Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Not snark: David Brooks wrote an interesting column.

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See what you think.

The previous post was written before I read Brooks’s column, but they seem to be on the same wave length.

BTW, it seems perfectly clear that David Brooks, like so many, has been following the James Fallows series on American Futures in his travels across America.

About time: Former Football Players Sue Stanford University, NCAA, PAC-12 Over Mishandled Concussions

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CBS reports:

A complaint filed on behalf of thousands of former Stanford University football players alleges the university, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Pac-12 Conference knew that football players were in danger of permanent brain injuries but did not protect the players so as to “protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football.”

Chris Dore, a partner at the law firm Edelson PC said the lawsuit filed Thursday against Stanford, the NCAA and Pac-12 is only one of 15 lawsuits that have been filed in recent weeks by his firm against colleges and athletic conferences on behalf of college football players.

The wave of lawsuits comes on the heels of two other related lawsuits: One is a a lawsuit against the NCAA, which did not include monetary compensation for players but made strides in medical monitoring and tests for concussions. The second is a $1 billion concussion settlement against the National Football League alleging that the league failed to warn players and hid the damages of brain injury.

Dore told CBS San Francisco Friday that the defendants didn’t want to discourage play or participation in the sport out of concern that there would be “loss of significant profits.”

He said that this punitive class action lawsuit is led by plaintiff David Burns, who played at Stanford University in the 1970s, but is filed on behalf of thousands of football players who played for the university’s team between 1959 and 2010.

Dore said the defendants knew about scientific studies, some even conducted at the very same universities, that described the dangers of concussions, but did nothing to protect players.

The complaint states that “… Defendants Stanford, Pac-12, and the NCAA have kept their players and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing their athletes.”

The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial and monetary relief for players. Dore said dozens more lawsuits are expected in coming weeks. . .

Continue reading.

When money is involved, damage is ignored: cf. the cigarette industry, the oil and coal industry, and now the enormous amounts of money made in college sports (not by the players, of course, who get none of the revenue).

Later in the article:

“Unfortunately, for decades, Defendants Stanford, Pac-12, and the NCAA knew about the debilitating long-term dangers of concussions, concussion-related injuries, and sub-concussive injuries (referred to as “traumatic brain injuries” or “TBIs”) that resulted from playing college football, but actively concealed this information to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football,” the complaint alleges.

Stanford, of course, denies everything. They had no idea that playing football caused any brain injury at all. Big surprise for them. (So will they continue to field teams?)

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2016 at 3:31 pm

The invisible world made visible—for 90 minutes, for one woman

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Alex Spiegel reports on NPR:

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the latest episode of the Invisibilia podcast and program, which is broadcast on participating public radio stations.

Until she was 54 years old, Kim was totally unaware that there were things in the world she couldn’t see.

“This was the whole problem,” Kim says. “I had no clue what the problem was.”

All Kim knew was that over and over and over again the world didn’t respond the way she expected. People would say things and do things that seemed completely unrelated to what was actually going on. It happened all the time.

Once, as a kid at summer camp, she saw two girls trying to put up a sail on a sailboat. “And I’m always really good at doing that kind of stuff, and I looked at them and I could see what their problem was,” she says. And so she walked up to them, explained that she could help, could show them how to do it.

“And they were mad at me,” she says. The girls started screaming, telling her to go away.

“It was so strange,” she remembers. “It was like … why would they be mad when I’m trying to help them? That makes absolutely no sense. I don’t understand that.”

That was in 1966, when Kim was 12. More than 40 years later, after a researcher spent 30 minutes pressing a fancy magnet to the top of her head, Kim would finally experience firsthand the critical element of the sailing scene that she had missed in 1966: the subtle emotions swirling around.

“I didn’t realize that the overall context was that these people are having a relationship,” Kim says. “I didn’t see things that way. What I would see is the physical aspect of it: There are two people here; they’re on a boat. The boat needs to have the sail go up before it they can sail; therefore, they need help with the sail.”

Now she realizes there was much more happening. It wasn’t just that “those two people are talking.” They were friends, enjoying each other’s company. That was the primary event, not getting ready to sail.

We all carry in our heads invisible frames of reference that filter our experience and shape the way we see the world around us. Those frames are the product of many things — our cultural experience, our assumptions, but also our biology and the way the biology of our particular mind focuses our attention in the world.

Kim’s brain is not great at seeing emotion. When she looks out at the world she physically sees all the things that most people see, but with much of the emotion subtracted. She sees the same tables, the planes, the trees … the people moving back and forth. But the feelings — particularly the subtle ones — are invisible. Though for most of her life she didn’t realize that.

“This is the interesting thing,” Kim says. “We believe our senses, so I didn’t know I was missing anything. If I’m seeing people talking and it simply looks like people are talking, why should I think that they might be feeling angry or sad or anything, if I’m not sensing that?” . . .

Continue reading.

There’s more at the link, including the podcast itself.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 July 2016 at 7:00 am

Machine Learning Algorithm Spots Depression in Speech Patterns

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Michael Byrne has an intriguing article in Motherboard:

Researchers from the University of Southern California have developed a new machine learning tool capable of detecting certain speech-related diagnostic criteria in patients being evaluated for depression. Known as SimSensei, the tool listens to patient’s voices during diagnostic interviews for reductions in vowel expression characteristic of psychological and neurological disorders that may not be sufficiently clear to human interviewers. The idea is (of course) not to replace those interviewers, but to add additional objective weight to the diagnostic process.

The group’s work is described in the journal IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing.

Depression misdiagnosis is a huge problem in health care, particularly in cases in which a primary care doctor making (or not) the diagnosis. A 2009 meta-study covering some 50,000 patients found that docs were correctly identifying depression only about half the time, with the number of false positives outnumbering false negatives by a ratio of about three-to-one. That’s totally unacceptable.

