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September 10th 2014 | National Prevent Suicide Day

by: Iris Ostensen

Take a moment to look inside yourself and inquire-would I know what to do if a friend or family member began talking about suicide. One of the biggest issues we face in the mental health field is the stigma associated with mental illness/wellness. So many people forget it is no different than medical illness/wellness however lacks many of the same services and does not hold the same influence of recovery as other illnesses. Be a stigma breaker!! Talk about mental health talk about suicidal thoughts and feelings. For the remainder of this month I will provide some insight/ideas on things we can do. For starters let’s just start talking to one another. 

Here are some conversation starters, courtesy of

  • Reassure them. Let them know that they are not alone; that you care and will continue to support them.
  • Encourage them to open up. Reassure them that it is ok to talk openly about how they’re feeling.
  • Listen carefully. Resist the urge to give advice or talk about your own experiences.
  • Read up. Learn about their particular disorder to better understand what they may be experiencing.
  • Stay in touch. Continuously reach out through regular phone calls, texts, Face book messages and visits to help them feel less isolated.
  • Be persistent. Invite them to dinner, movies, sporting events and other activities. Even if they refuse at first, continue to issue invitations periodically.
  • Engage them in healthy activities. Invite them to stay involved in healthy and fun activities such as hobbies or sports. Offer to go on a walk together. Event talk to them about the importance of eating right, drinking lots of water and getting sleep.
  • Talk about the future. People who are experiencing a mental illness may have feelings of hopelessness and have trouble seeing beyond their current state.
  • Be patient. Don’t push for too much too soon. Understand that they have a legitimate medical condition and that healing takes time.
  • Acknowledge improvements. Point out small signs of progress, such as saying, “It was nice to see you at the mall again last week.”
  • Don’t ignore remarks about suicide. Take immediate action if your friend or family member appears to be in crisis.


At the Passage III Gardens, We’re Cultivating More than Plants

“Gardening is for old people,” one of the girls complained, with exasperated look at the ceiling and an emphatic wave of her hands. It was time for Sustainable Living Group and the girls weren’t happy. We were about to head outside to pull weeds and prep the beds for herbs and cauliflower starts. They had yet to understand why this was an activity they should look forward to. “Gardening isn’t just for old people,” I said. “It’s for everyone!”

Gorgeous sunflower on a summer day. Photo by Tiff.

Beautiful view of a sunflower.

This was a rather weak initial response and I didn’t quite know how to clearly and convincingly articulate this to the girls. At that point, it was most likely that they took my reply as an overly peppy intern’s attempt to sell the upcoming activity, which, I admit, was not a completely inaccurate assessment. But, regardless of how my response was interpreted, I really meant it—gardening is, indeed, for everyone. (more…)

PBS NewsHour features Northwest Passage’s In a New Light

Earlier this year, Northwest Passage’s In a New Light program was featured in an episode of Wisconsin Life – we were so honored and grateful to have been given such an amazing platform to showcase the talents of our kids.

In our wildest dreams, we never imagined that NWP and In a New Light would garner national attention for the spot.

But guess what happened!? PBS NewsHour picked up the WPT Wisconsin Life spot, and gave it (and us) new legs! What a fantastic opportunity to reach people throughout the country and even worldwide, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Icing on the cake? Yesterday, PBS NewsHour’s Facebook Page shared the article for all 287,000 of their followers – resulting in almost 100 shares across the social media platform. Wow.

We are beyond humbled, and incredibly excited to share this with you:


Read the article here

Second Chance: In a New Light Revives Historical Schaefer Cabin

When Branda Thwaits, National Park Service Ranger, heard talk about possibly halting upkeep of Schaefer Cabin, she knew something had to be done. It was a special spot for her and for her husband, Ben, and its sturdy log walls, set high on the banks of the Namekagon, had seen almost a hundred years of history float by. Constructed in 1927, Schaffer Cabin is at once a portal to the past and a place that sits firmly in summertime—all year round. It was constructed as part of the popular middle-class movement of the early 1900s to spend summer away from the city, surrounded by nature, and engaged in plenty of outdoor recreation. (more…)

RAD and Butterflies

Angela Frederickson, LCSW

Angela Frederickson, LCSW – Clinical Director NWP

I have spent countless hours preparing eloquent presentations of the attachment process and what could go wrong with this process for parents.  I speak about the beautiful and dynamic interplay between child and caregiver through those first moments of life and into early childhood that create and prune connections within the brain.  I educate about how this process creates a loving, reciprocal, and emotionally insightful individual in the best of circumstances; that our brains are set to receive this developmental process, but are not preprogrammed to function in this way in the absence of a healthy reciprocal relationship.  I then work to very carefully validate the experience of disappointment, heartbreak and even horror when trying to parent a child whose attachment process has been disrupted by abuse, neglect, or parental mental illness.  (more…)

Ethan’s story…

We could write a million things about Ethan – his passion for the outdoors and photography, his kind heart and amazing talents…Like all of the kids we serve at Northwest Passage, Ethan became our kid for the short time he was in our program. His successes became our successes, and reinforced that hopeful feeling that the children and teens we serve are worth so much investment.


