Category : Health & Medicine

(USN) STDs Combine for Record High in U.S.

Cases of three common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. reached a record level in 2018, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gonorrhea and cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the disease’s most infectious stages – both reached their highest levels since 1991 last year. The country’s 115,045 syphilis cases included more than 35,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis, marking a 14.9% rate uptick from 2017. Meanwhile, there were more than 583,000 cases of gonorrhea, a rate increase of 5% from 2017, and the rate of reported chlamydia cases rose 3% to total more than 1.7 million in 2018 – nearly two-thirds of which were among people 15 to 24 years old, the report shows.

Together, the diseases accounted for more than 2.4 million cases – an all-time high since data on all three conditions was first collected in 1984.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine

(WSJ) A New Death Shakes a Univ. of Penn. Campus Rattled by Student Suicides

On a quiet Sunday afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania, a dozen students sat in a circle, turned to one another, and asked: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

The difficult practice, accompanied by uncomfortable giggles and prolonged eye contact, came toward the end of a four-hour training session in a technique known as active listening. Students are taught to ask the question, among others, with a gentle and direct tone. The method and question can help reduce the risk of suicide, training experts say.

With 14 student suicides in the past six years, this Ivy League university has been asking hard questions and has bolstered its mental-health resources. But the recent death by suicide of a high-profile mental-health administrator—Gregory Eells, executive director of Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services program that provides therapy sessions for students—highlighted the complexity of the school’s continuing battle against suicide.

“On a symbolic level, Dr. Eells’s death hit harder. Because of his position, it’s a stronger message across the university than I think student deaths are in a weird, kind of bizarre way,” said Greg Callaghan, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly who had met with Dr. Eells about graduate student mental-health initiatives.

The U.S. suicide rate for nearly all ages increased from 1999 to 2017, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the second-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 34.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, Health & Medicine, Suicide, Young Adults

(RNS) Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide

Wilson shared openly about his own mental health challenges in his most recent book, Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World, and blog posts. He blogged earlier this summer that he had dealt with “severe depression throughout most of my life and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.”

On social media, he regularly encouraged others dealing with similar challenges with messages like, “I’m a Christian who also struggles with depression. This exists, and it’s okay to admit it.”

Breaking down the stigma of mental illness is one of the goals of Anthem of Hope, the nonprofit the pastor founded with his wife, Juli, in 2016. Anthem of Hope creates resources for the church to assist those dealing with depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.

Eaton said Wilson wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.

“Tragically, Jarrid took his own life,” Eaton said.

“Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most,” Eaton added.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(WSJ) Anxiety Looks Different in Men

When a man explodes in anger over something seemingly insignificant, he may appear like just a jerk. But he could be anxious.

Anxiety problems can look different in men. When people think of anxiety, they may picture the excessive worry and avoidance of frightening situations that often plague those who suffer. These afflict men, too. But there’s a growing recognition among psychologists that men are more likely to complain of headaches, difficulty sleeping and muscle aches and pains. They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety, so what looks like a drinking problem may actually be an underlying anxiety disorder. And anxiety in men often manifests as anger and irritability.

Anxious “men may present as loose cannons, but they are worriers,” says Kevin Chapman, a clinical psychologist in Louisville, Ky. “Aggression tends to be more socially acceptable to many men than anxiety.”

Studies have found that about one in five men (and about one in three women) will have an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. But psychologists are increasingly concerned that those numbers underreport male cases.

This is particularly worrisome now that more research is finding a link between anxiety and suicide.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Men, Psychology, Theology

(WSJ) Allan Ripp–The Life of a Rabbi With ALS

Using the same eye-gazing program, Yitzi painstakingly writes his weekly Torah commentaries. It sometimes requires a day to complete a column that once would have taken two hours. One recent piece addressed whether someone can be commanded to love another in the same way as loving God. “To be loved, is to be understood,” Yitzi concludes. While he has rabbinical dispensation to use his computer on Shabbat, Yitzi often refrains and rests his strained eyes from the intense workouts. “He communicates differently on Shabbat, looking at everyone’s faces directly; it’s more pleasant,” Dina says. She adds that she still detects the mischief and happiness of the man she married in 1996.

