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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Social indicators - U.S. has low life expectancy compared to other first world countries and continues to drop

Most Americans think that the United States is exceptional. On most social indicators, however, the U.S.  has relatively low rankings for first world countries. One such social indicator is life expectancy and the United States comes no where close to the top ten countries.

There are many reasons for the U.S. low rankings in life expectancy as compared to these other countries. The several that come first to mind are our terrible health care system, our gun policy, our drug problems, infant child mortality, systemic racism, wealth inequality, and our diverse population.

The life expectancy in the U.S. has actually dropped in the last few years.

In 2015, the United States ranked at 31 in the world on life expectancy.

How are our elected officials dealing with issue? When is the last time you heard a campaigning politician raise life expectancy has a policy issue the nation, state, and local municipality has to work on?

Duing the argument over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), then House Speaker, John Boehner, said that the U.S. had the best health care system in the world. Maybe this is true if you have the ealth and health care benefits afforded to a member of congress, but the same health care resources available to a congressperson is available to the the average American.

The Republican party led by the Republican Senate leader Mich McConnell and former Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan have fought against improving our health care system of the last several years being financed by the health care and pharmaceutical industries. While there have been improvements with the ACA making health care available for more Americans many Red states rejected medicaid expansion which would improve health care services to their citizens. Univeral health care is still a vision for the future which is a right in most first world countries which have much higher levels of life expectancy.

Of course, there are other factors which contribute to the low life expectancy in the United States which are better thought of as being pulbic health problems than health care problems with behavioral health issues being significant especially when it comes to substance abuse, suicide, and homicide.

United Health Care was sued and lost on its policy of denying behavioral health care to its subscribers. Access to behavioral health care is still difficult because of stigma and health provider barriers to access.




For a video commentary click here.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse in families



Editor's note:

This is a sad and accurate story of abusive patterns of behavior that develop in some families. This video and story comes from the UK. Here in the US, the narrator and older female sibling can and perhaps should call Child Protective Services who will investigate. In New York State where I live these reports can be made anonymously.

The father, the perpetrator of abuse, does not need punishment but mental health help or perhaps a combination of services from the mental health system and the criminal justice system. In many jurisdictions domestic violence laws first utilized by the police in a complaint driven process, hold people who engage in abuse accountable for their behaviors. It has been my experience that restorative justice approaches work better than adversaril punitive ones.

For the number in New York State is and further information click here.

Child Protective Services are available in all states in the United States, and provinces in Canada. I suspect CPS is available in all first world countries.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

How internet "echo chambers" lead to faster radicalization on Marketplace Tech


The audio clip lasts about 6 minutes. Molly Wood is the moderator of Marketplace Tech. Fathali Moghaddam is a professor psychology at Georgetown University. 

Molly Wood: What are the things that move people, ultimately, to violence?

Fathali Moghaddam: It's a slow process sometimes, but it can also be rapid. The key issues are that individuals feel that they are being mistreated, that there is injustice in the world. Particularly nowadays, through the internet, an echo chamber has developed and isolation takes place, so this group radicalizes. The radicalization takes place in relation to other groups. It's what I call mutual radicalization. Gradually they get to a stage where one or two of them are ready for actual violent behavior.

Wood: It sounds like what you're saying is that, not only is the internet particularly ripe for this type of behavior, but that, in fact, as online communities become radicalized, they radicalize each other. They up the ante.

Moghaddam: Absolutely. This is becoming the norm. We see this in politics. We see it in extremist ideology. There is a relationship between these radicalizing movements and the internet. This is taking place in the wider context of globalization.

Editor notes:
People are easily propagandized because of what historically we have called "peer pressure." People want to fit in and belong to something larger than themselves. The norms of the group which influence compliance and obedience can be for positive social good or negative social good.

Perhaps the dangerious step up the ladder of radicalization is when the sense of social justice becomes self righteously personal. The sense of grievance rises to high levels which compels attack on those perceived as being the perpetrators of the injustice. In these situaions, violence and terrorisism seems not only justified but holy to an insane ego. Most of the U.S. public engaged in this behavior when they supported the Afghani and Iraq war back in 2001. The indiscriminate bombing characterized as "shock and awe" by the media was based on the delusional belief that the Iraqis had WMD.

There was one dissenting vote in the congress on the resolution to engage in this delusional behavior. That was Congress woman Barbara Lee. She was the one healthy person in the whole congress and history will remember her brave and courageous behavior in taking a principled stand against trememdous propaganda and social pressure.

The ego likes to play the game of "one or the other." Americans are quick to project their guilt onto people they perceive as different from themselves. The antidote for this radicalization of populations is to provide personal experience of a positive nature with the person perceived as "different" and a reduction in fear with methods other than self righteous attack

For more click here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Alcoholism and its affects on families.

