Category : Health & Medicine

(AP) US drinking more now than just before Prohibition

Americans are drinking more now than when Prohibition was enacted. What’s more, it’s been rising for two decades, and it’s not clear when it will fall again.

That’s the picture painted by federal health statistics, which show a rise in per-person consumption and increases in emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths tied to drinking.

The stats aren’t all bad. Drinking among teenagers is down. And there are signs that some people are taking alcohol seriously — such as the “Dry January” movement making the rounds on social media.

But overall, public health experts say America still has a drinking problem.

“Consumption has been going up. Harms (from alcohol) have been going up,” said Dr. Tim Naimi, an alcohol researcher at Boston University. “And there’s not been a policy response to match it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(Phys.org) Biologists identify pathways that extend lifespan by 500%

Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and Nanjing University in China, have identified synergistic cellular pathways for longevity that amplify lifespan fivefold in C. elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research.

The increase in lifespan would be the equivalent of a human living for 400 or 500 years, according to one of the scientists.

The research draws on the discovery of two major pathways governing aging in C. elegans, which is a popular model in aging research because it shares many of its genes with humans and because its short lifespan of only three to four weeks allows scientists to quickly assess the effects of genetic and environmental interventions to extend healthy lifespan.

Because these pathways are “conserved,” meaning that they have been passed down to humans through evolution, they have been the subject of intensive research. A number of drugs that extend healthy lifespan by altering these pathways are now under development.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology

(WSJ) U.S. Cancer Death Rate Drops by Largest Amount on Record

The cancer death rate in the U.S. dropped 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever recorded, according to the latest report from the American Cancer Society, continuing a longstanding decline that began a quarter-century ago.

The drop is largely driven by progress against lung cancer, though the most rapid declines in the report occurred in melanoma. Advances in treatment are helping improve survival rates in the two cancers, experts say.

Falling smoking rates have played a big role in the decline in lung-cancer deaths, cancer doctors say, as well as improvements in detection and treatment. For melanoma, the report singles out the emergence of drugs like Roche Holding AG ’s Zelboraf that target the molecular roots of tumors and therapies like Yervoy from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which enlist a patient’s own immune system in the cancer fight.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(NYT Op-ed) Richard A. Friedman–Why Are Young Americans Killing Themselves?

Teenagers and young adults in the United States are being ravaged by a mental health crisis — and we are doing nothing about it. As of 2017, statistics show that an alarming number of them are suffering from depression and dying by suicide. In fact, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, surpassed only by accidents.

After declining for nearly two decades, the suicide rate among Americans ages 10 to 24 jumped 56 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for the first time the gender gap in suicide has narrowed: Though the numbers of suicides are greater in males, the rates of suicide for female youths increased by 12.7 percent each year, compared with 7.1 percent for male youths.

At the same time, the rate of teen depression shot up 63 percent, an alarming but not surprising trend given the link between suicide and depression: In 2017, 13 percent of teens reported at least one episode of depression in the past year, compared with 8 percent of teens in 2007, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

How is it possible that so many of our young people are suffering from depression and killing themselves when we know perfectly well how to treat this illness?

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

A Wonderful NYT Obit on Dr. John B. Robbins, developer of the vaccine for Hib meningitis and others, currently saving millions per year

By some estimates, Dr. Robbins’s vaccine against the illness, called Hib meningitis, has saved seven million lives since it was licensed in 1989.

Pediatricians who worked in the pre-vaccine days remember feeling their hearts sink when they saw Hib bacteria under a microscope in a baby’s spinal fluid. It meant that, even with antibiotics, the child was at risk of permanent brain damage, deafness or death.

Before the vaccine, Hib meningitis killed about 400,000 children a year, according to the World Health Organization….

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Friday Mental Health break–(NBC) Airport Pig Spreads Holiday Cheer In San Francisco

Posted in Animals, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Travel

(Globe+Mail) Dan Werb–How doctors discovered the true causes of drug addiction

With physicians more likely to become addicted to drugs, compared with the general population, it became a lot more difficult to argue that a drug-dependent person was a “classic psychopath” or inherently “immature and pseudo-aggressive.” The situation was particularly untenable given that, during the fifties and sixties, physicians were the people running most epidemiologic studies and authoring the scientific manuscripts about drug use. They were, unsurprisingly, loath to suggest that the high prevalence of drug addiction among members of their vocation was caused by the fact that doctors are all psychopaths.

