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Dr. Helen

The Economist: Why More Americans are Killing Themselves

January 30th, 2015 - 11:17 am

Interesting article in The Economist (thanks Terry) on suicide:

BEING depressed is like having a terrible headache, says one Atlanta businessman. Except that a few days of rest do not stop the pain: “You’re just expected to keep going.” Trying to “man up”, he sought little help for his condition, choosing to hide it instead. “It all gets so debilitating that you don’t want to go on,” he explains.

He tried to kill himself more than once; fortunately, his attempts came to nothing. But the same cannot be said for a growing share of Americans. The suicide rate has risen from 11 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 13 seven years later. In the time it takes you to read this article, six Americans will try to kill themselves; in another ten minutes one will succeed.

Over 40,000 Americans took their own lives in 2012—more than died in car crashes—says the American Association of Suicidology. Mondays in May see the most incidents. The rates are highest in Wyoming and Montana, perhaps because guns—which are more effective than pills—are so common there (see chart). Nationally, guns are used in half of all successful suicides….

Activists say the government does too little to prevent suicide. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention complains that only $40m of federal funding will go to anti-suicide programmes this year. This does not include the billions the government spends on mental-health problems more broadly.

I think the following comment to the article is probably on target for the lack of focus on suicide:

“If suicide doesn’t get enough attention, it’s because it’s mostly men committing it.”

The article points out that women are more willing to ask for help. Could it be that the help available for men is not exactly the most welcoming kind? When the counseling programs focus their courses on “diversity” in grad schools, men’s issues should be a top priority. Not the kind of PC crap that these programs often focus on in men’s studies such as how to relieve men of their masculinity and make them more like defective girls, but rather, training real professionals to deal with, and address the true discrimination and problems that men face today with regards to work (or lack thereof), marriage, relationships and other male topics. Maybe that would be a start.

Funny Headline of the Day

January 28th, 2015 - 5:21 am

This headline at CNS news about the increasing disability rolls is kind of fitting:

1 in 3 on Disability Have Mental Disorder; 42.9% in D.C. From the article:

CNSNews.com) – One in three, or 35.2 percent, of people getting federal disability insurance benefits have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to the latest data from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Washington, D.C., the seat of the federal government, ranked in the top-ten list of states where disabled beneficiaries were diagnosed with mental problems.

In 2013, the latest data from SSA show there were 10,228,364 disabled beneficiaries, up 139,625 from 2012 when there were 10,088,739 disabled beneficiaries.

Disabled beneficiaries have increased 49.7 percent from a decade ago in 2003 when there were 6,830,714 beneficiaries; and the number is up 14.3 percent from the 8,945,376 beneficiaries in 2009, the year President Obama took office.

I can’t decide if this is troubling or decent advice: “The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back:”

Research suggests that up to one in 25 people hears voices regularly and that up to 40 per cent of the population will hear voices at some point in their lives. But many live healthy and fulfilling lives despite those aural spectres.

Recently, Waddingham and more than 200 other voice-hearers from around the world gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece, for the sixth annual World Hearing Voices Congress, organised by Intervoice, an international network of people who hear voices and their supporters. They reject the traditional idea that the voices are a symptom of mental illness. They recast voices as meaningful, albeit unusual, experiences, and believe that potential problems lie not in the voices themselves but in a person’s relationship with them.

“If people believe their voices are omnipotent and can harm and control them, then they are less likely to cope and more likely to end up as psychiatric patients,” says Eugenie Georgaca, a senior lecturer at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the organiser of this year’s conference. “If they have explanations of voices that allow them to deal with them better, that is a first step toward learning to live with them.”

The road to this form of recovery often begins in small support groups run by the worldwide Hearing Voices Network (HVN). Founded in the Netherlands in 1987, it allows members to share their stories and coping mechanisms – for example, setting appointments to talk with the voices, so that the voice-hearer can function without distraction the rest of the day – and above all gives voice-hearers a sense of community, as people rather than patients.

Here are The basic assumptions of INTERVOICE from their website:

Hearing voices is a normal though unusual and personal variation of human experience.
Hearing voices makes sense in relation to personal life experiences.
The problem is not hearing voices but the difficulty to cope with the experience.
People who hear voices can cope with these experiences by accepting and owning their voices.
A positive attitude by society and its members towards people hearing voices increases acceptance of voices and people who hear voices. Discrimination and excluding of people hearing voices must stop.

I am leaning towards troubling….

I was doing some research on suicide and ran across some facts and figures that I thought would be of interest to readers:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2012 (the most recent year for which full data are available), 40,600 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans (Figure 1). In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 12.9 minutes.

After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death.

To measure changes in the prevalence of suicide over time, the CDC calculates the country’s suicide rate each year. The suicide rate expresses the number of suicide deaths that occur for every 100,000 people in the population for which the rate is reported.

From 1986 to 2000, suicide rates in the U.S. dropped from 12.5 to 10.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 people in the population. Over the next 12 years, however, the rate generally increased and by 2012 stood at 12.5 deaths per 100,000…

In 2012, the highest suicide rate (19.88) was among people 45 to 59 years old. The second highest rate (17) occurred in those 75 years and older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults.

One thing that struck me was how many men over 75 commit suicide every year. A WP article notes the increase:

Seniors, many of them depressed, commit suicide at an alarming rate. White men 85 and older are more likely to commit suicide than Americans in any other age group — taking their lives at four times the rate of the general population.

According to 2012 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 51 of every 100,000 white men age 85 and older committed suicide, compared with the national average for all ages of 12.6. Of the 40,600 Americans who took their own lives in 2012, 6,648 were older than 65.

Older men are such an overlooked group, it is not surprising that they suffer from undiagnosed depression and subsequently take their own lives out of desperation, hopelessness and despair. It is truly heartbreaking that our society places so little value on their lives that death seems to be the only answer. Surely, there must be a better solution and a way to reduce the suicide rate for older men. If we focused as much on male suicide as we do on women’s breast cancer, fewer suicides might result. The notion that males are disposable must play some part here in the thinking process of older suicide victims. How to provide prevention as well as intervention is key.

Christina Hoff Sommers: “We don’t live in a rape culture, but we do inhabit a culture saturated with gender propaganda. Call it a Ms.Information culture. And nowhere is Ms.Information more rampant than in the area of sexual assault. On this week’s episode of the Factual Feminist: The two biggest myths about women and sexual violence.”

Surviving Aggressive People: Take Two

January 21st, 2015 - 11:48 am

I am reading the second edition of psychologist Shawn T. Smith’s book Surviving Aggressive People: Practical Violence Prevention Skills for the Workplace and the Street and found the updated sections on helping treat aggressive people with neurobehavioral disorders to be of great interest. The rest of the book is helpful too, particularly if you work with someone you are concerned about. From the description:

Whether an aggressor is a seasoned predator or an irate individual, hostility is almost always preceded by warning signs–if we know what to look for. Surviving Aggressive People dissects the psychology of aggression. It exposes the subtle cues of impending violence and offers timeless methods for transforming a potential disaster into a peaceful victory. Using time-tested methods for conflict management and crisis intervention, this book offers persuasion and peacemaking skills that historically have been reserved for law enforcement, psychologists, and other professionals working the front lines of emotionally charged situations. In today’s world, these skills are a must for everyone. Newly updated, with a special appendix for healthcare workers, the enduring knowledge in Surviving Aggressive People can help deter hostility before it spins out of control. It might even save your life.

The book has some good advice that I have used myself on occasion. For example, the golden rule of violence prevention is “An adversary is less dangerous when he perceives you as similar to himself.” Smith gives some tips at how to reduce this “psychological distance”: Use humor, and employ politeness as a preemptive strike. When I used to see clients for disability claims, some would be angry and distrustful when they walked through the door. I stocked the fridge with Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other drinks that people seemed to like and when someone got upset, I would say, “Would you like a Pepsi or Mountain Dew? Then we can talk about your concerns.” It made people feel welcome and as if they were in a safe environment. I guess the caffeine wasn’t always the best idea but “Would you like bottled water or caffeine-free herbal tea?” didn’t have the same ring to it and sounded haughty.

