Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

The struggle for control of the educational system: Shape the young and you shape the future

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Pretty clear struggle as corporations work to privatize education and thus create new profit centers with government-enforced participation—start slashing costs because every dollar of cost eliminated drops right to the bottom line. Obviously, some oppose this move, and many of them because they have devoted their lives to education and don’t want to see things happening like Mount St. Mary’s, blogged earlier today.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 3:25 pm

20% of lawyers have a serious drinking problem

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In the Washington Post Christopher Ingraham points out destructive effects of the microculture that lawyers inhabit:

America’s lawyers have a serious drinking problem, according to a new report from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

More than 20 percent of licensed attorneys drink at levels that are considered “hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent.” That’s three times higher than the rate of problem drinking among the general public.

These numbers come from a survey of over 12,000 American lawyers, funded by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association. Male lawyers had higher rates of problem drinking than women, 25.1 percent compared to 15.5 percent. The highest rates overall were among lawyers under 30 (31.9 percent) and junior associates at law firms (31.1 percent). That’s driven partly by younger Americans’ tendency to be heavier drinkers in general, but it also could be a reflection of the stresses caused by trying to move ahead in a highly competitive field.

The factors driving lawyers’ heavy drinking are “a rare confluence of high risk variables,” said study lead author Patrick Krill in an interview. He’s the director of the Legal Professionals Program at Hazelden Betty Ford. The fact that lawyers warrant their own specialized treatment program gives some sense of the prevalence of substance abuse issues in that field.

Lawyers tend to “prioritize success and accomplishment over things like balance, personal well-being, health, etc.,” wrote Krill, himself a former lawyer, in an email. “You put them through a training (law school) where they are taught to work harder, play harder, and assume the role of a tough, capable and aggressive professional without personal weaknesses or deficiencies.”

And the field tends to reinforce these tendencies. “Heavy drinking, lack of balance and poor self-care are entirely normalized,” Krill said. “That’s the behavior that young lawyers see being modeled all around them, and throughout the profession.”

Lawyers aren’t necessarily unique in these traits. Other high-stress, high-performing fields, like medicine, tend to prioritize them as well. But the extent of the drinking problem among lawyers is unique, according to the survey. On one measure based  solely on the quantity and frequency of alcohol use, lawyers had double the rate of problem drinking that doctors did.

The study also found a shockingly high rate of depression — 28 percent — among American lawyers. Among the general public, only 8 percent experience a bout of depression in a given year, according to the CDC. . .

Continue reading.

A toxic subculture is like a colorless and odorless toxic gas: you can be immersed in it and not notice it, but it can still inflict serious damage. In the case of the gas, the causes are chemical and biological; in the case of the subculture, the causes are (basically) memes: the values and habits of mind the culture encourages.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 February 2016 at 8:52 am

Will the VA Let Doctors Recommend Medical Marijuana to Veterans?

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Philip Smith reports in Drug War Chronicles:

On Wednesday, a group of 21 US senators and representatives sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs calling on it to allow VA doctors to discuss and recommend marijuana as medicine in states where it is legal.

The bipartisan effort was led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NY), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). All represent medical marijuana states.

Under current VA policy, embodied in VHA Directive 2011-004, which expires Sunday, VA doctors are prohibited recommending marijuana as a treatment option even in legal states. This discourages patients and doctors from being honest with each other.

“According to the current directive, VA providers are prohibited from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran’s participation in a state-sanctioned marijuana program. This policy disincentivizes doctors and patients from being honest with each other,” the solons wrote. “Congress has taken initial steps to alleviate this conflict in law and we will continue to work toward this goal. However, you are in a position to make this change when the current VHA directive expires at the end of this month. We ask that you act to ensure that our veterans’ access to care is not compromised and that doctors and patients are allowed to have honest discussions about treatment options.”

If patients can’t get a recommendation from their VA docs and thus can’t access dispensaries, they would be tempted to go elsewhere for recommendations, to doctors “likely far less familiar with their symptoms and medical history,” the solons wrote.

Noting that there has been a “sea change” in the legal framework around marijuana since the directive was issued in 2011, they asked that “upon the directive’s expiration, any new directive remove barriers that would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship in states that have chosen to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.”

But without a new directive, even though the old one is expiring, it will be the status quo at the VA, said Michael Krawitz, a US Air Force veteran and executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access. Krawitz participated in the process that led to the production and distribution of the directive.

