Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Who people spend their time with by age.

 One of the protective factors for good mental health is social connections. Here is an interesting graphy of with whom people spend their time with by age.

Click on image to enlarge/

What's your age and with whom do you spend your time with?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Re-entry to community life from prison




I have worked with many clients who have been incarcerated in prison. The longer the period of incarceration the greater the institutionalization and the harder the adjustment to life on the outside.


The three most helpful components of successful re-entry are a stable residence, an informal support system, and a job.


There is a very illuminating essay in the March, 2021 issue of the Sun Magazine by Saint James Harris Wood entitled, “I Still Don’t Feel Free.” Mr. Wood writes his essay after being incarcerated for 18 years for robbing banks with a toy gun to  support his drug habit.and released in his mid 60s.


This is one of a series of articles based on his essay.


For me, personally, the punishment of prison wasn’t the loss of free movement; I have a rich inner life that’s hard to suppress. My real punishment was being forced to cohabitate with antisocial, angry, or mentally ill men, 95 percent of whom had personalities defined by insults and moronic macho bullshit. Sure, a few were boon companions — good musicians and chess players and charming lunatics. Nonetheless I have had my fill of sharing a room with another man and will never do so again. I spent an extra month in my single prison cell rather than live in a halfway house for six months.


I have heard this complaint from many people who have been incarcerated. One person told me that he preferred solitary confinement or as it is called in New York State “SHU” for “Special Housing Unit.” He told me several times he refused to leave SHU and a couple of times when forced to leave and placed in what is called “Gen pop,” he would break the rules deliberately to be sent back to SHU.


This same dynamic might not be true for prisoners who join gangs in prison or gain control of the system in their cell block or dormitory or have jobs in the prison they like..


A little further Mr. Wood writes


The next day I see my parole agent, a social worker, and an overworked state psychiatrist, who is too busy trying to spot would-be murderers and arsonists to care about my problems and dispenses with me in two minutes. It would be nice to have a regular psychiatrist. I believe I have a type of post-traumatic stress.


Most clients who have PTSD from their incarceration don’t want to talk about it, but slowly, in a long term psychotherapy relationship, the stories bubble up and the person tells them with apparent relief that someone who cares about them nonjudgmentally understands.


Article #1 in a series on “I Still Don’t Feel Free”.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Purpose and meaning - Volunteer service - Bon Secours

Purpose and meaning


After basic needs are met for physical health and social well being, the need for purpose and meaning becomes paramount at all stages in the human life cycle. This realization leads one to consider volunteer service. A new feature is being added to this blog today intending to highlight opportunities for volunteer service.


The first opportunity is the Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry in Baltimore, Maryland and Richmond VA. 

Here is the mission statement of Bon Secours from their website:


Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry, sponsored by the Sisters of Bon Secours, provides the opportunity for women and men to participate in the Sisters’ commitment to justice in radical solidarity with the poor, the suffering, and those most in need. By sharing the Bon Secours charism of compassion, healing, and liberation, the ministry nurtures and sustains individuals in their personal and communal journeys towards transformation through service with others.

To nurture this transformative journey, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry supports individuals through a year of spiritual formation. The ministry is structured with five pillars that support this growth. Volunteers commit to: grow spiritually, develop an intentional community, live simply, practice God’s justice, and learn through service with others. Throughout this year, volunteers discover that by sharing the charism of compassion, healing, and liberation with others they, in turn, receive the charism from those they serve.

You can learn more by clicking here.

Friday, March 5, 2021

“911 operator, What’s your emergency?” Mental health emergencies

Daniel Prude died on 03/30/20 after an incident in which Rochester, NY police mishandled a 911 mental health emergency call on 03/23/20

“911 operator, What’s your emergency?”

People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians, according to a 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center. That same year, a Washington Post investigation found that a quarter of the people shot by police in the United States were suffering from a mental or emotional crisis at the time of their death. Most of those officers were not responding to a crime, but rather to a call about a mentally fragile person behaving erratically.

Sojourners, March 2021, p34

LEAD and CAHOOTS both prove that it’s possible to respond to myriad crises without the police, thereby reducing harm in the community and lowering the potential for accidental injury and police misconduct.

