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We Are Only Human

News Article
We all experience different kinds of crisis. When you’re in midst of one, healing requires a long and private journey that requires tremendous care, and lots of empathy.
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Photo collage, clockwise, left to right: Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka, Brittney Spears, and Sha'Carri Richardson
Clockwise, left to right: Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka, Brittney Spears, and Sha'Carri Richardson

It is not a secret that Civic Life hasn’t been “OK” this past year. In fact, the struggles we have dealt with as a bureau are the reason Interim Director Michael Montoya and Commissioner-in-Charge Jo Ann Hardesty prioritized a 12-month healing period for Civic Life employees.

What is deeply humanizing about our current state is that we all experience crisis at different points of our lives and our society is finally beginning to normalize talking about it. For example, our news cycle is openly discussing how judicial systems can intensify mental health while shuttering one’s human independence and livelihood, evidenced by Britney Spears’ struggle with a decade-long conservatorship.   

Even the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, shocked us when he shared that he dealt with significant mental health issues. And the former No.1 tennis player, and back-to-back grand slam tournament winner, Naomi Osaka penned an essay about mental health in which she asked the press to give her 'privacy and empathy’. 

Track and field sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was recently disqualified from participating in the Olympics because she used cannabis to help her through a mental health crisis. Richardson explained that she used cannabis after finding out from a journalist that her mother had passed away. “I was just thinking it would be a normal interview,” said Richardson. “But to hear that information coming from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering, it was definitely nerve-shocking.” Richardson said she used cannabis to deal with the emotional pain, explaining: “I know I can’t hide myself, so... in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain.” Her Olympic disqualification has led to a national debate as to the validity of the punishment.

Civic Life’s Cannabis Program Supervisor, Dasheeda Dawson, was interviewed by the Washington Post’s The Lily on July 3, about Richardson’s disqualification. Dawson said that Richardson’s use of cannabis did not break any state law as cannabis use is legal in Oregon. She also pointed out how laws and regulations that influence policies such as the World Anti-Doping Agency’s are hypocritical because the U.S. government has taken out a patent on the medicinal use of cannabis.

“This ban is a direct result of a lack of cannabis competency and true understanding about the science of the plant, " Dawson told Civic Life. "Not only did Sha'Carri choose an effective medicine to deal with the unexpected grief of losing her mother, she also chose an effective medicine for the joint and muscle recovery necessary for an Olympic caliber athlete. As an Oregon cannabis regulator, I'm outraged by the injustice of an adult being punished for consumption in a legal state.”

We all experience different kinds of crisis. When you’re in midst of one, healing requires a long and private journey that requires tremendous care, and lots of empathy. In fact, so many people have felt vulnerable during the pandemic, that the term “languishing” has gained collective understanding and acceptance.

“We must normalize conversations about mental health and do the necessary educating to destigmatize mental health,” said Civic Life Mental Health Program Specialist Tyesha McCool Riley. “Our society historically looks at mental health as a form of weakness or a character flaw that we are embarrassed to talk about. Instead, our society, communities and workplaces need to prioritize mental health by creating safe spaces for healing, acceptance, empathy and dialogue—where true strength and resilience reside.”

We need to realize that maybe we’re not OK and need some help as we reemerge. We encourage you to seek help if you need it; visit this list of mental health and community care resources, or read up on this list of cultural specific resources. Be well, and #FreeBritney.