Anyway, you get the idea. The book is full of these helpful hints that may help you to reduce your chance of being a victim of violence and provides a framework for how to avoid it. I recommend the sections for healthcare workers on how to respond to neurobehavioral aggression. It is surprising how few of them get training on how to respond when a patient gets aggressive. This book will help.

Book Review on “Playing with Matches”

January 19th, 2015 - 10:27 am

Books for Kids Blog has a review up of Suri Rosen’s excellent book Playing With Matches. I loved this book even though I generally don’t read fiction as it is fun, playful and entertaining enough to hold one’s attention throughout the whole thing. From the review:

Suri Rosen’s Playing With Matches (ECW Press, 2014) develops a novel premise for a high school heroine, involved not with her own romances, but the unwed twenty- and thirty-somethings of Toronto. In a nice twist, Rain even pulls off a soul-mate match between a seventy-something widower professor and her nemesis, Mrs. Levine, the dragon-lady principal of Maimonides High School, and it is only at their wedding that Matchmaven at last makes the match she is seeking for Leah.

Loosely but deliciously plotted and unflaggingly entertaining, the narration of Rain’s double-life adventures is frantic, funny, and finally heart-warming, even promising, perhaps, a sequel, a catch readers won’t want to miss.

If you have a teen daughter or just enjoy reading about matchmaking and how hard it can be to find the right person, give the book a try.

The new PC weapon: “Proofiness”

January 16th, 2015 - 6:26 am

Wendy McElroy: The Proofiness of the Politically Correct Rape:

A legion of the politically correct who make a living from the alleged oppression of women were gleeful and almost goofy with proofiness this week. The incident is a window into how statistical myths are created. Charles Seife, a journalist and a professor at New York University, coined the term proofiness as a corollary to an earlier term coined by comedian Stephen Colbert: truthiness. Truthiness was defined as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” It became the American Dialect Society’s 2005 Word of the Year because it embodied a cultural zeitgeist that haunted the socio-political narrative of our time. Proofiness is “the art of using bogus mathematical arguments to prove something that you know in your heart is true — even when it’s not.” It should have been the Word of the Year for 2010 when Seife’s book Proofiness: How You’re Being Fooled by the Numbers was published.

Dentist: Best Job in America?

January 14th, 2015 - 12:50 pm

Every year, U.S. News and World Report ranks the best jobs in America and this year Dentists top the list:

Dentists have the best job in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report’s rankings, which were released on Tuesday.

The jobs selected are based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ predictions on which 100 jobs will grow the most between 2012 and 2022, the report said. “Those top 100 jobs, from the industries of business, creative, construction, health care, social services and technology, are then ranked based on projected openings, rate of growth, job prospects, unemployment rates, salary and job satisfaction,” the report said.

Dentists have the best job in the U.S. for four reasons, the report said. “One, a low unemployment rate of 0.9 percent. Two, decent work-life balance, especially compared to other health-care jobs. Three, the take-home pay is simply phenomenal,” according to the report. Dentists earned an average wage of $168,870 and a median hourly wage of $72.74 in 2013, according to the BLS.

Somehow, I am skeptical that sticking your hands in people’s mouths all day is the best job in America. And if it is so good, why the high suicide rate? Dentists are 5.45 times more likely to commit suicide than average, according to this article. In another article on the stresses of dentistry, a dentist looks at the reasons for the high suicide rate:

CAUSES OF STRESS

Why is our profession so prone to stress-related physical, mental and social problems? Since it is unfortunately too late for most of us to switch into law or engineering, at least we can examine some of the causes of stress in dental practice and then see if we can find some solutions to them and hopefully live a little longer and happier.

* Confinement

The average dentist spends most of his or her life confined to a small, sometimes windowless, 7ft. by 9ft. operatory, which is smaller than the cells in our penal institutions. The work is intricate and meticulous and is performed in a small, restricted oral space. The procedures are both physically and mentally taxing and as a result, strain, back troubles, circulatory disorders and fatigue are common. It is relatively easy, over a period of time, for a dentist to become both physically and emotionally “burned-out.”