Shlomo Bistritzky —a fellow Chabad rabbi in Westlake Village, Calif.—grew up in Brooklyn with Yitzi. “If you want to see what a beautiful soul looks like, go meet Rabbi Yitzi,” he says. “Everyone who visits approaches nervously with acid reflux but leaves feeling uplifted. As his body has failed him, his joyous spirit shines through.”

When his symptoms first appeared in 2012, Yitzi and Dina were living in the California desert town of Temecula. They had moved there in 1999 to establish a Chabad house, which grew from their living room to a storefront serving a growing Jewish community. Yitzi was an active pulpit rabbi—overseeing Hebrew school and adult education, along with weddings, births, funerals and daily prayer services. He composed songs on guitar and was usually the last one dancing on holidays. He counseled families during the financial crisis and took extra jobs to support his own brood. This included work as a chaplain in a state hospital for the criminally insane and as a supervisor of kosher operations at a dairy farm a half-hour up the road.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Rod Nordland–Waiting for the Monsoon, Discovering a Brain Tumor Instead

On the morning of July 4, I left Delhi for Uttar Pradesh to report a story on India’s feverish toilet-building campaign. I was out on the street most of the day, when I noticed ink in my journal was smudged with raindrops. “The monsoon has arrived,” I noted.

The smudged page also contained a fragment of overheard conversation: “We will marry our daughter to you only if you have a foot.” It was the first line of an intriguing story I would never write, because the next day I went for a morning jog in Delhi’s beautiful Lodhi Gardens.

That is really the last thing I remember with certainty. I only learned later that I had, somehow, made my way from the gardens to New Delhi’s Golf Course Colony, several miles away.

This is where a malignant brain tumor, as yet undiagnosed, struck me down and left me thrashing on the ground.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, India, Media, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

A Moving NBC piece on the Problem of Suicide among American farmers

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Suicide

A Heartbreaking and Important Washington Post Article on the Suicide of Kelly Catlin

Kelly’s father wants you to know all of it: She took classes at the University of Minnesota in 11th grade, notched a perfect score on the SAT, had enrolled last fall in the computational mathematics program at Stanford’s graduate school. This was a young woman who had become convinced, like so many of her high-achieving peers, that pedaling to the peak of one mountain only meant a better view of the other, taller ones in the distance.

“The very characteristics that made you successful will be self-destructive,” Mark says he has realized, though he prefers to keep himself busy than think too deeply about it, and indeed as much as his daughter was an outlier in life, she was part of a trend in death.

… [he] kept absorbing his daughter’s final words.

“I cry,” Kelly wrote, “because I only ever truly desired Love. Kindness. Understanding. Warmth. Touch. And these things shall be denied, for eternity.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sports, Suicide

(AFM) USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019 —nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Tinker AFB, Okla., this week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(Christian Today) After a year of Ebola in the DRC, faith leaders have a key role to play

Hundreds of faith leaders are being trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help prevent the spread of Ebola as the outbreak continues to bring heartache and uncertainty to the country.

Over 1,700 people have died since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018. It is the second largest outbreak of Ebola in history and was recently declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The outbreak comes as a double blow to the country that has already been ravaged by years of conflict. The fighting has not abated during the Ebola outbreak and has only served to hamper the response efforts.

Christian development agency Tearfund is working through local churches to help tackle the outbreak, with at least 482 faith leaders so far trained to provide information and education on how to spot the symptoms of Ebola, where to seek medical help, the importance of washing hands, and guidelines on how to handle dead bodies.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Republic of Congo

(NPR) Isolated And Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning To Suicide

Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

Walter Isaacson–Should the Rich Be Allowed to Buy the Best Genes?

The French Quarter, where we live [in New Orleans], is hopping that weekend. There is a naked bicycle race that is intended (oddly enough) to promote traffic safety. There is one of many parades and second lines to celebrate the life of Mac Rebennack Jr., the funk musician known as Dr. John. There is also the gay-pride parade and related block parties. And coexisting quite happily is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, featuring truck farmers and cooks showing off the many varieties of succulent non-genetically modified local tomatoes.

From my balcony, I marvel at the diversity of the passing humanity. There are people short and tall, gay and straight and trans, fat and skinny, light and dark, and even a few wearing Gallaudet University T-shirts excitedly using sign language. The supposed promise of CRISPR is that we may someday be able to pick which of these traits we want in our children and in all of our descendants. We could choose for them to be tall and muscular and blond and blue-eyed and not deaf and not … well, pick your preferences.

As I survey the delightful pageant with all of its natural variety, I ponder how this promise of CRISPR might also be its peril, up there with the encoding of unequal opportunities. It took the laws of nature and of nature’s God more than 3.2 billion years to weave together three billion bases of DNA in a complex and occasionally imperfect way to permit all of the wondrous diversity within our species. Are we right to think we can now come along and, within a few decades, edit that genome to eliminate what we see as imperfections? Will we lose our diversity? Will we become less flavorful, like our tomatoes? Will that be good for our species?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(NBC) A 5-Year-Old Girl Receives a Prosthetic Hand Thanks To Cincinnati Student Engineers

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine

(Guardian) John Marsden on the ‘toxic’ parenting pandemic: ‘I’ve never seen this level of anxiety’

[John] Marsden says that this contemporary crop of teenagers is outperforming generations past in terms of academic achievement, political engagement and so on – but he is fearful about their emotional health, borne out by statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues among the young.

“The scale of the problem is massive. The issue of emotional damage is pandemic,” he tells the Guardian. “The level of anxiety is something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t know how it can be improved.”

Marsden says that much of the anxiety among parents and children springs from concern that the world is a dangerous place, with traditional “safe” authority figures no longer to be trusted. That, coupled with an infantilisation of children as pure, helpless creatures, leads parents to cosset and fret over their offspring, and demand much of the same from educational institutions.

“Part of that is a fear, in particular, of physical injury,” he says. “Of course, all reasonable parents are concerned about physical injury to a child, but if that overrides everything else then what you have instead is a kind of slow death by emotional damage which is so awful to witness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Books, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(USA Today) Seth Ginsburg–Doctors and patients are flying blind as medical marijuana use rises, research lags

Marijuana’s role in the health care universe has grown exponentially over the past few years. Currently, 33 U.S. states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and more and more states are considering making it legal for recreational purposes as well. As cannabis becomes more accessible, many people are turning to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat health issues like rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease (the aches and pains of arthritis).

Unfortunately, because cannabis remains illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 drugunder federal law (defined as being of no medical use), there has been a troublinglack of scientific and medical research on the effectiveness of cannabis treatments. This dearth of evidence-based data has left many health care providers unable to counsel their patients on everything from whether a cannabis treatment could be effective for their condition, to what dosages are appropriate, to how cannabis might interact with their other medications or health conditions.

This lack of information hasn’t stopped patients from exploring the use of cannabis treatments on their own, as marijuana becomes available, if not ubiquitous, in more states. The online arthritis patient community CreakyJoints, which I co-founded, recently conducted a studyof its ArthritisPower registry and found that more than half of arthritis patients have tried marijuana or cannabidiol products for medical purposes. However, the study also found that only two-thirds of these patients reported telling their health care provider about their use. So many patients are flying completely blind while trying cannabis related treatments without any awareness by, or input from, their doctor.

Read it all.

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

(CEN) Clergy Care Covenant divides Church of England General Synod

Speaking during the debate, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, spoke about the covenant’s potential impact on clergy terms of service.

“The proposals in here do suggest that you would have to amend the Terms of Service Measure.

“When the ordinal, which is what we signed up to, is replaced by role descriptions, when capability becomes micro-management, and when licensing services become places where we spell out all the things we are going to do for our clergy, then worry, because our most litigious clergy, and there are a minority of them, will say, ‘At my licensing service you promised to do this so I’m taking you to an employment tribunal’. “I don’t think the covenant will help us, I think the covenant is actually a bad mechanism is order to build good practice.

“If we must do it, we must do it, but I think there’s a worry… moving away from common tenure and moving towards employment and contract culture.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, Theology

(FT) Tim Harford–the US healthcare is literally killing people

It is astonishing how far the debate on healthcare has moved in the US, at least for the Democrats. Not long ago offering universal, government-funded healthcare was viewed as tantamount to communism; now, it’s a touchstone of many presidential hopefuls.