Northwest Passage represented at Webster 4th of July Parade

For the first time in history, Northwest Passage was part of community Fourth of July festivities in the Village of Webster. Representing Northwest Passage were our kids from Northwest Passage II and Northwest Passage III, as well as staff, interns, and NWP Executive Director Mark Elliott. (more…)

Assessing for Pediatric Mania | Part 2 of 2

Dr. Himanshu Agrawal, MDby Dr. Himanshu Agrawal, MD.

Disclaimer: This blog is merely a personal opinion about psychiatric issues. It does not equate to a psychiatric consultation and does not imply doctor-patient relationship.
In Part 1, Dr. Agrawal introduces his assessment of pediatric mania. Part 2 begins with additional considerations. Click here for part one.


The Power of Pilates

sunset copy

by Lisa Courchaine, CAPSW 

Northwest Passage III Therapist 

Ok I admit it, I began practicing Pilates 10 years ago because it was the” hip” new workout, and I was curious what all the buzz was about.  Over time, I have realized the many benefits Pilates has to offer, and recent studies suggest the same.  For instance, in a recent study, college students participated in a 15 week movement based class on Pilates, Taiji quan, or GYROKINESIS.  Results found that overall; these students had increased levels of mindfulness, which were associated with improved sleep, self-regulation, mood, and perception of stress.  Now, first things first, according to Marsha M. Linehan, who brilliantly developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the core concept of mindfulness is all about being able to pay attention, non-judgmentally to the present moment.

Principles-of-PilatesAfter reading about the study, I was intrigued to research exactly how the movement based classes increased levels of mindfulness.  When looking at the core principles of Pilates, I found numerous connections to the mental health world, particularly DBT, which is the core treatment modality we use with the girls at Northwest Passage III.  The first core principle of Pilates is Concentration, as it requires intense focus on your entire body throughout the entire routine, which is an excellent way to actively distract oneself from intense emotions, as DBT teaches us.  The second core principle of Pilates is Control, as it teaches us that we are in control of our body, and not at its mercy, which aligns with the DBT philosophy of skillfully being able to tolerate distress and regulate emotions, and not being at the mercy of our emotions.  The third core principle of Pilates is Centering, which emphasizes use of the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs as the “powerhouse” or source of strength for the exercises, which aligns with diaphragmatic or “deep belly breathing” used in the mindfulness module of DBT.  The fourth core principle of Pilates is the Flow or Efficiency of Movement, with emphasis on smooth transitions from one exercise to the next, which aligns with the DBT mindfulness concept of “radical acceptance“ and being in control over the only thing we can control, ourselves.  The fifth core principle of Pilates is Precision, as it requires few and concentrated efforts, rather than countless and half-hearted efforts, which aligns with the DBT concept of mindfulness and paying attention to the present moment.  The sixth core principle of Pilates is Breathing, which focuses on the increased intake of oxygen to the body (which promotes blood circulation) and to the brain (which lowers anxiety).

It seems as though Pilates naturally incorporates elements of DBT, particularly mindfulness and self-regulation, and according to the recent study, may then lead to improved sleep, which is HUGE in terms of regulating our emotions (being less vulnerable to negative/problematic emotions).

You don’t need money, a gym membership, or fancy equipment.  All you need is a mat and yourself.  I try to teach the girls that taking care of yourself is “cool”, and sometimes comment on how much suffering I could have avoided as a teen, had I known about DBT.  Pilates is one of many ways to incorporate DBT and mindfulness into our lives,  we just have to be creative and willing.  One thing I’ve come to know for sure, is that it will always be “hip” to take care of your body and mind.  Keep calm and DBT on.

Assessing for Pediatric Mania | Part 1 of 2

Dr. Himanshu Agrawal, MD

Dr. Himanshu Agrawal, MD

by Dr. Himanshu Agrawal, MD.

Disclaimer: This blog is merely a personal opinion about psychiatric issues.It does not equate to a psychiatric consultation and does not imply doctor-patient relationship.

In my humble opinion, in the world of Child Psychiatry, there is nothing murkier than the answer to this question “What does pediatric mania look like?

It seems that there are several differing opinions endorsed by different schools of thought spread across USA. (more…)

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