health care workers, among others. 

In the end, Carrington invited each audience member to connect with themselves, by taking time, monitoring their moods, connecting with their people, and establishing their “why.” It’s all part of learning our own walks and nurturing the ability to support others as we are all walking our way home. 

More only Dr. Jody Carrington is available through her website. The evening was a fundraiser for the Humboldt District Hospital Foundation.