Not before time. The US healthcare system is a monument to perverse incentives, unintended consequences and political inertia. It is astonishingly bad — indeed, it’s so astonishingly bad that even people who believe it’s bad don’t appreciate quite how bad it is.

I don’t say this out of any great devotion to the UK alternative. The National Health Service works well enough for a vast tax-funded bureaucracy, but it might work better if we didn’t view any attempt at reform as the desecration of a holy institution. Nor do I have bad experiences of US healthcare. My daughter was born in America, where my family had sensitive and expert medical care. But that’s what you’d expect with a good health insurance plan — something that many Americans don’t have.

Read it all (subscription) [emphasis mine].

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(WSJ) Ericka Andersen–Is God the Answer to the Suicide Epidemic?

Some nonreligious folks also see the church solution as nothing but an excuse for the faithful to proselytize. But religious animosity can’t be allowed to obscure the powerful connection between church attendance and suicide prevention. It’s a deadly prejudice that’s unfair to those who might be saved. An atheist should appreciate the positive value church attendance can bring, even if it’s for something they don’t believe in.

The Bible says that “the dwelling place of God is with man.” Put another way, churches are nothing but people meeting together for spiritual communion. The setup might look simple, but a house of worship is a transcendental doctor’s office offering preventive care, support group therapy and a healing hope.

Every year, institutions and organizations devoted to reducing the toll of suicide in America’s communities publish resources devoted to prevention. Some of the most prominent ones come from Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yet attending religious services isn’t included on these lists of resources. It’s time for these and other groups to consider faith as an legitimate prevention method.

People living in our increasingly secular culture are hungry for spiritual wisdom and transcendent purpose. For the already vulnerable, this drought of meaning and connection can have deadly consequences. For thousands of years, practicing a shared faith was a principal way to meet these spiritual needs. It can be again.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(PRC) A growing number of American teenagers – particularly girls – are facing depression

Depression has become increasingly common among American teenagers – especially teen girls, who are now almost three times as likely as teen boys to have had recent experiences with depression.

In 2017, 13% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 (or 3.2 million) said they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8% (or 2 million) in 2007, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

One-in-five teenage girls – or nearly 2.4 million – had experienced at least one major depressive episode (the proxy measure of depression used in this analysis) over the past year in 2017. By comparison, 7% of teenage boys (or 845,000) had at least one major depressive episode in the past 12 months.

The total number of teenagers who recently experienced depression increased 59% between 2007 and 2017. The rate of growth was faster for teen girls (66%) than for boys (44%).

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology, Teens / Youth

(WCC) Ugandan Anglican university students address violence, promote HIV testing in village schools

Students at Makerere University in Uganda have launched an evangelical and health mission in Kayunga, one of the rural villages in Mityana district located about 50 km from Kampala, Uganda.

The initiative follows the October 2018 launch of the Thursdays in Black Campaign against sexual and gender-based violence in Uganda by the Anglican community of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity at Makerere University.

Kayunga is known for its high rate of school dropouts and early marriages, and the community is dominantly patriarchal. From 6-9 June, the Makerere University students under Buganda Anglican Youth Missioners and Thursdays in Black “Ambassadors” visited the village to spread Christian love through charity, and restore hope by promoting abundant life. They also created awareness about the need to test for HIV, and to address sexual and gender-based violence and safe sex practices to end the spread of HIV.

Read it all and enjoy the pictures.

Posted in Church of Uganda, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Uganda, Young Adults

(PRC) On average, older adults spend over half their waking hours alone

Americans ages 60 and older are alone for more than half of their daily measured time – which includes all waking hours except those spent engaged in personal activities such as grooming. All told, this amounts to about seven hours a day; and among those who live by themselves, alone time rises to over 10 hours a day, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In comparison, people in their 40s and 50s spend about 4 hours and 45 minutes alone, and those younger than 40 spend about three and a half hours a day alone, on average. Moreover, 14% of older Americans report spending all their daily measured time alone, compared with 8% of people younger than 60.

While time spent alone is not necessarily associated with adverse effects, it can be used as a measure of social isolation, which in turn is linked with negative health outcomes among older adults. Medical experts suspect that lifestyle factors may explain some of this association – for instance, someone who is socially isolated may have less cognitive stimulation and more difficulty staying active or taking their medications. In some cases, social isolation may mean there is no one on hand to help in case of a medical emergency.