But it’s also understandable. Doctors, especially general practitioners, will pretty much always overdiagnose an illness for two simple and related reasons: one, diagnosing an illness in error is almost always safer than not diagnosing an illness in error; two, eliminating with certainty the possibility of any single diagnosis requires more expertise/more confidence than otherwise. See also: overprescribing antibiotics.

A big part of the problem in diagnosing depression is that it’s a very heterogenous disease. It has many different causes and is expressed in many different ways. Figure that a primary care doctor is seeing maybe hundreds of patients in a week, for all manner of illness, and the challenge involved in extracting a psychiatric diagnosis from the vagaries of self-reported symptoms and interview-based observations is pretty clear. There exists a huge hole then for something like SimSensei.

The depression-related variations in speech tracked by SimSensei are already well-documented. “Prior investigations revealed that depressed patients often display flattened or negative affect, reduced speech variability and monotonicity in loudness and pitch, reduced speech, reduced articulation rate, increased pause duration, and varied switching pause duration,” the USC paper notes. “Further, depressed speech was found to show increased tension in the vocal tract and the vocal folds.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2016 at 8:52 am

Farmers Have an Alarmingly High Suicide Rate, and We’ve Known for Decades

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Kaleigh Rogers has an interesting report in Motherboard:

Many people have an idealized view of farming as a bucolic profession where days are filled riding tractors and gazing proudly over fields from your front porch. But the reality is that farming is grueling, stressful work—and new data shows it’s an industry associated with higher rates of depression and suicide.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control published a report on suicide rates by occupation groups, and farming, fishing, and forestry topped the list with a suicide rate of 84.5 per 100,000 people. The next highest rate, among workers in the construction and extraction industries, was 53.3. The stats are from 2012, and limited to 17 states, so it only analyzed a fraction of the suicides reported in the US that year (which is partly why they lumped results into broad industry categories). But it’s not the first time researchers have identified higher rates of suicide among farmers: it’s been a perennial finding around the globe for decades.

“It’s not startlingly new to hear that the suicide rate among farmers is high,” said Lorann Stallones, an epidemiologist who researches agricultural health at Colorado State University.

The CDC’s report also complemented unpublished data released by the University of Guelph last week from a recent survey of farmers showing 45 percent of respondents had high stress, 58 percent suffered from anxiety and 38 percent from depression.

“We are not invincible, but we feel we must be,” one respondent wrote in response to a survey question.

“What makes me the most upset is that I have everything I dreamed of—love, family and a farm—and all I feel is overwhelmed, out of control and sad,” wrote another.

Previous research has identified a number of factors that contribute to farmers feeling so blue. For one, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2016 at 2:31 pm

Facebook builds a bubble around you

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Fereico Nejrotti reports at Motherboard:

Hi there. If you’re reading this piece, consider yourself lucky. Don’t take it for granted. Especially if you’re like the 62 percent of American adults who get their news from social media, as a recent Pew Research poll showed, and you usually find our posts on Facebook.

Facebook announced earlier this week that it will change the algorithm used to decide what every single user sees on their timeline. “Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family,” Lars Backstrom, engineering director at Facebook, said in a statement. “Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That’s why today, we’re announcing an upcoming change to News Feed ranking to help make sure you don’t miss stories from your friends.”

Now, why we should care about this announcement, and how are the first two paragraphs of this piece related?

The changes announced by Facebook will mainly impact one of the most important values for Facebook’s brand and publisher-owned pages: “reach.” This value shows how many users will be shown a certain post. In other words, how many users see that single update on their timeline.

Worse and worse

This premise takes us to the point. The condition created by this policy is often called a “filter bubble.”

Social networks that use algorithms to define which updates are most relevant for their users tends to gradually supply the users with things that align with their established interests and opinions.

Take the recent media boom about Brexit, the controversial vote in the UK over whether to leave the European Union.

One pro-“Remain” Facebook user explained how hard has been for him to find posts from the opposing side. On the day the “Leave” campaign won, he looked for Facebook posts celebrating for the win—and came up short.

It wasn’t only about his News Feed list: He also tried to use the Facebook search function, also to no avail. It wasn’t that there were no posts about how great the Leave victory was. It was that Facebook, having identified him as a Remain voter, just wasn’t allowing him to see them.

It’s not just the opinions expressed in posts, but also where they’re coming from. Facebook has a double interest here: On one side, it needs to be able to charge publishers money who want more exposure. On the other, it needs to boost the number of user interactions on the social network. . .

Continue reading.

Frightening. It reminds me of the masses being fed soma in Brave New World.

Facebook hides from you an entire world of opinions and outlooks that differ from your own. That is unhealthy, mentally, spiritually, ethically, morally, and probably in some other ways. Not illegal, though, so they will continue to do it.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 July 2016 at 3:20 pm

The appeal of narcissists: why do we love people who’d rather love themselves?

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Jean Hannah Edelstein has an article in the Guardian that will be of great interest to anyone who’s been involved with a narcissist. Even if you haven’t, it’s worth reading as a precautionary measure. The conclusion of the article:

Despite the trouble they have with emotional vulnerability, narcissists tend to surround themselves with people – they’ve always got lots of friends, acquaintances, professional contacts. Is there anything more appealing that having someone with a million friends – who’s the life of the party, who’s made it clear that all kinds of people want to spend time with them – pay attention to you? Maybe you’re very special. Until they decide that you’re not that special anymore. The narcissist feeds on attention, and once (s)he has sucked you dry, it’s on to the next.

It can take a while to determine that a prospective romantic partner is a narcissist. But if you get the inkling that they might be, here’s a trick: ask them. If they are, they’ll say yes.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2016 at 2:31 pm

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