Five years ago I participated in a longitudinal study funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The study was to provide systematic research evaluating and examining causes and barriers related to many single mothers living in poverty collecting social assistance with the hope of spreading public awareness an encouragement for society to work towards change and reform of public policies while reducing social stigma. In Canada, 80% of single parents are women (Statistics Canada, 2011). Canada has over one million single mothers (Statistics Canada, 2012).
As time went on and the women shared the social barriers they faced, trauma they had been subjected to, and mental health and addiction issues, it was decided that a book should be written which would include first person narratives of each woman in the study to further educate the public in hopes to destigmatize public attitudes and promote change to systemic social policies. Thus, the title became, Not the Whole Story.
Many of the women who told their story had suffered from (and most had overcome) trauma, abuse, and mental health and or addiction issues–myself being one of them. The most common denominator that was reflected in all of the stories told was abuse, which came in many various forms, such as childhood incest, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and emotional abuse.
The most disturbing and problematic are the views and misconceptions society has with respect to poverty stricken single mothers raising our future leaders of tomorrow, such as “It’s their own fault…they could get off ‘the system’ if they wanted to…she is just a selfish good for nothing drug addict/alcoholic using the system’s money to get high, etc…”
Why is it people today still remain so uninformed and ignorant to what is really going on? Why is it that we live in a society today that still allows for women and children to be abused and then tossed to the wolves? There’s many ignored issues and problems with social policies such as the criminal justice system, gender inequality, abuse, lack of child care, lack of treatment for mental health/addiction issues.
For example, what was the cause of the mental health/addiction disorder in the first place, why was it able to happen, and why is it still so prevalent today? How does a single mother suffering from mental health/addiction issues get the help she needs when facing societal barriers such as lack of child care while she takes the time to get help/treatment? The fact is many don’t speak up and hide their issues due to fear of humiliation created by social stigma and the fear that their children will be taken from them by a public social service agency such as CAS (Children’s Aid Society) instead of being provided the proper support and help they need due to inadequate public policies.
I recommend and urge others to read these women’s stories in order to understand the problems that are still very real today in order to work towards implementation and facilitation of societal change. Even I myself found it very hard to read these stories. It is painful and difficult to look at an face the truth, the whole story. It requires courage, humanity and willingness to go above and beyond the easy way out confined boundaries of “turning a blind eye” to “turning towards change”!
The book has now been published and is being used in universities to educate students in social science courses addressing issues such as gender inequality, oppression, marginalization, discourse and public policy, mental health and addiction issues.
About Carole Eastman
Carole is an addiction counselor whose passion is to provide support to others suffering from the disease of addiction and mental health disorders. In recovery from alcoholism for over 6 years, Carole understands the barriers and challenges many face in order to achieve a better quality of life which we are all so deserving of. Carole has raised three children as a single mother and after many years of struggling now enjoys living life on life’s terms. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog.