Later On

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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

The two sleeps of a natural night

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Interesting article by Clark Strand in the Washington Post:

What if you could meditate like a Tibetan lama with no instruction whatsoever — and without having to subscribe to any religious beliefs?

People hear a question like that and, unless they are particularly gullible, they assume they’re about to be scammed. But in this case there is nothing to buy — no tapes, no app, no religious agenda that gets sprung on you at the last moment when you’re feeling vulnerable and spiritually open. No hidden fees.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a catch. You have to be willing to revert to a Paleolithic pattern of sleep — and that means turning off your electric lights at dusk and leaving them off until dawn. Do that, and in about three week’s time, beginning around six hours after sunset each evening, you will find yourself experiencing a period of serene wakefulness that was once a nightly meditation retreat for all Homo sapiens on Earth. It’s a guarantee. It’s encoded in your genes.

During the mid-1990s, sleep researcher Thomas Wehr conducted a National Institutes of Health experiment that he later called an exercise in “archaeology, or human paleobiology.” Wehr wanted to find out if modern humans still carried within them the rhythms for a prehistoric mode of sleep. Did prehistoric humans sleep more? Did they sleep differently — or perhaps better?

Wehr’s logic was simple: Aided by the stimulating effects of all kinds of artificial lighting (everything from laptop screens to the bright lights of big cities), modern humans had compressed their sleep nights, like their work days, into convenient eight-hour blocks. And yet, given that light-assisted wakefulness was a relatively new invention, wasn’t it possible that human beings still carried in their DNA the remnants of a more primordial pattern of sleep?

The results were staggering. For one month, beginning at dusk and ending at dawn, Wehr’s subjects were removed from every possible form of artificial light. During the first three weeks, they slept as usual, only for about an hour longer. (After all, he reasoned, like most Americans, they were probably sleep deprived.) But at week four a dramatic change occurred. The participants slept the same number of hours as before, but now their sleep was divided in two. They began each night with about four hours of deep sleep, woke for two hours of quiet rest, then slept for another four.

During the gap between their “first” and “second” sleep, Wehr’s subjects were neither awake nor fully asleep. Rather, they experienced a condition they had never known before — a state of consciousness all its own. Later Wehr would compare it to what advanced practitioners experience in meditation — what you might call “mindfulness” today. But there weren’t any mindfulness practitioners in his study. They were simply ordinary people who, removed for one month from artificial lighting, found their nights broken in two.

While trying to account for the peace and serenity that his subjects reported feeling during their hours of “quiet rest,” Wehr discovered that . . .

Continue reading.

Clark Strand is the author of a book about these ideas: Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2015 at 9:41 am

Everything Sounds the Same When You’re Depressed

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Interesting finding: The cocktail-party effect—the ability to focus on one particular conversation in the babble of a cocktail party—is beyond the capability of those suffering from depression.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2015 at 8:31 am

Posted in Mental Health, Science

Does being a jerk pay off, long term?

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In looking at the range of CEOs, legislators, judges, and so on, it would seem that in some cases being a jerk has paid off. But now the question is getting some serious study. However, the results can change by how “success” is measured.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 May 2015 at 2:53 pm

Computer diagnosis of PTSD and depression, by looking at your face and listening to your voice

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Very interesting article. Presumably at some point such diagnosis can be done via the internet using the webcam on your computer.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 May 2015 at 2:36 pm

Former German NFL Player: ‘American Football Is Like a Nuclear Explosion’

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Very interesting interview in Der Spiegel:

Patrick Venzke only recently turned 40, but even though his face looks youthful, his body is ravaged. He suffers terrible backaches, his left shoulder is wrecked and he also has knee trouble. “It’s the price I paid to pursue my dream,” he says as he drags himself up the steps of a café in Essen, Germany.