The biggest barriers facing both programs are not that they don’t work. It’s that they’re still relatively unknown, underfunded, and only as good as the other social services available to treat chronic problems like homelessness, drug addiction, and poverty.

Sojourners, March 2021, p37

The better frame for this idea is not to defund the police, but to redirect some of the funding for militarized police to other emergency services focused on mental health emergencies.

In the March, 2021, there is a very good article in Sojourners Magazine entitled “911 operator. What is your emergency?” The article describes the concept and actual programs to respond to mental health emergencies in Eugene, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. There is increased interest in developing such programs in other cities and jurisdictions. Is there a mental health crisis team in your area? If so, how does it function?

Thursday, December 17, 2020

What is your interior spiritual life like?


What is the good life?

Recent science offers a fresh view of depression as a developmental process, especially in light of what we know about natural spirituality, its development, and its relationship with mental health in adolescence. As we know from the science of the spiritual brain and the adolescent surge: 

• Natural spirituality burgeons by 50 percent in adolescence. The transcendent faculty is kicking in during this window of genetic expression. 

• Once spirituality surges, harnessing it into a transcendent relationship is more protective against depression than anything known to medical or social sciences. 

• Spiritual individuation helps build relationships based on commitment and love and work based upon calling. This is a blueprint for a life of thriving, meaning, and purpose.

Miller, Dr. Lisa. The Spiritual Child (p. 277). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

A few years ago I had a 17 year old male client who was in twelfth grade, failing all his courses even though he had been on high honor roll, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, defiant of his parents rules, staying out all night, etc.

I had met with him three times at his parent’s insistence although he had no use for counseling and even further had a disrespectful, scoffing, and ridiculing attitude toward me and therapy. In our third session, not knowing what else to do, and maybe inspired by the Holy Spirit I asked him an impertinent question I had never asked a client before. Out of the blue I said, “So Jake, what is your interior spiritual life like?”

Jake looked at me stunned and like I had three heads. His whole demeanor changed. He became pensive, the cocky, know-it-all attitude immediately changed and after a few moments of silence and stuttering he finally said, “I don’t know. That’s a really good question.”

We were at the end of our meeting time, and for the first time he said he wanted to make another appointment and come back. When we got together the next time, he had given the question a great deal of thought, and he told me he wanted to finish up high school even though it was “bull shit” and go to a college in the midwest. I saw him a couple of times and his parents told me they were amazed at his change, positively, in his attitude and behavior.

I told this story to my adult daughter and she said, “Dad, nobody talks with teenagers about what is really important to them in life. The whole question of ‘what is the good life?’ never gets discussed. You’d think it would be #1 on the curriculum wouldn’t you?”

Yes, you would. It is interesting how adults have abdicated this role of discussing what is the good life to advertisers, marketers, and drug dealers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

What's the best way to change an abuser?

In the May/June, 2019 issue of Mother Jones magazine there is an article entitled, "What's the best way to change an abuser?"

The answer?

There is no one best way.

My clinical experience of over 50 years has taught me that the first step is a mental health evaluation to understand the person's psycho-social functioning which is composed of thoughts, feelings and behavior. The causes of domestic violence are multi fasceted. 

The Mother Jones article notes that 86% of mass shooters studied had a history of perpetrating domestic abuse.

One program that seems to help somewhat is Men Creating Peace in California. In Rochester, NY, a Social Work colleague of mine had pioneered a program for men who perpetrated domestic violence back in the 70s and 80s. I am not sure if the program any longer exists.

For services in Rochester, NY regarding domestic violence contact Willow Domestic Violence Center.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

U. S. birth rate below replacement levels


U. S. birth rate below replacement levels

U.S. birthrate falls to 32-year low

The U.S. birthrate dropped to a 32-year low last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday. About 3.8 million babies were born in the country in 2018, 2 percent fewer than in 2017. It was the fourth straight annual decline. The fertility rate "in 2018 was again below replacement — the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself," according to the report. "The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement for the last decade." The replacement rate is 2,100 births per 1,000 women; the 2018 rate was 1.728 births per woman. "We're clearly in the throes of major social change with regard to women getting married and choosing to have children," said Donna Strobino, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. [USA Today, NBC News]

Editor's note:

With U.S. birth rate below replacement levels, it will have to increase immigration rates to maintain its population.