People ages 60 and older currently account for 22% of the U.S. population – 73 million in all. It’s estimated this share will rise to 26% by 2030, fueled by the aging of the Baby Boom generation. The well-being of older adults has become a topic of much interest both in the United States and in other developed nations, particularly as it relates to social connection.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(CT) Evangelicals Can Help at the Border. They Just Can’t Do It Alone.

Leaders like San Antonio pastor Max Lucado have urged Christians to pray and act. “This is a mess. A humanitarian, heartbreaking mess. As we are wondering what can be done, let’s do what we are called to do,” he wrote in a lament for CT. “Let’s pray. Let’s lament. Let’s groan.” (You can read a collection of six Christian leaders’ prayers for the border here.)

Grief over the conditions at the border has compelled many evangelical Christians to act, but they prefer to work directly with evangelical mercy ministries.

However, in these moments when the law stands between Christians and acts of mercy—like not being able to drop off donations at a detention center—they can be uncomfortable with idea of supporting government aid or state humanitarian efforts, said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission.

“Even for Christians who tend to be leery of government intervention,” Freeman said, to get the diapers and wipes to the children in custody, “the reality is that Congress has to take that up and do it.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(ESPN) Megan Rapinoe’s brother Brian–her greatest heartbreak, and hope

“I want to make a difference,” he says. “I want to be like Megan.”

He had “a really fricking deep conversation” with her about two months ago. They talked about racial profiling; they talked about police brutality; they talked about what Megan’s kneeling meant to both of them. Megan saw that in spite of their very different paths, they’d arrived at similar conclusions.

“My brother is special,” Megan says. “He has so much to offer. It would be such a shame if he left this world with nothing but prison sentences behind him. To be able to have him out, and to play for him, and to have him healthy, with this different perspective that he has now: This is like the best thing ever.”

While Megan is in France, she and Brian text daily — with game thoughts, encouragement and shared excitement.

“This is one of the most exciting things I can even remember … just everything really, you, the school, the program,” Brian texts.

She replies: “People always ask me what got me into soccer … your wild ass of course.”

“Luckily I played a cool sport. What if I’d been into arm-wrestling or something.”

“Oh lawd, yea you really set me up.”

“Get some sleep — love you.”

“Lovee you Bri! Let’s f—ing go!”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Prison/Prison Ministry, Sports

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:

  • Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
  • Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
  • Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
    organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(LA Times) Suicide rates for U.S. teens and young adults are the highest on record

The CDC has noted that in 2017, suicide rates in the country’s most rural counties were 80% higher than they were in large metropolitan counties. While the evolving epidemic of opioid addiction and death has begun to infect the nation’s cities, it first took root in rural, largely white populations.

Across the country, rising rates of suicide, fatal drug overdoses and deaths due to alcohol abuse have collectively driven up the average American’s probability of dying at any age. In recent years, these so-called “deaths of despair” have also reduced the average life expectancy of Americans.

Suicide is now thought to be the second leading cause of death for Americans between 10 and 34.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration at all to say that we have a mental health crisis among adolescents in the U.S.,” said San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, whose research focuses on generational differences in emotional well-being.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Teens / Youth, Theology, Young Adults

(GC) Should Pastors Admit They Struggle with Depression?

It’s good when pastors wisely open up. But opening up about mental health? It’s one thing to talk openly about spiritual battles and temptations (though not in too much detail, except to a few close friends); it’s another matter entirely to admit to depression. Right?

But when circumstances and personal confidence allow, it can be of great benefit to a congregation when a pastor is open about this issue—for several reasons.

First, openness serves the health of the fellowship. When I first preached about depression at All Souls, the response was largely positive. A few found it difficult to cope with a minister having his own problems—they needed him to deal with theirs! But that was only a handful. Most significant for me was the number who felt they could now admit their own challenges for the first time. It gave them permission: “Well if he can say it publicly, perhaps I can too.” The fellowship of the church ought to be the place of safety par excellence for those who know they are weak, fallible, and broken.