And so, instead of blaming that same collective form of psychopathology that they had diagnosed as innate to African-Americans, Latinos and women, epidemiologic papers about addicted doctors quietly gravitated toward different language to talk about drug use and its effects.

In one study from 1966 that compared 100 physicians treated for addiction with 100 matched controls, the authors – physicians themselves, of course – wrote, with a level of subtlety absent in studies of drug use among black Americans, that they found “no correlation between psychiatric diagnosis and drug used” and the study’s participants. As far as the researchers were concerned, doctors couldn’t be crazy, even the ones that overindulged. In a lingering sign of the times, though, the factors the authors deemed most likely to increase the risk of drug use reflected myopic ideas about the root causes of addiction. These included whether participants were married, whether they were Protestant and whether they came from the American South.

Another study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1970, reported that after 20 years of following a group of college students, half of whom had gone into medicine, twice as many of the physicians had used drugs as the group of people who, one assumes, found less respectable careers. Here, the authors again included variables they assumed most relevant to addiction: having had a feeding problem in infancy, having had a private-school education and scoring badly on a math test. Today this kind of paper wouldn’t even make it to a scientific journal editor’s desk, let alone get published.

What these mid-century epidemiologists overlooked about substance use among doctors were the high levels of stress, anxiety and lack of sleep that characterize the medical profession. Coupled with ready access to highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs and a culture of intense competition, doctors were primed to self-medicate.

Having pragmatically turned themselves into their own guinea pigs, doctors had inadvertently revealed their own heightened drug use and, with it, the fatal flaw behind the racist and sexist addiction science they had popularized. This led to only one conclusion: If morally upstanding, intellectually sophisticated white men were succumbing to addiction in droves, then it could not be a disease of the mind. The upshot was that the kinds of variables included in addiction models expanded beyond an individual’s personality or upbringing.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, History, Psychology

(USA Today) Is marijuana linked to psychosis, schizophrenia? It’s contentious but doctors, feds say yes

Early one morning in March, Madison McIntosh showed up on his day off at the Scottsdale, Arizona, driving range and restaurant where he worked. The 24-year-old sat in his car until the place opened, then wandered around all day, alternating between gibberish and talk of suicide as co-workers tried to keep him away from customers.

When he was still there 12 hours later, the manager contacted McIntosh’s father in Las Vegas, who called police and rallied other family members states away to converge at the young man’s side.

They found a shell of the once-star baseball player. For months he’d been spending his days vaping a potent form of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes people feel high, and staying up all night. Now, he was wildly swinging between depression and euphoria.

The family rushed McIntosh to Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, where staff psychiatrist Dr. Divya Jot Singh diagnosed him with cannabis use disorder and a “psychotic disorder unspecified….”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(Gallup) More Americans Delaying Medical Treatment Due to Cost

A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup’s trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.

Gallup first asked this question in 1991, at which time 22% reported that they or a family member delayed care for any kind of condition, including 11% for a serious condition. The figures were similar in the next update in 2001, and Gallup has since asked this question annually as part of its Health and Healthcare poll. This year’s survey was conducted Nov. 1-14.

Americans’ reports of family members delaying any sort of medical treatment for cost reasons were lower in the early to mid-2000s when closer to a quarter reported the problem. Since 2006, the rate has averaged 30%.

The pattern is similar for the subset of Americans postponing medical treatment for a serious condition. The rate rose from 12% in 2001 to an average of 19% since 2006. However, the current 25% is the highest yet, exceeding the prior high-point of 22% recorded in 2014.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

C of E publishes new research findings on clergy flourishing

The Living Ministry programme tracks the progress of groups of clergy ordained in 2006, 2011 and 2015 and women and men who entered training for ordination in 2016, seeking to understand what helps clergy to flourish in ministry.

The latest research from the project includes responses from 579 ordained clergy and 113 people training for ordained ministry in the Church of England.

The quantitative study includes research into physical and mental, relational, financial and material and spiritual and vocational well-being as well as responses to questions about ministerial effectiveness.

Read it all and take the time to look through the whole report (64 pages).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(R and P) Timothy McMahan King–How Bad Theology Makes the Opioid Crisis Worse

Medically assisted treatment (MAT), which involves using drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine to both manage cravings and, in the case of buprenorphine, block the effects of other opioids, has shown been shown to reduce overdose deaths by nearly 50 percent. A study in Massachusetts found a 59 percent reduction in overdoses for those on methadone and a 38 percent reduction with the use of buprenorphine. However, their use is not allowed in many treatment facilities, prisons and abstinence-based recovery programs.

Why? MAT is effective in part because the medicine includes opioid agonists—meaning they interact with opioid receptors and are able to reduce withdrawal symptoms. They are, in effect, milder forms of the drugs themselves. In a view in which the drug, and not our relationship to it, is the matter of moral concern, this is anathema.

This belief, buttressed by Christian theological developments about substances, holds back progress on addressing addiction and overdoses. An addiction does not involve being taken over by an evil or demonic substance; it stems from a disordered relationship with one. Prohibition and punishment have failed. Approaching addiction as only an individual moral flaw—instead of a public health crisis—has only made things worse. And the eschewal of effective approaches like MAT means more needless deaths.

These beliefs have real consequences. If my doctor had used blame and shame to confront me and then immediately cut me off from pain medicine, I likely would have found myself in the position many others have: seeking them illicitly. Yes, addiction can be harmful but so can the way we have chosen to treat those with addictions as a society.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

(NBC) 11-year-old Laila Anderson meets her bone-marrow donor for the first time

Posted in * General Interest, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Sports

(WSJ) Erica Komisar–We need to be reminded of the great value faith traditions have for our children

As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.

A 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined how being raised in a family with religious or spiritual beliefs affects mental health. Harvard researchers had examined religious involvement within a longitudinal data set of approximately 5,000 people, with controls for socio-demographic characteristics and maternal health.

The result? Children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance was associated with higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation. Pity then that the U.S. has seen a 20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years, according to a Gallup report earlier this year. In 2018 the American Family Survey showed that nearly half of adults under 30 do not identify with any religion.

Nihilism is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being “realistic” is overrated. The belief in God—in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough—is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world. That’s only one reason, from a purely mental-health perspective, to pass down a faith tradition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(Theos) Sally Phillips: Human Dignity, Different Lives & the Illusions of Choice

The takeover by stealth of Utilitarian thinking means that we are now a people that thinks the idea of society having winners and losers is inevitable. We measure everything from the number of steps we take to the length of our sleep and how many seven year olds can spell the word ‘turnip’.

As a result, we are losing the ability to talk about the things that cannot be measured. And if the world is governed according to the edict “what gets measured gets done”, we may be neglecting some of the most important things about being human. Like love.

You’re probably thinking ‘I’m not a utilitarian’. Even if you’re not utilitarian, think of what you mean by justice. Usually you mean fairness, you get back what you put in. It is unjust not to be paid what you are worth. I’m just thinking of the BBC gender pay gap.

In a way, some forms of Christianity, certainly the ones that I have been involved in, contribute to this too. The Low Anglican tradition that I love deeply teaches a transactional salvation. We are distinguished from animals by virtue of consciousness, self–reflection, moral capacity, the act of repentance. I have literally no idea if that is right or wrong but it does appear to be a kind of cost–benefit, quid pro quo.

If the point of our lives is what we are capable of doing then the implication must be that a human life lacking in the capacity for purposive action will be worthless, pointless. Those who are involved in the lives of people with disabilities disagree. Our insider experience tells us differently.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Christology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Theology

(Church Times) Gambling ‘is bad for your health’, says bishop Alan Smith of Saint Albans

GAMBLING should be treated as a “major health issue”, like smoking, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said. He was speaking after figures were published which suggest that most people in England gambled last year.

The Health Survey for England 2018, published on Wednesday, showed that 53 per cent of people had gambled in 2018, including buying lottery tickets. More men gamble than women: 56 per cent of men against 49 per cent of women.

For the survey, 8178 adults (aged from 16) and 2072 children were interviewed in England.

Dr Smith said: “With almost half the country gambling, it looks as if this is becoming a major health issue, which requires a response akin to tackling smoking in the last century.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NBC) College Football Player Saves Young Girl’s Life With Bone Marrow Donation

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Sports

(NYT) The Class of 2000 ‘Could Have Been Anything’ Until the Opioid Crisis Hit

The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers.

But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties.

Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them.

In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Education, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth

(NYT Op-ed) The Unending Indignities of Alzheimer’s

But while his family, and his physician, agree on the need for more advanced care, his health insurers do not.

Medicare does not generally cover long-term nursing home care. Medicaid does, but only when it deems those services “medically necessary” — and that determination is made by insurance agents, not by the patient’s doctors. The state of New Jersey, where my parents live, recently switched to a managed care system for its elderly Medicaid recipients. Instead of paying directly for the care that this patient population needs, the state pays a fixed per-person amount to a string of private companies, who in turn manage the needs of patients like my father. On paper, these companies cover the full range of required offerings: nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and a suite of in-home support services. In practice, they do what most insurance companies seem to do: obfuscate and evade and force you to beg.

When I told my father’s care coordinator what his doctor said, she was unequivocal. “He is not even close to qualifying,” she said. “He’s only 78, and he can still walk and wash and dress himself without assistance.”

I countered that he had “bathroom issues” and that he frequently refused to shower.

“Refusing to do something is not the same as being physically incapable of doing it,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(NBC) Churches across the country come together to pay off medical debt

The nonprofit RIP Medical Debt buys up and forgives medical debt using donations — with much of those funds coming from faith-based organizations. Kyra Taylor was overwhelmed with medical debt until Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor stepped in. She had an emotional reunion with the congregation that saved her life, calling their intervention a “miracle.”

Watch it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Stewardship

(CT) Half of Pastors Say the Opioid Epidemic Has Hit Their Church

Twenty years ago this month, Gallaty endured a near-fatal car accident. When he left the hospital, the club-bouncer-turned-church-leader took with him several prescriptions for painkillers.

“My descent into full-scale drug abuse was amazingly rapid,” he writes in his new book, Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, and Addiction Led Me to God. “In November of 1999, before the accident, I was selling cars, training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and thinking about business opportunities. By early the next year, I was looking for faster and better drug connections.”

After stealing $15,000 from his parents to feed his addiction, Gallaty found himself at his lowest point—kicked out of his parents’ home and told not to come back. “It was the hardest three months of their lives, and they’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it was the best thing for me. I knew that I couldn’t fix myself.”

This led Gallaty, now pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to what he calls a “radical, Paul-like conversion” on November 12, 2002.

Most pastors don’t have the intimate knowledge of addiction Gallaty has, but most say they’ve seen it face to face through people connected to their church and among members of their congregation.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CT) Kay Warren: Moms of Kids with Mental Illness Need Christ and Community

With all the advocacy and educational work that you do on mental health issues, why was doing a retreat for moms a priority?

After Matthew died, I talked to hundreds of parents who have kids with mental illness. And it slowly began to dawn on me that not only did parents not have enough support, they didn’t have good community.

There are a lot of reasons for that. There’s stigma and discrimination against people living with mental illness. In the Christian community, there’s a standard that we feel like we have to measure up to—you know, perfect marriages, perfect families, always “things are good, things are good.” And when your life isn’t good, you end up hiding how difficult your life really is.

When there is serious mental illness, there can be extreme chaos, violence, or threats of violence. There is extreme dysfunction. There can be homelessness, substance abuse, and a sense of helplessness. And so parents don’t have a place where they can really say, “This is what my life is like.” And I just kept thinking, what can I do, what can I do? How can I help make a place for others, particularly moms, where they can be real, where they can tell their story, where they can find community?

Then a really good friend—you!—said early this year, “Have you ever thought about doing a retreat for moms?” And my response was “Uh, no, but I will.” It became crystal clear to me that that was exactly what I was supposed to do.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Mental Illness, Pastoral Care, Psychology

Archbishop Justin Welby gives the ‘Thought For The Day’ on mental health

Good communities are places where mental health issues do not prevent people from having authentic and honest relationships. Good communities are able to hold pain, honour and acknowledge it, whilst putting it within the wider story of God and His hope for His people.

Christians believe we have a saviour, a rescuer, who knows intimately what it means to suffer. Amidst all the brokenness, Christ weeps with us. In his resurrection, I believe Christ restores us. Not necessarily in the way we expected, but he makes us whole in a way that makes sense.

It is my prayer today that anyone who is walking in darkness knows this: you are not alone. You are truly valued and deeply loved. Reaching out and talking to someone can be the first step back into the light.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Getting a Handle on Self-Harm

The sensations surged up from somewhere inside, like poison through a syringe: a mix of sadness, anxiety, and shame that would overwhelm anyone, especially a teenager.

“I had this Popsicle stick and carved it into sharp point and scratched myself,” Joan, a high school student in New York City said recently; she asked that her last name be omitted for privacy. “I’m not even sure where the idea came from. I just knew it was something people did. I remember crying a lot and thinking, Why did I just do that? I was kind of scared of myself.”

She felt relief as the swarm of distress dissolved, and she began to cut herself regularly, at first with a knife, then razor blades, cutting her wrists, forearms and eventually much of her body. “I would do it for five to 15 minutes, and afterward I didn’t have that terrible feeling. I could go on with my day.”

Self-injury, particularly among adolescent girls, has become so prevalent so quickly that scientists and therapists are struggling to catch up. About 1 in 5 adolescents report having harmed themselves to soothe emotional pain at least once, according to a review of three dozen surveys in nearly a dozen countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain. Habitual self harm, over time, is a predictor for higher suicide risk in many individuals, studies suggest.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Young Adults

(NBC) for Veterans Day 2019–Veterans With Incredible Bond Hike Together — One Carrying The Other On His Back

Watch it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, History, Military / Armed Forces

(CNN) Meet Belfast’s ‘dementia-friendly barber’

In his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Lenny White gathers up his supplies for the day: a red, white and blue striped barber pole, hair clippers and a table-top jukebox — all the makings of a pop-up barbershop, catered to a very special group of clients.

White is known as the “dementia-friendly barber.” Along with his assistant, Jonathan Wray, he visits care homes across Northern Ireland to cut the hair of men living with dementia.

“When these men come into the room,” White said, “they think they are coming into the barbershop, which they really are. It is Lenny’s Barbershop, but it’s not on the Main Street. It’s in their living accommodations in the care home setting.”

White accomplishes that feeling by replicating a traditional barbershop, down to the music playing on the jukebox, from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Elvis Presley.

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship

(CC) Shelly Rambo–How Christian theology and practice are being shaped by trauma studies

Psychological trauma is not a new phenomenon, but it is newly studied. Flagged by pioneering psychoanalysts at the end of the 19th century as a wound of the psyche, the term trauma is a modern way of describing how violence impacts us psychologically and emotionally. Sigmund Freud noted that veterans of World War I did not simply recall the violence they had endured in the war but were reliving it in the present. That observation defied existing theories of time and experience. The veterans’ failure to delineate between then and now signaled to early theorists of trauma that the timeline of how we interpret experiences is profoundly shattered in cases of overwhelming violence.

In 1983, the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) entered the psychiatric diagnostic manual. Judith Herman’s 1992 book Trauma and Recovery brought trauma to further public attention by noting the similarities between the experiences of combat veterans and those of sexual abuse survivors. Studies of second-generation Holocaust survivors inaugurated collaborative work across disciplines and generated what is now referred to as trauma theory. These works widened the scope of study from an exclusively psychological framework to literary, historical, and philosophical accounts of experience, and they moved from the interpersonal to the collective realm. For example, Toni Morrison in her novel Beloved provides a specter of the unaddressed trauma of chattel slavery in the figure of a dead child whose ghost returns to tell truths about the past. Morrison understood that cycles of violence play out across generations. The wounds do not simply go away.

Experiences of pain, loss, and suffering are part of human experience, and in time many are able to integrate the suffering into their lives. But trauma refers to an experience in which the process of integration becomes stuck. Pastoral theologian Carrie Doehring identifies trauma as “a bio-psycho-spiritual response to overwhelming life events.” In traumatic response, there is a breakdown of multiple systems that we rely on to protect us from harm and to process harm. In these cases, our systems are not simply slow to integrate the impact; they fail to integrate it. Trauma marks a “new normal” in that there is no possibility of the person returning to who they were before. A radical break has occurred between the old self and the new one.