“VA Directives remain in effect with full force even after expiration unless they are officially replaced or rescinded,” he said. “Although I can understand that patients might not know that and might get uneasy about the expiring directive, but in practicality there should be no change in clinical practices caused by the expiration.”

While VA patients could be spooked by the expiration, the status quo is unacceptable, said Dr. Sue Sisley, MD, in clinical psychiatry and internal medicine, who has two decades of experience treating veterans and who is set to do apilot study on medical marijuana and PTSD for veterans.

“I’ve worked with veterans all over the country who are dealing with severe and chronic, debilitating medical problems,” she said. “They just want the treatment that is going to help them the most, with the least side effects. I have seen firsthand the dramatic improvement so many veterans have had while taking cannabis. Not only have they experienced relief from problems such as PTSD, chronic pain, and migraines, but many of them have also been able to break their addiction to more dangerous drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines.”

VA staff physician Deborah Gilman, MD, said current VA policy forces physicians to ignore the science if it conflicts with policy.

“Unlike private practice physicians, VA physicians are under a gag order regarding discussing marijuana with patients,” she said. “In other settings, doctors can be honest about their medical opinions regarding treatment options, based on science. In the VA, an administrator can write policy that you can’t disagree with without losing your job. Veterans are fearful of losing either their medical benefits or their access to health care if they acknowledge using marijuana. This causes a VA doctor to give you a medical opinion based on the VA regulation, not on the science. I knew many VA doctors whose professional opinion was that cannabis might help some of their patients, but they could never say so in their office or in public.” . . .

Continue reading.

President Obama is in charge. Isn’t he? Doesn’t the buck stop there?

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2016 at 11:03 am

When I Quit Cutting My Hair, I Learned How Men Treat Women On American Roads

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Misogynists abound, apparently. Read this guy’s experience.

What on earth makes some men so hostile toward women? Is it because they view women as weaker?—that is, the man feels safe in mistreating a woman because he thinks he can beat her up? That doesn’t cover the cause of the hostility, merely explains why the man feels free to express it. Did their mothers treat them badly? Do they in fact feel a kind of hostile anger to everyone but are fearful of expressing it toward a man?

I don’t get it, but it’s real, as this guy found out.

I did do a Google search.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2016 at 1:58 pm

Football and the corruption of moral values by money

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In John Grisham’s novel Rogue Lawyer, there’s a strange subplot involving the protagonists almost psychotically malevolent ex-wife and her efforts to see that he is allowed no time with their son. It took me a while to figure out what that was about, but in the course of the novel it becomes clear that the protagonist, a defense lawyer, will break laws to ensure that justice is served, and the ex-wife shows how harmful and malevolent actions can be done without breaking the law—that is, the law is by no means a reliable guide for ethical and moral action. It’s perfectly possible to act unethically and immorally and with malicious intent without breaking the law.

Take, for example, the world of professional football, including college football (which is professional in all ways—salaries, profits, business model—except that players cannot get paid and are not allowed to form a union, the better to protect profits. It’s quite clear that the players are subject to great physical abuse that often leads to brain damage, but the busiiness does not care about that: profits are the goal, the players merely means to the goal, and their long-term health is not even to be considered.

In the NY Review of Books David Maraniss reviews several books and two movies that discuss football’s impact on player health and whether that should be a concern, given the amount of money at stake. In a word, it’s a review of how money undermines values. Let me just quote a few paragraphs from the review, which is worth reading in full.

. . . Before all else, football must be identified for what it has become, far beyond the blocking and tackling—a colossal entertainment business that benefits from an economic system tilted in its favor.

The NFL, operating as a monopoly exempt from antitrust legislation, brings in $11 billion a year. The owners have been reported to pay their hand-picked commissioner, Roger Goodell, an annual salary of over $35 million. Most of the money comes from television. Easterbrook notes that on the list of the most-watched television events in American history, the Super Bowl holds the top twenty spots. Sunday Night Football onNBC has been the top-rated show on any channel since 2011, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football has been the number-one cable show since 2006.

The football games of the major college teams and conferences are not far behind as businesses, even as they enjoy the benefits of nonprofit tax status. Several conferences, such as the Big Ten, have their own lucrative television networks and, as Gaul writes, “are operated like entertainment divisions, with CEO-style executives and celebrity coaches collecting Wall Street–level salaries.” At the University of Oregon, known as “Nike U” because of the largesse of one billionaire alumnus, Phil Knight, founder of the shoe company, the equivalent of more than $180,000 was spent on each football player, by Gaul’s estimate. The “student-athletes” are tutored in the “Taj Mahal of academic services” buildings, a $42 million glass-and-steel modernist structure off-limits to other students, and trained in a Football Performance Center that reminded Gaul of an upscale shopping mall, replete with plush Ferrari leather meeting seats and locker rooms with “floor-to-ceiling glass walls and marble flooring imported from Italy.” The academic honors program at Oregon is housed in a basement.

Before all else, football must be identified for what it has become, far beyond the blocking and tackling—a colossal entertainment business that benefits from an economic system tilted in its favor.

The NFL, operating as a monopoly exempt from antitrust legislation, brings in $11 billion a year. The owners have been reported to pay their hand-picked commissioner, Roger Goodell, an annual salary of over $35 million. Most of the money comes from television. Easterbrook notes that on the list of the most-watched television events in American history, the Super Bowl holds the top twenty spots. Sunday Night Football onNBC has been the top-rated show on any channel since 2011, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football has been the number-one cable show since 2006.

The football games of the major college teams and conferences are not far behind as businesses, even as they enjoy the benefits of nonprofit tax status. Several conferences, such as the Big Ten, have their own lucrative television networks and, as Gaul writes, “are operated like entertainment divisions, with CEO-style executives and celebrity coaches collecting Wall Street–level salaries.” At the University of Oregon, known as “Nike U” because of the largesse of one billionaire alumnus, Phil Knight, founder of the shoe company, the equivalent of more than $180,000 was spent on each football player, by Gaul’s estimate. The “student-athletes” are tutored in the “Taj Mahal of academic services” buildings, a $42 million glass-and-steel modernist structure off-limits to other students, and trained in a Football Performance Center that reminded Gaul of an upscale shopping mall, replete with plush Ferrari leather meeting seats and locker rooms with “floor-to-ceiling glass walls and marble flooring imported from Italy.” The academic honors program at Oregon is housed in a basement. . .

Although the amount of money (and corruption) is enormous, what all this is about is to let people watch a game being played. For that end, the cost seems grotesquely excessive. I am not a football fan, but even if I were, the picture seems severely out of balance.

Another quotation from the review:

. . . Almond, a reformed Oakland Raiders fanatic, struggled with conflicted feelings for years, but finally concluded that “our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia.” Where Easterbrook sees the sport as that magnificent incarnation of the American character, Almond asks:

What does it mean that the most popular and unifying form of entertainment in America…features giant muscled men, mostly African- American, engaged in a sport that causes many of them to suffer brain damage?

And he sees no reason to trust that the NFL will clean up the game: “As fans, we want to believe that league officials will choose the righteous path over the profitable one. This is nonsense and always has been.” . . .

And also:

Since it cannot be diagnosed in living players, CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] is not a fully understood disease. Its symptoms appear to vary widely from severe dementia to depression to bursts of anger. But Lew Carpenter’s brain reinforced what leading neuroscientists now believe—that it is not severe concussions so much as the repetitive subconcussive blows that football players endure over a career that are more often the cause, the toll of thousands of collisions and jarring movements that shake the brain inside the skull. This calls into question whether the NFL’s concussion protocols and changes in rules can fix things. As Susan Margulies, a concussion expert at the University of Pennsylvania, explained to Charlie Rose, no helmet has been devised that can “effectively reduce the rotational acceleration, that sloshing within the head that’s happening in the brain itself.” . . .

So iit’s well known that players will have their lives ruined and/or shortened, but the sport continues because it makes so much money and Americans are unwilling to give up their entertainment regardless of the cost to others. I don’t get it. I would think that fans could find some other form of entertainment, but ultimately, I think, fans simply don’t care.

UPDATE: David Remnick has a column in the New Yorker on the same topic, which concludes:

When parents don’t want their kids to play a sport anymore—which largely became the case with boxing—that sport either dies or shifts to the margins. And yet it is hard to imagine football losing its place in the culture anytime soon, when the ratings for games, college and pro, are so high, and when so many young people—not least young African-Americans and rural whites—continue to play. Friday-night lights still shine bright across Texas. But it’s notable that some of the game’s toughest customers won’t let their kids near the gridiron. Not long ago, Mike Ditka, a legendary tight end and coach for the Chicago Bears, told Bryant Gumbel, of HBO, that he wouldn’t let a son of his play. “I wouldn’t, and my whole life was football,” Ditka said.
In fact, while the N.F.L. takes half-measures and pressures its critics, the better to safeguard its gold mine, each day brings another player who challenges our fandom. Last week, it was Antwaan Randle El, a brilliant all-around player for the Steelers, who told a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has trouble walking down stairs and that, though he’s only thirty-six, his memory is failing. “I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s, like, ‘I just told you that.’ ”
Randle El is just one of many players to point out that the violent nature of the game—the focus of our guilty pleasure—is the same thing that breaks spines, shatters bones, renders middle-aged men demented. “I love the game,” he said. “But I tell parents you can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid.” Ultimately, there may not be an adequate reform. It may come down to living with the pain (the pain of others) or learning to love the artistry of Serena and LeBron even more than we already do.

Many find it easy to endure the pains suffered by others.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2016 at 10:27 am

A sign that you might want to change doctors

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The doctor discussed in these two stories was The Wife’s gynecologist, until the stories were published.

Putting a python in bedroom: Monterey doctor sentenced to home confinement, probation in stalking case

Monterey Gynecologist Will Do Time For Unleashing Python On Her Cheating, Snake-Fearing Husband

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2016 at 1:06 pm

Religion doesn’t make kids more generous or altruistic

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Many find it difficult to believe that a non-religious person can be moral, which I find quite puzzling. Presumably, they are saying that if they lost faith in their religion, they would embrace immorality, which makes one wary of them. But a study shows that in fact religion can have negative consequences regarding morality and altruism. Karen Kaplan reports in the LA Times:

Here’s a discovery that could make secular parents say hallelujah: Children who grow up in nonreligious homes aremore generous and altruistic than children from observant families.

A series of experiments involving 1,170 kids from a variety of religious backgrounds found that the non-believers were more likely to share stickers with their classmates and less likely to endorse harsh punishments for people who pushed or bumped into others.

The results “contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others,” according to a study published this week in the journal Current Biology.

Worldwide, about 5.8 billion people consider themselves religious, and religion is a primary way for cultures to express their ideas about proper moral behavior — especially behavior that involves self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

It’s often taken as an article of faith that religion promotes altruism. If that is true, then “children reared in religious families should show stronger altruistic behavior,” wrote the members of the research team, which was led by University of Chicago neuroscientist Jean Decety.

To see whether this was indeed the case, Decety and his colleagues recruited children from seven cities around the world: Chicago; Toronto; Amman, Jordan; Izmir and Istanbul in Turkey; Cape Town, South Africa; and Guangzhou, China. All of the kids were between 5 and 12 years old.

Among them, 24% were from Christian households, 43% were Muslim, 2.5% were Jewish, 1.6% were Buddhist, 0.4% were Hindu, 0.2% were agnostic and 0.5% were classified as “other.” In addition, 28% of the kids came from families described as “not religious.”

The researchers showed each child a collection of 30 stickers and told the kids they could keep the 10 they liked best. Then the researchers told their young subjects they wouldn’t have time to play the sticker game with every student in the school, so some kids wouldn’t get any.

The children responded by sharing some of the stickers with their classmates — and the kids from secular households shared more stickers than their religious counterparts. When the researchers examined the three biggest groups of kids, they found that the generosity scores for Christians and Muslims were essentially the same, and that the scores for nonreligious children were 23% to 28% higher.

The researchers also found that the more religious the family, the less altruistic the child. This pattern held up for all religions in the study.

The researchers also noted that the relationship between religiousness and altruism was more pronounced among the older kids (those between the ages of 8 and 12). That was notable, they wrote, because older children had more years of religious experience under their belts than younger children.

In another part of the experiment, the researchers showed the kids a series of scenarios involving bumping, pushing or other types of “interpersonal harm.” They they asked the kids to rate the meanness of the offenders.

Muslim kids judged the offenders most harshly, followed by Christian kids and then secular kids.  Accordingly, the children from Muslim families endorsed harsher punishments than kids in the other two groups, who were essentially tied on this score, according to the study.

These results seem to fly in the face of the idea that religion is necessary to lead a moral life — a notion “so deeply embedded that individuals who are not religious can be considered morally suspect,” as the study authors put it.

The findings “call into question whether religion is vital for moral development,” the researchers concluded. They don’t seem to think so; separating religion from morality, they wrote, “will not reduce human kindness — in fact, it will do just the opposite.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2016 at 9:27 am

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