Second, openness is crucial for witnessing to a cynical world. This obviously requires elaboration, but many today are exasperated by spin and bravado, which they can sniff a mile off. Prevailing suspicions about religious institutions will only be confirmed by leaders who appear to live in denial of their humanness and brokenness. This isn’t simply the pursuit of that political holy grail, “authenticity.” It’s a matter of realism about life’s complexities and questions. Pastors who work through, not despite, brokenness have far greater traction today than the slick schtick of TV presenters.

There is no one right answer, but I would encourage pastors with depression to consider sharing their struggles with their congregations. Your honesty could bear beautiful fruit.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(NYT Op-ed) Kenneth L. Davis and Mary Jeanne Kreek–Marijuana Damages Young Brains

Recent efforts to legalize marijuana in New York and New Jersey have been stalled — but not killed — by disputes over how exactly to divvy up the revenues from marijuana sales and by worries about drugged driving. Those are both important issues. But another concern should be at the center of this debate: the medical implications of legalizing marijuana, particularly for young people.

It’s tempting to think marijuana is a harmless substance that poses no threat to teens and young adults. The medical facts, however, reveal a different reality.

Numerous studies show that marijuana can have a deleterious impact on cognitive development in adolescents, impairing executive function, processing speed, memory, attention span and concentration. The damage is measurable with an I.Q. test. Researchers who tracked subjects from childhood through age 38found a consequential I.Q. decline over the 25-year period among adolescents who consistently used marijuana every week. In addition, studies have shown that substantial adolescent exposure to marijuana may be a predictor of opioid use disorders.

The reason the adolescent brain is so vulnerable to the effect of drugs is that the brain — especially the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision making, judgment and impulsivity — is still developing in adolescents and young adults until age 25.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–Suicides are at an all time high. We need hope more than ever

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that is the closest thing we have to the quantification of despair. Between 1999 and 2017, suicide rates in the United States rose to their highest level since World War II. The increase can be found among women and men, and in every racial and ethnic group. But the spike among people between the ages of 15 and 34 is particularly disturbing. Hopelessness among the young seems a more direct assault on hope itself.

Researchers posit that the opioid epidemic may be partly to blame. Just as a family can be decimated by an overdose, a sense of general despair may take root in communities where overdose deaths are common and visible.

Another proposed explanation is social media, which may expose younger people to bullying while constricting meaningful human interactions — increasing the need for emotional support while narrowing the sources of emotional support. Even worse, emotionally fragile people can find perverse forms of online community that echo and encourage their despair….

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Christian Today) Jeremy Sharpe: Britain’s loneliness crisis–a Christian response

In response to some of these developments, a group of nine national Christian charities and one charity representing other faith groups has, for the past three years, been meeting as a coalition by the name of ‘Christians Together Against Loneliness’.

During this time, they have produced a resource called ‘Make A Meal of It’ which provides ideas and tips for churches who are running community lunches aimed at socially isolated older people.

Collectively, they have also engaged with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to raise awareness of the key role of churches and faith groups in addressing loneliness.

This also led to a recent opportunity to meet with the ‘Minister for Loneliness’, Mims Davies MP, to explore opportunities for engagement with faith groups.

The Bible teaches us that we are all to care for those on the margins of society and, by definition, many people struggling with loneliness are often unseen.

This provides a challenge in identifying those most at risk, but also provides an opportunity for us all to be alert and aware of those for whom this could be a part of their day to day lives.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(CC) Craig Barnes–Everyone in ministry gets their feelings hurt

After that he took a stab at the administration for not being very responsive to his problem. I indicated that I was at least the third administrator who had seen him in two days. Finally, he slumped his shoulders and said, “This really hurts my feelings.”

That was his final appeal for me to allow him to graduate. It would hurt his feelings if we upheld the requirements for his degree.

The vast majority of our students would never come to me with such an appeal. They are very conscientious about fulfilling the expectations of their rigorous academic programs. But this was a rare student who wasn’t paying attention. The subtext of his appeal was that I should now do anything I could to avoid hurting his feelings, as if this were one of the standards of leadership.

I was a parish pastor for a long time before I became a seminary president, and through most of those days I was wading through hurt feelings, including my own. So I responded to the student by saying, “You do realize that your feelings are going to get hurt all of the time when you become a pastor, don’t you?” He just picked up his backpack and walked out of my office….

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Seminary / Theological Education