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Leave your high perch – and save your child’s life.

I know some couples who are household names in business and public service. They check all the boxes: virtuous without being virtue-signallers, hard-working without being owned by it, all while being powerful and household words.

Three of these couples in particular have kids who are in trouble: with substance abuse; mental disorders; or what I’ll call ‘chronic purposelessness.’

The parents are frantic, searching for the treatment or cure that will restore calm in their family and security in their children.

One of them hangs very high in a giant company. He oversees the people who oversee the people who run the company’s group benefits program. That is to say, the insurance company that manages many thousands of medical claims each year, including a rising number of mental health claims.

But the high-percher’s daughter, certainly not a kid any more, is acting out in public, and ‘society’ may intervene soon, as it always does, via a police car or an ambulance. The high-percher does not use his company’s benefits program to seek help for his daughter. He would never do that. Not just because of the traditional mistrust people associated with any mental illness view “HR”. But because they feel their child’s problems will reflect badly on their character as people, as parents, and of course, as professionals.

So they don’t talk about their child and how their illness is tearing the entire family apart, as it always does. And that not talking, with its deadly hesitation built in means that more time spends with their child wandering alone on the heath.

This started to change in 1995 when Michael Wilson’s son Cameron took his life. Back then, suicide was never ever spoken about. But Wilson, the hugely respected Bay Street financier and former Minister of Finance, swallowed hard and told the world about his family’s painful secret.

Since then, it’s become easier for people who feel they have a lot to lose reputationally if they talk about their personal tragedies. But the temptation to return to the mean is always with us. No one is comfortable having their family laundry aired in public.

So it was refreshing to see a LinkedIn post last week from Andrea Barrack , Senior Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and ESG at RBC, the 5 th largest bank in North America.

“This is a more unusual post for me,” she began, “because it’s more personal.” You can read her full post by ella here .

The part that hit home for me was when she said, “I had a senior leadership role and I was worried a bit about how it might reflect on my parenting or the accusation that I was too busy at work to be a good mom. It was a feeling I already had that gnawed at me.”

A couple of weeks ago, Andrea’s son Dylan celebrated 7 years of being clean and superb.

Looking back on my own addiction and recovery, it’s clear that the deadliest symptom of addiction is not ‘acting crazy’, but denying that you have a problem at all. And if your family is complicit in your denial, especially because they feel the judgment of their professional world, then…well, then it’s time to not care about that any more and save your child instead.

As I learned, the world won’t cross the street to avoid you. Indeed, it will rush to your aid. Why?

Because every extended family, every single one, has mental illness or addiction somewhere in their lives.

So, if you’re trying to hide your child’s illness, for whatever socially acceptable reason, stop that. Reach out. Get help now.


1. Bummer. That’s the title of the Number 1 book on Amazon in the Colorectal Surgery category. Written by Toronto colorectal surgeon, Dr. Marcus Burnstein , it chronicles What You Need to Know About Anal Health in a clear and dare I say compelling way.

For more adjacent to that subject, here’s why sex in space is so complicated, and how a blind date can turn into far-sighted lives.

2. Who is Sam Altman? In the last seven days, the founder and CEO of OpenAI was fired by his board; made moves to return; he was offered millions by Microsoft, the company’s largest investor, to start a rival firm; and returned to CEO when 95% of OpenAI’s employees threatened to quit and walk across the street to the new company. Here’s an interview , (start at 35:59) with The New York Times  aired on Nov. 14 that’s a first on AI, on ChatGPT, and on why virtually an entire workforce would choose to follow him rather than the board.

3. Love, Actually …turns 20. Come on, you still watch it every Christmas, don’t you? Here’s where its stars  are now .

4. The few, the proud, the Canucks. Only 2 Canadians made Time’s list of 100 global climate change champions: Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Sustainability Officer of Walmart; and filmmaker James Cameron.

And there was only one Canadian winner across 14 categories of the International Emmys announced on November 20: Madison Thomas’s documentary on Buffy Sainte-Marie. Thomas really is Ojibwe/Saulteux & Russian/Ukranian and, of course, Canadian.

The Women’s Age Lab turns 2. The first and only research institute in the world to study how to make women’s lives longer and better issued its second annual report this week.