Alcoholism and its effects on families learned the hard way contributing to a loss of innocence in a young teenage girl.

 

Editor's note:

An apparently well meaning mother keeps the secret of her father's drinking problem from her for reasons that aren't detailed in this video. It is a good example of the "don't talk" rule in dysfunctional families.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Teacher who made a difference to a third grader with Asperger's.

Sometimes it takes an understanding person to make a difference. Did you or do you have a teacher who you got alot out of?

 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Is Zoloft a good medication for depressive bipolar symptoms?


Is Zoloft a good medication for bipolar disorder?

Zoloft can help manage the symptoms of depression for people with bipolar disorder. However, a mood stabilizing drug should be considered the basic treatment with Zoloft added to treat the depressive symptoms during a depressive episode.

Zoloft is one of the drugs in the SSRI category of which there are several. These SSRI drugs can be used to treat symptoms of depression other than the depressed episode of bipolar disorder.

The diagnosis of bipolar disorder has entered the popular culture and most of the people I see who are suffering from depression do not have bipolar disorder. Their depression is caused by other circumstances and factors.

You can read more about Zoloft and bipolar by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Is it ADHD or Bipolar?


Is it ADHD or BiPolar?

Both terms have entered pop psychology and are thrown around indiscriminately. There is a difference and telling the difference is important because the psychopharmocological treatment is different.

Also, the psychosocial management and psychotherapy can be different.

The immediate focus of therapy is on symptom management with the longer term focus being on the management of the disorder and what I call life style engineering or developing and implementing a wellness plan.

For more click here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Incorporating the arts in science lessons improves learning

From Science Daily on 03/05/19


Incorporating the arts -- rapping, dancing, drawing -- into science lessons can help low-achieving students retain more knowledge and possibly help students of all ability levels be more creative in their learning, finds a new study by Johns Hopkins University.
The findings were published on Feb. 7 in Trends in Neuroscience and Education and support broader arts integration in the classroom.
"Our study provides more evidence that the arts are absolutely needed in schools. I hope the findings can assuage concerns that arts-based lessons won't be as effective in teaching essential skills," says Mariale Hardiman, vice dean of academic affairs for the School of Education at the Johns Hopkins University and the study's first author.
For more click here.
Editor's note:
There is other interesting research that has shown that singing a lyric can make the content more memorable than just reading and/or stating it. Singing, dancing, and dramatic vocalizations can be a mneumonic device to aid in memory and comprehension.

Monday, March 11, 2019

20% of students with ADHD receive no school support services

From Science Daily on 03/05/19
At least one in five students with ADHD receive no school services despite experiencing significant academic and social impairment, a gap particularly evident for adolescents and youth from non-English-speaking and/or lower-income families, researchers found in the largest study of children and teens with ADHD ever conducted.
The new findings are based on data on 2,495 youth with ADHD aged 4 to 17 years from across the United States, collected through the National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome (NS-DATA). The survey, the largest to date of parents of youth with ADHD, documents the extent to which students receive school services, the types of services they receive and the factors that may predict what kinds of services they receive.
"We found that although the majority of students were currently receiving one or more school services, only a minority received support to manage their behavior, and at least one out of five students did not receive any school support despite experiencing significant educational impairment," said lead author George DuPaul, professor of school psychology and associate dean for research in the College of Education at Lehigh University. "The gap between impairment and service receipt was particularly evident for adolescents with ADHD and for youth with ADHD from non-English speaking and/or low-income families."
For more click here.

Editor's note:
The ability and willingness of schools to provide support services to students with ADHD varies from school district to school district and depends on the willingness to allocate resources to provide these services. I have been asked by a parent this week to write a letter to the school on the student's behalf to obtain some additional services. This is a common occurance.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The problems with Benzodiazapine drugs.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine drug. There are many others. While we are focused on the opioid epidemic, the abuse of benzos is growing in the U.S. as well. I see many clients who have been prescribed a benzo for anxiety. It is very easy to develop a tolerance, become addicted, and then have worst symptoms than the ones being treated to begin with during withdrawal.


Friday, March 8, 2019

High functioning anxiety



Editor's note:
Clinically, I usually find that this kind of high functioning anxiety is related to perfectionism which is also the root of OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People with high functioning anxiety also experience depression, feeling overhwelmed, and suicidal ideas. As mentioned, because of the exceptional performance of the person, few people know or would guess at the anguish this perfectionism causes.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What is the role of unwanted emotional memories in PTSD?

From Science Daily on 03/04/19

"People exposed to trauma are less able to suppress unwanted emotional memories due to neural and behavioral disruptions in their brain that may contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is characterized by intense reliving of the trauma that is repetitive, intrusive and incapacitating. The intrusive nature of these hallmark symptoms suggests that the inability to suppress unwanted memories may be a strong contributor to the behavioral manifestation of PTSD.
Previous work has shown that healthy individuals can actively suppress emotional memories while individuals with PTSD frequently experience unwanted memories of their traumatic experiences, even when making explicit efforts to avoid them. However, little is known regarding the behavioral and neural effects of memory suppression among individuals with PTSD."
Editor's note:
This research confirms what is known clinically - that people with PTSD have trouble suppressing memories of traumatic events.
I had a client ask me yesterday if it was normal for the perception of certain objects around her home to trigger memories that were upsetting to her due to a traumatic incident that occured in her home.
I said, "Yes it is normal. However, what may be constructive or destructive, normal or abnormal, good or bad, is how you manage these memories when they are triggered." We then talked about progressive desensitization and she said, "You mean it may get better over time?"
I said, "Yes. Track the frequence, duration, and intensity over the course of several weeks, a month let's say. I predict the frequency will decrease, the intensity will decrease, and the intensity will decrease."
Can memories fade over time? Are there other ways of avoiding and evading troubling memories when they are triggered?



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Extrinsic rewards can squelch creativity and high quality performance


From Larry Ferlazzo's Web Sites Of The Day blog on 03/04/19
"One early and well known experiment found that children who were promised a reward were less interested in creating art than those who did not get that promise (it’s cited in just about every motivation study you can find).
In this Freakonomics episode from last October, though, Teresa Amabile talks about a variation on this experiment that she organized.  In it, students were told their artistic creations were going to be judged, and those children’s creations turned out to be much less creative than those from the control group.
She goes on to say:
I think that the biggest mistake we make in our schools, and I’m talking about everything from kindergarten now up through college, is to focus kids too much on how the work is going to be evaluated. Part of that is the extreme focus on testing in the United States right now and the past several years….
There’s too much focus on “what is the right answer, what are people going to think of what I’m about to say?” and too little focus on “what am I learning, what cool stuff do I know now that I didn’t know last week or a year ago, what cool things can I do now that I couldn’t do before?” And I think that if we could if we could switch that focus, we would do a lot to open up kids’ creativity.
In other words,  teacher judgment itself, especially, I assume, if it’s handled poorly, has the potential of being as damaging to student creativity as any other kind of more explicit reward."

For more click here.

Editor's note:
I noticed this phenomenon when teaching at a college level as an adjunct professor. When I asked students at our first class in the course they were taking what they wanted from the course, the immediate response was "An A." When I asked further, "Assume by virtue of the fact that you registered for this course you automatically get an A, now what would you like to learn and get out of it." Often students had difficulty answering this question.

Students have been well trained to adapt and accept the teacher's curriculum. Curiosity, creativity, motivation based on intrinsic rewards only created barriers to success in the course which is defined by the professor's grades. The effort, then, is to give the teacher what the teacher wants.

This phenomenon of being graded and grades dependent on compliance actually undermines human learning.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How will New York State's "Red Flag" law actually work?


From WXXI, 03/04/19.

New York's so-called "red flag" law takes effect in about six months.
It authorizes teachers, school administrators, and others to petition a court for the removal of guns from individuals who they believe pose a serious threat to themselves or others.
“The petitioner has to show clear and convincing proof that the person in question is likely to engage in dangerous conduct,” said Rochester attorney David Tennant, a former co-chair of the New York State Bar Association’s task force on gun violence. "That clear and convincing standard is unusual, it's heightened, it's hard to meet."
For more click here.
Editor's note:
While a step in the right direction, these laws are reactive and not proactive and extremely bureaucratic and difficult to enforce and implement. I doubt they will have much impact on the gun violence problem in the U.S.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Children: An oppressed group.



From "Children's Freedom: A Human Rights Perspective" by Peter Gray, 02/28/19

"In fact, children today are far more deprived of liberty than they were when I was a child more than 60 years ago, or when my parents were children 90 years ago.  And children are suffering because of that deprivation.  As I’ve documented elsewhere, children today are suffering at record levels from anxietydepression, and even suicide (Gray, 2011; 2013).   The estimated rates of Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety disorders among young people, based on analyses of standardized clinical assessment questionnaires given in unchanged form over the decades, are now roughly eight times what they were in the 1950s; and the suicide rate for school-aged children is six times what it was then.  Serious mental disorder in children has gone up in direct proportion to the decline in children’s freedom; and there is good reason to believe that the latter is a cause of the former (Gray, 2011; 2013)."

For more click here.




Friday, March 1, 2019

Physicians have the highest sucide rate of any profession.


From "Remembering Ricky: Losing a friend to suicide by Andrews Wilner

"During my reading, I also learned that physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession, with one completed suicide every day.[3,4] That's twice the suicide rate of the general public. I don't have any intention of joining my friend, but I don't like being in a high-risk group!"

For more click here.