* Isolation

Most dentists practice alone. Consequently they do not have the opportunity to share and solve problems with their colleagues the way other professional groups do through peer support.

The problem of isolation is compounded by the fact that dentists tend to be competitive with one another. This trait is unfortunately a bi-product of our competitive dental school training. It is then reinforced after graduation by the intense competition created by the surplus of dentists that now exists in many cities and large metropolitan areas.

* Stress of perfection

The relentless pursuit of perfection and permanence in an inhospitable oral environment is a major cause of stress and frustration for dentists. The stress of perfection is instilled in dental school. However, it must be tempered with the realization that the most perfect restoration will ultimately be rendered imperfect by time and patient neglect, despite the efforts of the dentist.

* Economic pressure

The list goes on from there and looks bleak. I have noticed that many dentists in my area take off on Fridays and have a three day weekend. Given the high stress rate, sounds like they need the time off. Lack of exercise seems to be the main reason they have problems. Maybe they would benefit from following some of Mark Rippetoe’s advice.

Apparently, some brainwashed Uncle Tim by the name of Arthur Chu over at Salon.com can read nerdy men’s minds and knows just how they feel. Chu is responding to MIT professor Scott Aaronson’s post about how feminism makes him (Aaronson) feel like a monster. Here is Uncle Tim’s interpretation:

I feel your pain, bitter, lonely, nerdy guys. I really do.

It sounds corny to say it like that, but I don’t know how to say it and be believed. I know that because, having experienced this emotion from the inside for most of my life, I sure as hell resisted believing it when I heard people saying it.

There’s no one more resistant to being empathized with or more prone to call attempts to do so “patronizing” than the bitter lonely guy, especially when women try to do it but even when other nerdy guys try to reach out. People like Captain Awkward and Dr. Nerdlove and the founders of the Good Men Project spend huge chunks of their lives trying to help nerdy guys, but still get regularly blasted with extreme vitriol as “feminist SJWs” by said nerdy guys. …

None of the pain Scott talks about came from things that happened to him. They came from things that happened inside his head. He speaks in generalities about “sexual assault prevention workshops,” or of feeling targeted by feminist literature — himself saying that he was perversely drawn to the most radical and aggressive rhetoric he could find, eschewing more moderate writers for the firebreathing of Dworkin and MacKinnon.

He doesn’t talk about anyone targeting or harassing him personally — indeed, how could he be targeted by books written by second-wave feminists when he was a toddler? — but of feeling targeted, of having an accusatory voice inside his mind tormenting him with a pervasive sense of inadequacy, uncleanness, wrongness. It doesn’t seem like anyone in his life was particularly giving him a hard time, but that he was giving himself a hard time and picking up on any critical or negative messages directed at men in general as a way to amplify his negative thoughts.

That’s striking to me is that this comes up because Scott very passionately wants to debate that nerds don’t have “male privilege” and that nerdy guys are the victims, not perpetrators, of sexism. He is arguing this to a commenter posting under the name “Amy,” who argues that shy, nerdy guys are in fact plenty dangerous on the grounds that she has been raped by a shy, nerdy boyfriend, and that in her life experience around shy, nerdy guys she’s seen plenty of shy, nerdy guys commit harassment and assault and use their shy nerdiness as a shield against culpability for it.

To be blunt, Scott’s story is about Scott himself spending a lot of time by himself hating himself. When he eventually stops hating himself and, as an older, more mature nerd, asks women out, no women mace him, slap him or ritually humiliate him — instead he ends up with a girlfriend who ends up becoming a wife. So far, so typical.

Amy’s story is about being harassed and groped by men in the tech world and, eventually, being raped by a shy, nerdy guy she thought she trusted. So far, so also typical.

What’s the biggest difference between Scott’s and Amy’s stories? Scott’s story is about things that happened inside his brain. Amy’s story is about actual things that were done to her by other people against her will, without her control.

So, when male Scott has problems, it is due to depression or some internal mechanism; when female Amy has problems, it is always external. Way to blame the victim, Chu.

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