The therapeutic challenge facing someone who has experienced trauma remains that of integrating the experience into their life.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Violence

(CC) When the opioid crisis shows up at our church’s doorstep

The incarnation of God in Christ is God’s confirmation that the bodies of all people are holy. As Paul wrote, they are temples. Our congregation seeks to minister to people in a holistic way, in body, mind, and soul, by providing food and clothes as well as through community organizing, worship, and faith formation.

The challenge for all of us in this ministry comes in taking seriously Jesus’ model of reaching out to people we might fear to touch. People who are addicted to drugs certainly fit the category of modern lepers. It did give me pause during my training to learn that rescue breathing was part of the emergency response, and that if I did not use a rescue breathing mask or barrier mask, I would be at risk of absorbing some of the residue of the drugs.

Our Sunday morning worship services include people who live on the street. Our members are divided about whether or not that is a good thing. For various security reasons, police have recommended that we restrict entrance to people known to be part of the congregation. I can’t imagine doing that. It would be giving in to fear and effectively profiling those who come and worship with us. We choose not to lock our doors to keep anyone out.

Am I afraid that someone might come in and harm us? I’d be lying if I said I was not. We’ve seen people become belligerent at our Sunday dinners, often under the influence of drugs. News reports regularly remind us that the worship hour of any faith is not guaranteed to be sanctuary. Our goal is to be as prepared as we can be, and at the same time as emotionally, spiritually, and physically open as we can be—for all our neighbors. Christ calls us to operate more out of preposterous love than destructive fear. Jim or someone like him will come back one of these nights. We want to be ready to help.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

(ZH) Slide In Life Expectancy For American Men Continues Amid Spike In “Deaths Of Despair”

The National Center for Health Statistics’ latest annual report dropped Wednesday morning. And like reports from the last few years, the takeaway from this year’s batch of numbers is this: American men are in trouble.

Another drop in life expectancy for that demographic has brought the average life expectancy for American men to 76.1 years in 2017, the year for which the data have been finalized and released. That’s compared with 76.5 in 2014, according to the data – a not-insignificant drop.

Once they reach age 65, men are projected to live another 18.1 years, compared with 20.6 years for women, according to Bloomberg, which cited data from the study.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Men

(Vatican News) Abrahamic religions: no to euthanasia, assisted suicide, yes to palliative care

“We oppose any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician-assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.”

Representatives of the Abrahamic religions made the statement in a position paper that they signed and released in the Vatican on Monday regarding end-of-life issues, such as euthanasia, assisted suicide and palliative care.

The term, Abrahamic monotheistic religions, derives from the Old Testament biblical figure Abraham who is recognized by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others.

They categorically condemned any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Boston Globe) As his Alzheimer’s looms, Charles and Pam Ogletree take one last walk in love

What she now wants most is to keep him close: to care for him at home for as long as she can manage.

For the moment, it seems within her grasp. Most of the time, he is easygoing, though there are restless mornings when he paces through the house, flipping switches on and off, trying to escape an unease he cannot name.

Pam knows how quickly things can change. There was a time, late last year, when she thought she might have to let him go, to live in a place with more support, after his symptoms took a brief aggressive turn. Cooking dinner in their kitchen one evening last December, on a day when she could tell he was unsettled, she was startled when he pushed her, knocking over a jar, and then swung a hand at her when she asked him to stop. Alarmed, she called 911.

The responding officers spoke quietly to Charles, calmly asking him to come with them to the hospital. He resisted and was physically combative. In the hallway, overcome by fear and guilt, Pam could not bear to watch as the officers restrained her husband. At Cambridge Hospital, where he was confused but calm, they spent four days in the emergency room, waiting for a bed to open up at McLean Hospital in Belmont. Doctors there adjusted his medication, and the aggression disappeared, allowing him to go home again.

It felt to Pam like a reprieve, and she tried, in its wake, to anchor herself even more firmly in the present.

They still pray together many mornings, Pam kneeling on a sofa cushion on the floor in the living room while Charles sits and listens on the couch beside her. He no longer pipes up with addenda to her prayers, but he seems attentive, even calmed by what she says.

In the beginning, she prayed for him to get better. Now she prays more often for acceptance.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology