“At CFS, we build strong families.”
“A growing number of families are facing increasingly complex challenges.”
“Help us support vulnerable families.”
“We welcome everyone.”
These are statements you hear from us all the time. We use them to define our purpose and invite you to participate with us through giving, volunteering, and helping us get the word out. You’ve heard them a lot while we’ve been raising money for the 5 for Humanity Fund.
If you’ve ever wondered what those challenges are, or what exactly makes an individual or family vulnerable or strong, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve even wondered which category you might fit in.
Through this post, we hope to provide more information about how we see and respond to vulnerability.
What is Vulnerability?
We support vulnerable individuals and families, but what makes someone vulnerable is a combination of multiple factors:
Understanding vulnerability as a formula helps to see how something that only feels inconvenient for one family might quickly destabilize another. It can also mean a family that has otherwise been strong and stable for years can go through an experience that can tip them into vulnerability.
The added complication here is that life is rarely a series of one challenge at a time. Often one challenge can trigger or be compounded by additional difficulties.
Experiences Can Contribute to Vulnerability
The experiences that can contribute to the vulnerability of individuals and families are things that many of us will experience. Understanding that experience or life events are only a part of the equation can explain why some can navigate the challenges while others find them overwhelming.
Some of the experiences that can shake individuals and families include
- Death of a sibling, parent, child, or other loved one
- Job loss
- Getting passed over for a promotion
- Being a victim of a crime
- Chronic pain
- Public humiliation
Risk Factors can Multiply the Impact of Experiences
Some of the experiences listed above, like the death of a loved one, are things every one of us will experience. So, it isn’t the experience itself that makes us vulnerable. There are other factors that affect how we experience it.
- Our mental health. By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness (https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics)
- Addictions or substance abuse. In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem (https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics)
- The attachment and support we received as kids or the lack of it. The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult (https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/)
- Our level of social isolation. Almost one-in-five (18%) Canadians aren’t confident they’d have someone they could count on for emotional support during times of personal crisis (http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019.06.14_Loneliness-and-Social-Isolation-Index.pdf). A growing body of research suggests that loneliness is as big a risk factor for premature death as smoking or alcohol consumption (https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316)
- Our financial health. Although many Canadians feel okay about their finances, nearly half (48%) of Canadians are $200 or less away from financial insolvency. This proportion includes 29% who already cannot meet their debt obligations and are insolvent at month-end (https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/news-polls/Canadians-and-Bankruptcy-Oct-2019)
Even these are just a few of the underlying pieces that can affect how we’re able to respond to adverse experiences.
Resilience Helps Us Weather the Storm
When we talk about building strong families, it’s resilience we’re working on. Resilience is how well a person can adapt to the events in their life and recover from setbacks while maintaining lower levels of stress.
Our programs support the ongoing development of resilience for individuals and families while working to reduce the impact of any underlying risk factors they may have. Our service focuses on four ares.
Mental Health and Well-being
Our emotional, psychological, and social well-being affects how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Improving mental health enables people to be more resilient through adversity.
Our programs include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Functional Family Therapy, Brief Intervention Caregiver Support (BICS), Counselling For Teen Parents, Online Self-Help, Rapid Access Counselling
Research shows that children who find attachment and human connection face reduced risk for mental health problems and addiction and make more positive contributions to their communities.
Success in School
Education provides a route out of poverty toward better employment, stable housing, and food security. Reducing the baseline level of stress improves resilience.
Babies who get what they need have a sturdy foundation for a healthy life. Healthy babies grow into healthy children, healthy teens and, eventually, healthy adults.
So, Are You Vulnerable or Strong?
You are strong, but even the strongest of us can experience vulnerability (which is not weakness).
Individuals and families can tip in and out of vulnerability, depending on their circumstances, current events, and their resilience. Many, if not all of us, will experience vulnerability at some point in our lives. It’s not permanent, and even in longer-term experiences of vulnerability, the right supports can build strength and resilience even after decades of struggle.
Do you need support?
If you’re experiencing vulnerability, reach out, we can support you. Really. whoever you are: https://www.cfs-ab.org/who-we-are/who-we-serve/
Contact our Engagement & Intake team at 403.205.5294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you help us support others?
Right now, and until June 30, 2020, we’re raising money for our 5 for Humanity Fund. The funds raised will allow us to continue building strong families today and in the future. Those funds will help us support your friends and your neighbours and will also ensure we’re here for you if you need us.
Click here to donate: www.cfs-ab.org/give/5-for-humanity-fund/