5. Good manners smooth every crack. Debrett’s has morphed from a chronicler of British peerage to a guidebook for modern behaviour. Here are their Ten Commandments of mobile phone etiquette.

6. How to behave in December. First, know that truly sociable people hate parties. Next, a useful work of art you can gift. And then, remember how love is its own medicine , and how Starbucks conquered autumn. Finally, how pilots learn how to talk the way they do.

7. Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Wednesday, November 22 was the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. I was in my dorm after lunch at boarding school when a classmate rushed in and yelled: “Kennedy’s been shot! ” “Kennedy’s been shot!”

One of our dorm-mates was a guy named “Kennedy” who looked up and said: “No, I wasn’t” and proceeded to get in a fight with the guy who made the claim. Very Lord of the Flies,  and a strange day all ’round with Walter Cronkite , in black and white .

8. Anti s emitism in medical schools. The University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine is one of the top handful of medical schools in North America. In 2021, he was appointed Senior Advisor on Antisemitism. Here’s how that’s been goingplus what Temerty’s Jewish faculty think .

Antisemitism in medical schools is not new, nor limited to U of T. In 2014, medical historian Dr. Jacalyn Duffin wrote a history of antisemitism at Queen’s University , entitled The Queen’s Jews.

9. World’s most peaceful countries. Iceland is at one end of the curve, Afghanistan at the other. Canada is 11 th and the USA is in the same league as … Haiti.

10. Rockstar. Dolly Parton is 77 and released her 49 th solo album last week. Rockstar has 30 songs and collaborations with Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Linda Perry. Here’s Dolly now on CBC.

11. What I’m liking. This wonderful Nike commercial on the power of sport. And Pete Buttigieg  on gay marriage And especially, A Woman of No Importance, a spy history I’m reading now about Virginia Hall , an American debutante who played a huge role in the French Resistance. I keep thinking, “how can she possibly escape this time?” And yet she does. All the harder because she’d lost a leg. The New York Times said: “ This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down.” They’re right.



 — Gandalf, Lord of the Rings.

On Monday, Dec. 4th from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. ET Jean and I are hosting an online webinar about two deeply fascinating trips to hidden places and magnetic people.

With us on the webinar will be the ‘expert’ on these trips, Andrea Mandel Campbell whose karibu adventures is leading them.

On Monday, Dec. 4th from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Jean and I are hosting an online webinar about two deeply fascinating trips to hidden places and magnetic people.

With us on the webinar will be the ‘expert’ on these trips, Andrea Mandel Campbell whose karibu adventures is leading them.

The first adventure is hiking in a hidden mountain valley and UNESCO Geopark and World Heritage Site in the Italian Alps from June 7 to 13, 2024.

The second adventure is kayaking and Indigenous exploration off North Vancouver Island from Aug. 23 to 29, 2024.

This past summer, Jean and I took 10 friends for a week in karibu’s wild, sublime North Vancouver Island. As I note in my 5-star TripAdvisor review: We signed on for a kayak trip; we got so much more.” Here’s what it was like.

Now, you can take this trip next August and bring your family and friends.

You can also join us in June in Italy’s Alta Valsesia, as close as you can come to your own private mountain valley. As the Globe and Mail raved: “…it’s so picture-perfect, I feel as if I’ve walked into a living museum filled with startlingly fresh mountain air.” Andrea’s family has lived in the valley for over 500 years, and it shows. We’ll hike high, but we’ll go deep, with a real insider’s exploration into the heart of a unique part of Italy’s rich culture. Speaking of hearts, we’re all of an age, so no points for going fast. Whatever your pace is the best pace of all.

karibu’s mission is clear and enticing: “For the active adventurers and nature-lovers who seek raw and real experiences in some of the world’s most spectacular wild places and hidden gems, and want to keep them that way through responsible and inclusive travel. Our carefully-curated destinations celebrate what makes life truly awesome.”

So if you could do with a heap of awesomeness, join us online on December 4th to learn more about these two transformative trips.

Just let us know we’ll see your shiny face on the Zoom screen by emailing me at We’ll send the link closer to the date.


Bob Ramsay

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