Venzke became the first German national to make a National Football League roster when he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in April 2001 — although he was never fielded in any of the team’s games. He began playing American football at home in Essen. At 18 he went to the States. After high school he was awarded a scholarship from the University of Idaho, where he studied marketing and spent four years playing college football. It was there that he caught the eye of the Jaguars’ scouts. After a year in Jacksonville, Venzke moved to NFL Europe, where he played for Rhein Fire in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt Galaxy. He also had a spell in the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles squads. Today he describes American Football as Darwinism run riot. He lost count of the number of times he threw up during training. He retired in 2011.

Football is a game that rewards aggressive behavior. Ever since medical experts established an increased frequency of brain damage amongst NFL players, Venzke has been seriously worried. He’s married and lives in Idaho, where he works as a realtor. In Germany over Easter to visit his father, Patrick Venzke got in touch with SPIEGEL to suggest an interview. He arrives with a notebook, in which he’s jotted down some thoughts about what he wants to get off his chest. “When I was still playing I wouldn’t have been in a position to give this sort of interview,” he says. “It would have cost me my career.”

SPIEGEL: Six NFL players retired in March. The oldest was 31. Twenty-four-year-old Chris Borland, who played for the San Francisco 49ers, explained his decision by saying he wanted to lead a long, healthy life and didn’t want any neurological diseases or to die younger than he would otherwise.

Venzke: It’s such a courageous decision. He’ll be mocked because NFL players don’t usually talk about their problems. They sweep them under the carpet. In my day it would have been inconceivable for a man his age to quit American football after just one season. But today we know more about the neurological problems linked with the game. Another decisive factor is that guaranteed salaries have gone up. I wouldn’t have been able to afford a decision like that.

SPIEGEL: Is it a sensible decision?

Venzke: Yes.


Venzke: You play for the glory, the fame, the status. But if you win the Super Bowl and get inaugurated into the Hall of Fame only to forget you were a footballer by the time you’re 60 because you have Alzheimer’s, it’s just not worth it. Players still put up with broken bones, but not with a destroyed brain.

SPIEGEL: Borland said he saw stars after one collision. Sound familiar?

Venzke: Completely normal. If I had a concussion I’d keep it to myself because I didn’t want the scouts or coaches knowing, and that was easy enough. If you take a blow to the head no one can see that you can’t make out the numbers on the display board because your vision’s blurred. If you look unsteady they pass the smelling salts and then you’re up and running again.

SPIEGEL: How often did you play with a concussion?

Venzke: About 15 times, since I was 16. I’m not sure exactly. I was the offensive tackle, so it was my job to get the opponent out of the way for the offense, or to protect my quarterback from attack to give him a couple of seconds to pitch. I was a battering ram, a kind of bodyguard. There’d be hundreds of collisions during training every day. Collisions similar to mini accidents — the equivalent of hitting a wall at 15 miles an hour. Looking back I can see that it wasn’t always the healthiest.

SPIEGEL: How is your health now?

Venzke: I’m okay. Today. I’m okay about 350 days of the year. But it’s the other 15 that I worry about. Then I’m grateful I don’t keep a gun in the house. Because I don’t know what I might do with it.

SPIEGEL: Roughly one in three NFL players suffers cognitive impairment, such as memory loss, depression, speech disorders, paranoia and apathy. What happens to you on the days you don’t feel well?

Venzke: I get aggressive, the way I was on the field. I could hurt someone very easily.

SPIEGEL: Just like that?

Venzke: Anything might trigger it. A barking dog can make me explode. The sound of kids screaming. When my two daughters start arguing then I go and take refuge in my man cave. But even happy shouting when they’re playing can do it. Kids yelling in restaurants — it can be very bad.

SPIEGEL: But you have it under control?

Venzke: Let’s put it this way — I have to be very disciplined in order to prevent things from getting out of control. So far the situation has never escalated, fortunately, but I tend to drink a lot to cope with the stress. I can put away 20 beers in no time at all. But it doesn’t help, it makes it worse. Sometimes I tell myself that I have life insurance worth over $3 million, enough to provide for my family for the rest of their lives. But I don’t think like that every day. Not even every week and not even every month.

SPIEGEL: Nine former NFL players have committed suicide since 2010. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2015 at 12:38 pm

Fascinating: Changing the jihadist mindset through art therapy

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I wonder what Guantánamo prison would have been like if the prisoners had access to art therapy from the outset. It would have been interesting to see. And what would it be like if art therapy were a regular part of our civilian prisons.

As to the second question, the obvious Google search brought up as the first hit, along with many other hits. It’s big.

Tom Jacobs has an article in Pacific Standard on the use of art therapy in Saudi Arabia as a means of (as it were) de-programming jihadists. One interesting restriction is that Muslim belief prohibits representational art—e.g., drawing pictures of persons.

Of all the problems therapists have been tasked with solving, altering the mindsets of committed jihadists is one of the toughest and most important. In Saudi Arabia, which has more experience with this problem than any other nation, they have found a simple tool provides invaluable assistance in this challenging process: Paint brushes.

In the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy, Awad Alyami of King Saud University, who serves as senior art therapist at the Mohammed Bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care in Riyadh, provides a fascinating first-person report on his and his colleagues’ work with former radical fighters, including men who had been held for many years at Guantanamo Bay.

He offers evidence that art therapy is “an efficacious approach in counterterrorism,” and a vital part of the larger effort to integrating former radicals back into Saudi society. He describes the trial-and-error process that led to the current approach, and the ways he and his colleagues adapted Western concepts to serve a Saudi population.

“Art therapists must be aware, and respectful, of the local cultures from which their clients emerge,” he writes.

In broad strokes, the program Alyami describes will sound familiar to art therapists in the United States and Europe. “The clients were taught through examples of how to express their feelings and release their aggressive tendencies through drawings and paintings,” he writes. “‘Get that negative energy out on the paper…. ‘It is safe here’ was the theme of one art therapy session.”

But many specifics had to be modified. They found using the well-knownDiagnostic Drawing Series, in which participants are instructed to draw three pictures to reveal their state of mind, proved problematic for a variety of reasons, including “the subjects’ concept of drawing as prohibited” and their feeling that drawing is “child’s play” that is beneath their dignity.

So Alyami and his colleagues decided to ask them to make only one “free picture.” Fortunately, this proved “sufficient to start them on the expressive path towards revealing their concerns, ideas, and fears.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 May 2015 at 9:13 am

Posted in Art, Mental Health

Freddie Gray officer threatened to kill himself and ex-partner’s husband

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Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland report in The Guardian:

The Baltimore police lieutenant charged with the manslaughter of Freddie Gray allegedly threatened to kill himself and the husband of his ex-girlfriend, during incidents that led to him being disciplined and twice having his guns confiscated.

Brian Rice, who pursued and arrested Gray after the 25-year-old “caught his eye” on 12 April, was reportedly given an administrative suspension after being hospitalised for a mental health evaluation when he warned he was preparing to shoot himself in April 2012.

Rice, 41, also received an internal discipline when a judge granted a temporary restraining order against him after a request from Andrew McAleer, the husband of Karyn McAleer, who is the mother of Rice’s young son and a fellow Baltimorepolice officer. Rice has been married to and divorced from two further women, according to court records.A sharply critical 10-page complaint against Rice, which Andrew McAleer filed to a court in Maryland in January 2013, is being published in full for the first time by the Guardian. It details what McAleer, a Baltimore firefighter, described as a “pattern of intimidation and violence” by the officer.

Rice was released on bail after being charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct and false imprisonment following an inquiry into Gray’s death on 19 April. Prosecutors say Gray died after his neck was broken during a prolonged van journey in handcuffs and shackles. All six officers involved in his arrest have been bailed on criminal charges.

State’s attorney Marilyn Mosby said on Friday the arrest of Gray initiated by Rice was illegal because a knife in his pocket, which he was charged with illegally carrying, was in fact legal. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2015 at 11:30 am


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