Category : Psychology

(PD) Adam Seagrave–The 50/50 Problem: How the Internet Is Distorting Our Reality

Many causes combined to produce the US Capitol insurrection on January 6. In the immediate aftermath, most of the blame has been assigned to Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. Those inclined to look deeper connect the spark of Trump’s words to the tinder of extreme polarization that accompanied his presidency. Subgroups of Americans increasingly live in entirely different worlds from one another.

This is more than a metaphor. We—in the United States and throughout the world—have actually and quite literally lost the ability to interact and coexist in the common world we once shared.

I’m not just talking about conflicting worldviews, radically differing perspectives, disparate education, or political party polarization. I am talking about a specific, simple, everyday problem that has led to and reinforced all of these broader social and political causes. This is a problem so pervasive, so ubiquitous, so powerful, and so subtle that most of my readers probably have no idea what I’m about to say.

I’m referring to what I call the 50/50 problem: more than 50 percent of Americans spend more than 50 percent of their waking hours living in virtual, artificial worlds rather than the given, created one in which their bodies exist. The 50 percent threshold represents a tipping point that renders dialogue, deliberation, civic friendship, and compromise extraordinarily difficult in any society.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Wired) The Secret Auction That Set Off the Race for AI Supremacy

Two months earlier, Hinton and his students had changed the way machines saw the world. They built what was called a neural network, a mathematical system modeled on the web of neurons in the brain, and it could identify common objects—like flowers, dogs, and cars—with an accuracy that had previously seemed impossible. As Hinton and his students showed, a neural network could learn this very human skill by analyzing vast amounts of data. He called this “deep learning,” and its potential was enormous. It promised to transform not just computer vision but everything from talking digital assistants to driverless cars to drug discovery.

The idea of a neural network dated back to the 1950s, but the early pioneers had never gotten it working as well as they’d hoped. By the new millennium, most researchers had given up on the idea, convinced it was a technological dead end and bewildered by the 50-​year-​old conceit that these mathematical systems somehow mimicked the human brain. When submitting research papers to academic journals, those who still explored the technology would often disguise it as something else, replacing the words “neural network” with language less likely to offend their fellow scientists.

Hinton remained one of the few who believed it would one day fulfill its promise, delivering machines that could not only recognize objects but identify spoken words, understand natural language, carry on a conversation, and maybe even solve problems humans couldn’t solve on their own, providing new and more incisive ways of exploring the mysteries of biology, medicine, geology, and other sciences. It was an eccentric stance even inside his own university, which spent years denying his standing request to hire another professor who could work alongside him in this long and winding struggle to build machines that learned on their own. “One crazy person working on this was enough,” he imagined their thinking went. But with a nine-​page paper that Hinton and his students unveiled in the fall of 2012, detailing their breakthrough, they announced to the world that neural networks were indeed as powerful as Hinton had long claimed they would be.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(University of Cambridge) Is Social Media Changing Your Life?

“Social media is inherently complex, but trying to set guidelines for ‘consumption’ the same way we do for alcohol or food – as policy makers have tried and failed to do – is a massive oversimplification,” says Orben.

Everybody uses social media differently, and it affects our lives in such a diversity of ways, that setting a recommended daily screen time is far from simple.

Orben adds: “You could use it for twenty minutes to keep in touch with family abroad, or twenty minutes to look at self-harm images on Instagram, for example. The relationship with mental health is really complicated.”

She has found that adolescents who use more social media score lower on mental health questionnaires – but it’s not clear whether social media makes them feel worse, or whether they turn to social media more when they feel worse. And of course, social media isn’t the only thing affecting how adolescents feel.

“There are other things like sleep, parenting, and environment that all affect wellbeing. I don’t think we have the evidence yet to say we should invest lots of money into decreasing social media use, and not invest in other things like youth clubs or better mental health care for adolescents,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(The Cut) A Wonderful story on Nasim Alikhani, who opened a New York restaurant at age 59

I was born in Iran, and I went to school to study law to become a judge. Then the revolution happened, and women could no longer be judges. The only option for an outspoken woman like me was to leave my country, and so I came to New York in my early 20s on a student visa. I lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, and I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t study law in the U.S.; I couldn’t afford it. I was starting over completely.

I found a job as a nanny, and the family paid me a little extra to cook their meals. My own mother had taught me to cook when I was growing up, and it was always something I was passionate about, but I never considered it professionally. The family noticed that I could cook really well, and the wife recommended me to her friends, so I started cooking in other people’s homes for parties, people’s birthdays, things like that. People would tell me, “You should open a restaurant.” But I was so young, and still a student in a master’s program. To me, the only way to advance was through higher education, so I got a useless master’s degree and kept doing all kinds of odd jobs — waitressing, babysitting, working in a copy shop.

When I got the opportunity to open my own copy-and-print shop, I was beside myself. It was the first chance I had for financial stability. I had that business for eight years, and it did really well. During that time, I got married, and between my husband and me, our financial situation improved significantly. We were working hard and dining out a lot, and I would always look at the food scene and say, “Why is nobody doing a good job with Iranian food?” I started thinking seriously about opening a coffee shop in the East Village that would serve Persian food for breakfast and lunch. We were also trying to start a family, and it was difficult. I lost pregnancies. And then I got pregnant with twins, so I put the restaurant idea on the back burner.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iran, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Middle Age, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(City Journal) Bari Weiss–The Miseducation of America’s Elites

This Harvard-Westlake parents’ group is one of many organizing quietly around the country to fight what it describes as an ideological movement that has taken over their schools. This story is based on interviews with more than two dozen of these dissenters—teachers, parents, and children—at elite prep schools in two of the bluest states in the country: New York and California.

The parents in the backyard say that for every one of them, there are many more, too afraid to speak up. “I’ve talked to at least five couples who say: I get it. I think the way you do. I just don’t want the controversy right now,” related one mother. They are all eager for their story to be told—but not a single one would let me use their name. They worry about losing their jobs or hurting their children if their opposition to this ideology were known.

“The school can ask you to leave for any reason,” said one mother at Brentwood, another Los Angeles prep school. “Then you’ll be blacklisted from all the private schools and you’ll be known as a racist, which is worse than being called a murderer.”

One private school parent, born in a Communist nation, tells me: “I came to this country escaping the very same fear of retaliation that now my own child feels.” Another joked: “We need to feed our families. Oh, and pay $50,000 a year to have our children get indoctrinated.” A teacher in New York City put it most concisely: “To speak against this is to put all of your moral capital at risk.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology

(ProPublica) The lost Year: What the Pandemic Cost Teenagers

As time has gone on, evidence has grown on one side of the equation: the harm being done to children by restricting their “circulation.” There is the well-documented fall-off in student academic performance at schools that have shifted to virtual learning, which, copious evidence now shows, is exacerbating racial and class divides in achievement. This toll has led a growing number of epidemiologists, pediatricians and other physicians to argue for reopening schools as broadly as possible, amid growing evidence that schools are not major venues for transmission of the virus.

As many of these experts have noted, the cost of restrictions on youth has gone beyond academics. The CDC found that the proportion of visits to the emergency room by adolescents between ages 12 and 17 that were mental-health-related increased 31% during the span of March to October 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. A study in the March 2021 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, of people aged 11 to 21 visiting emergency rooms found “significantly higher” rates of “suicidal ideation” during the first half of 2020 (compared to 2019), as well as higher rates of suicide attempts, though the actual number of suicides remained flat.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sports, Teens / Youth

(KC Star) With gun suicides on the rise, a rare hotline staffed by St. Louis teens saves lives

Firearms are the only means of suicide Makulec talks about because it is the most lethal and the most common. In Missouri, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, behind accidents of all kinds. Ninety-eight Missourians ages 24 and under died from firearm suicides in 2019, the most recent year data was available.

And the problem is getting worse: Missouri’s youth suicide rate is rising faster than all but four other states.

Suicide prevention advocates, mental health professionals and parents who lost children to gun suicide point to solutions: restricting teens’ access to guns and encouraging more informed conversations to end stigma and silence surrounding suicide and mental health, like the work done at KUTO.

“I’d like to think every day is my last day of work,” said Makulec, who serves as KUTO’s executive director. “But while we’ve made an impact, teens are still dying by suicide at an alarming rate in Missouri.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology, Suicide, Violence

([London] Times) Deepfake TikTok videos of Tom Cruise watched by millions

Tom Cruise looks at the camera. “I’m going to show you some magic,” he says holding up a coin. “It’s the real thing”, the Hollywood actor insists, giving his trademark laugh and making the coin disappear. “It’s all the real thing.”

Millions have watched the video on TikTok, with many initially wondering if the 58-year-old Mission: Impossible star had joined the video-sharing platform beloved of teenagers.

Except this is not Cruise but a “deepfake” video, one of several of the actor that have garnered millions of views and shares across social media. They have led experts to warn that deepfake technology is advancing much faster than most people realise.

The three videos first appeared on TikTok and have been created by an account called “deeptomcruise”. They show the Top Gun actor apparently performing a magic trick, playing golf before bending to talk to the camera, and falling over in a fashionable clothes store before telling an anecdote about Mikhail Gorbachev.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT) Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College

The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN picked up the story of a young female student harassed by white workers. The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the student’s case, said she was profiled for “eating while Black.”

Less attention was paid three months later when a law firm hired by Smith College to investigate the episode found no persuasive evidence of bias. Ms. Kanoute was determined to have eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer; the janitor had been encouraged to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The officer, like all campus police, was unarmed.

Smith College officials emphasized “reconciliation and healing” after the incident. In the months to come they announced a raft of anti-bias training for all staff, a revamped and more sensitive campus police force and the creation of dormitories — as demanded by Ms. Kanoute and her A.C.L.U. lawyer — set aside for Black students and other students of color.

But they did not offer any public apology or amends to the workers whose lives were gravely disrupted by the student’s accusation.

This is a tale of how race, class and power collided at the elite 145-year-old liberal arts college, where tuition, room and board top $78,000 a year and where the employees who keep the school running often come from working-class enclaves beyond the school’s elegant wrought iron gates. The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(NLJ) Angela Franks–The Body as Totem in the Asexual Revolution

Legal theorist Helen Alvaré observes that the twentieth century saw a sea change in jurisprudence, whereby “certain forms of sexual expression achieved constitutional status and came to be identified with nothing less than a human being’s ‘identity.’”[1] Tracing this change, beginning with the early contraception cases Griswold v. Connecticut (1968) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Alvaré shows how the Supreme Court gradually came to embrace a constructivist view of personal identity that was inextricably linked to sexual activity. We become who we are, that is, through our sexual choices.

This is especially true for women, the Court held, because of the possibility of motherhood resulting from said sexual choices. If women are unduly burdened by children, which might disincentivize them to engage in sexual relationships, what happens to their identity? This identity-formation-through-sex rationale is especially clear in the notorious 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the Court writes, women have “organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”[2] Without contraception and abortion, what happens to women’s self-definition? This idea is driven home by the purplest of legal prose in the decision’s famous “mystery of human life” passage:

These matters [of reproduction], involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.[3]

“While Casey’s soaring language is certainly subject to varying interpretations,” Alvaré observes, “at the very least it can be said that it firmly linked women’s ability to avoid childrearing following sexual intercourse, with her interest in forming her personal identity.”[4]

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(NYT front page) A Snaking Line to No Vaccine: Florida’s Big Rollout Sputters

Linda Kleindienst Bruns registered for a coronavirus vaccine in late December, on the first day the health department in Tallahassee, Fla., opened for applications for people her age. Despite being 72, with her immune system suppressed by medication that keeps her breast cancer in remission, she spent days waiting to hear back about an appointment.

“It’s so disorganized,” she said. “I was hoping the system would be set up so there would be some sort of logic to it.”

Phyllis Humphreys, 76, waited with her husband last week in a line of cars in Clermont, west of Orlando, that spilled onto Highway 27. They had scrambled into their car and driven 22 miles after receiving an automated text message saying vaccine doses were available. But by 9:43 a.m., the site had reached capacity and the Humphreys went home with no shots.

“We’re talking about vaccinations,” said Ms. Humphreys, a retired critical care nurse. “We are not talking about putting people in Desert Storm.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, State Government

(Barna) 3 Insights to Help Pastors Care for Their Church This Season

Barna data show that pastors across the U.S. feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to caring for their church members during crisis. In a year that has been marked by uncertainty, distance and trauma, pastors are likely facing even greater pressure to support and guide their people—perhaps while their own mental and emotional well-being are also suffering.

As a difficult year comes to a close and a challenging holiday season continues, let’s examine findings from three recent Barna studies that could help pastors as they think through caring for their congregants—and themselves—during crisis.

Most pastors agree that trauma is an issue the Church should address, but many church leaders have had little to no training in the way of trauma care. Data from Barna’s recent report created in partnership with American Bible Society—Trauma in America—show that the majority of Protestant pastors (73%) indicates they feel “somewhat” equipped to help someone in their congregation who may be dealing with significant trauma. Only one in seven (15%) feels “very” well-equipped, while 12 percent do not feel equipped at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sociology

A Forbes article on the tragic downfall and death of highly gifted Zappos leader Tony Hsieh

But while he directly (by the tens of thousands) and indirectly (by the millions) delivered on making other people smile, Hsieh was privately coping with issues of mental health and addiction. Forbes has interviewed more than 20 of his close friends and colleagues over the past few days, each trying to come to grips with how this brightest of lights had met such a dark and sudden end.

Reconciling their accounts, one word rises up: tragedy. According to his friends and family, Hsieh’s personal struggles took a dramatic turn south over the past year, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed the nonstop action that Hsieh seemingly craved. According to numerous sources with direct knowledge, Hsieh, always a heavy drinker, veered into frequent drug use, notably nitrous oxide. Friends also cited mental health battles, as Hsieh often struggled with sleep and feelings of loneliness—traits that drove his fervor for purpose and passion in life. By August, it was announced that he had “retired” from the company he built, and which Amazon had let him run largely autonomously since paying $1.2 billion for Zappos in 2009. Friends and family members, understanding the emerging crisis, attempted interventions over the past few months to try to get him sober.

Instead, these old friends say, Hsieh retreated to Park City, where he surrounded himself with yes-men, paying dearly for the privilege. With a net worth that Forbes recently estimated, conservatively, at $700 million, Hsieh’s offer was simple: He would double the amount of their highest-ever salary. All they had to do was move to Park City with him and “be happy,” according to two sources with personal knowledge of Hsieh’s months in Utah. “In the end, the king had no clothes, and the sycophants wouldn’t say a fucking word,” said a close friend who tried to stage one of the interventions, with the help of Hsieh’s family. “People took that deal from somebody who was obviously sick,” encouraging his drug use, either tacitly or actively.

“He fostered so much human connection and happiness, yet there was this void,” the close friend continued. “It was difficult for him to be alone.”

Ultimately, that may have been a fatal trait. “When you look around and realize that every single person around you is on your payroll, then you are in trouble,” Jewel wrote in that August letter (a representative for Jewel declined to comment). “You are in trouble, Tony.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Psychology

David French–The Crisis of Christian Celebrity

A person who doesn’t trust his own virtue takes affirmative steps to protect himself from a foolish fall. You don’t have to map out a full-blown “Pence rule” or “Modesto Manifesto” to take prudent steps to guard against your own fallen nature. This shouldn’t even be a matter of religious controversy. I’m reminded of these powerful and self-aware words from one of America’s most influential and thoughtful progressive atheists, Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, “Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.” Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.

And if a person gains fame, he cannot—he must not—believe the easy laughs, the shining eyes, or the copious flattery of starstruck fans. There are reciprocal responsibilities here. It would be far better if Americans didn’t treat celebrities (including religious celebrities) like Greek gods. It would be far better if celebrities didn’t start to believe that they belong on Mount Olympus.

Christian celebrities will continue to fall. But they don’t have to fall so often.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Entertainment, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

WSJ front page–Xi’s China ramps up drive to squelch dissent

On a summer day in 2016, a posse of men surrounded Lu Yuyu on a street in China’s southwestern city of Dali. He said they wrestled him into a black sedan and slid a shroud over his head. His girlfriend was pushed into a second car, screaming his name.

Mr. Lu had for years posted a running online tally of protests and demonstrations in China that was closely read by activists and academics around the world, as well as by government censors. That made him a target.

While China’s Communist Party has long punished people seen as threats to its rule, government authorities under Chinese leader Xi Jinping have engaged in the most relentless pursuit of dissenters since the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, according to academics and activists.

“Over the past eight years under Xi, authorities have become hypersensitive to the publicizing of protests, social movements and mass resistance,” said Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

“Lu’s data provided a window into social trends in China,” Mr. Wu said, and that made him a threat to the party. China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based group that promotes worker rights, used Mr. Lu’s posts as the primary source for its “Strike Map,” an interactive online graphic tallying worker unrest.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology

(WSJ) Pop culture suggests humans use only about 10% of their brains but that is a myth

OK, concentrate: How much of your brain are you using right now—or at any moment in time?

If you said 10%, you’ve repeated a popular, but inaccurate, myth.

The origin of the tale is murky but might be rooted in an outdated theory about the structure of the brain that was repeated in a bestselling self-help book more than 80 years ago.

Today, the trope is still trotted out in cartoons, books and movies.

In the 2014 thriller “Lucy,” a scientist repeats the 10% claim while speculating about the promise of accessing a larger portion of the mind. The 2011 film “Limitless,” about a struggling writer, pegs the fraction at a slightly more encouraging 20%. And the 1991 comedy “Defending Your Life,” about a deceased man’s efforts to prove his worth in the afterlife, lowers it to a demoralizing 3% to 5%.

Sorry, Hollywood. Science doesn’t buy it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(RNS) Katelyn Beaty–Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem

Granted, churches can’t control whether church members find a pastor attractive. Physical appearance aside, power, talent and money — all of which can come with a megachurch pastorate — are pretty intoxicating, too. What churches can control, or at least monitor and scan for in hiring decisions, is whether a pastor clearly wants to be found desirable. Professor and author Alan Noble said it well, that he can tell when “ministers desire to be desired. … The way the person carries themself, dresses, speaks, gestures, and posts images signal to me that the(y) desire other people to desire them.”

This desire is at the heart of the hot pastor formula. Megachurches recruit spiritual leaders who are designed to be found desirable by congregants. Their mission becomes bound up in their need to fill their ego, a need to be loved and desired.

Christian humility is about forgetting oneself. “True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself,” writes the Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller, who has planted several successful churches in New York himself. “In fact, I stop thinking about myself.”

It’s hard for anyone standing under the bright lights of a megachurch stage to forget about themselves. Maybe the problem isn’t the hot pastors like Lentz but a toxic megachurch culture that makes narcissism a prerequisite.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(C of E) ‘Covid is having a profound effect’ – a church taking on mental health issues in its community

A church in the North West of England is pioneering mental health support as reports of mental health issues rise during the Covid-19 pandemic.

St Cuthbert’s Church in Croxteth Park, Liverpool, has seen an increasing demand for what it offers to those with mental health problems.

Speaking ahead of World Mental Health Day 2020, he vicar, the Revd Laura Leatherbarrow, said: “There’s a feeling across the board of people who have never suffered with mental health issues before are now getting anxious – or getting back depression or being diagnosed with depression for the first time.

“I’ve certainly seen Covid having a profound effect on all ages – younger as well as older.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Psychology

Tuesday Mental Health Break–Liverpool Coach Jurgen Klopp Writes an 11 yr old a letter which you need to see

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Education, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sports

(3CBSPhilly) Election Stress Disorder Spreading Across US As Therapist Warns Anxiety Worse Than 2016

A new round of election stress disorder is spreading across the U.S., according to experts. They say the tension is even worse this time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stress levels have been sky-high for months now. We’ve been dealing with the coronavirus since March and tensions have escalated the last few weeks before the election.

Marsha Palanci says she’s been feeling election anxiety.

“I was keeping pretty zen about the whole situation, until I watched the debates, and then that went out the window and I have been incredibly stressed,” Palanci said.

“I’m getting a lot of emergency calls of resentment or anger,” therapist Dr. Steven Stosny said.

Read it all.

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

(Phil Inquirer) Excessive social media use linked to depression during pandemic

Excessive social media use during the pandemic is a predictor of symptoms of depression and secondary trauma, suggests a new study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Jinan University in Guangzhou, China.

The study, published last month in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 320 participants living in Wuhan about how they accessed and shared health information with friends, family members, and colleagues over WeChat, China’s most popular social media app. They also used a stress scale to measure anxiety and depression by asking participants to rate statements such as “I felt that life was meaningless” and “I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic.”

Bu Zhong, a journalism professor at Penn State and a coauthor of the study, said that the team began looking into the effects of social media use on people’s mental health right after Wuhan was locked down to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We didn’t expect that this would become a global pandemic,” he said. “We were just thinking that we could reveal some invisible harms caused by the outbreak. In China’s situation, local media was not reporting on COVID-19. If you just read the local newspaper and watched television, you didn’t get information about the virus. This made people extremely stressed, and they began relying overwhelmingly on social media.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT) Nearly One-Third of Covid-19 Patients in Study Had Altered Mental State

Nearly a third of hospitalized Covid-19 patients experienced some type of altered mental function — ranging from confusion to delirium to unresponsiveness — in the largest study to date of neurological symptoms among coronavirus patients in an American hospital system.

And patients with altered mental function had significantly worse medical outcomes, according to the study, published on Monday in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. The study looked at the records of the first 509 coronavirus patients hospitalized, from March 5 to April 6, at 10 hospitals in the Northwestern Medicine health system in the Chicago area.

These patients stayed three times as long in the hospital as patients without altered mental function.

After they were discharged, only 32 percent of the patients with altered mental function were able to handle routine daily activities like cooking and paying bills, said Dr. Igor Koralnik, the senior author of the study and chief of neuro-infectious disease and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine. In contrast, 89 percent of patients without altered mental function were able to manage such activities without assistance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(FT) Suicides rise after Coronavirus puts squeeze on India’s middle class

Even before Covid-19 hit, white-collar workers were under immense pressure as India’s growth stalled. Suicides among professionals have climbed for two consecutive years, averaging 23 a day in 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

“It’s the uncertainty that causes the maximum distress,” said Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a psychiatrist and suicide expert in Chennai, who added that the pandemic had led to significantly more suicides among professionals. “They are burnt out and Zoomed out,” she said. “There is the fear of infection and financial insecurity.”

The pandemic has compounded India’s economic challenges, with millions losing their jobs. The country’s economic output shrank by 24 per cent in the three months to June compared with the same period last year, the steepest fall among the world’s largest economies.

While casual labourers are beginning to pick up more work, middle-class professionals are still struggling.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Health & Medicine, India, Personal Finance, Psychology

(NYT Op-ed) Michael Sandel–Disdain for the Less Educated Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice

At the heart of this project are two ideas: First, in a global, technological age, higher education is the key to upward mobility, material success and social esteem. Second, if everyone has an equal chance to rise, those who land on top deserve the rewards their talents bring.

This way of thinking is so familiar that it seems to define the American dream. But it has come to dominate our politics only in recent decades. And despite its inspiring promise of success based on merit, it has a dark side.

Building a politics around the idea that a college degree is a precondition for dignified work and social esteem has a corrosive effect on democratic life. It devalues the contributions of those without a diploma, fuels prejudice against less-educated members of society, effectively excludes most working people from elective government and provokes political backlash.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Theology

(LA Times) Californians are losing their fear of the coronavirus, setting the stage for disaster

“Public health, when it does its work best, it’s not telling people what to do. It’s telling people how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe so people can make their decisions about how to do that,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

Lockdown fatigue is not a new phenomenon. During the 1918 flu pandemic, San Franciscans threw their masks into the air when they thought the pandemic was over, not realizing a new deadly wave of flu would hit within weeks, said Chin-Hong at UC San Francisco.

“People are afraid that history is going to repeat itself,” he said.

California’s exuberant optimism that the worst of the pandemic was behind us was fueled by the state’s early success. While many people in California might not know someone who died, Chin-Hong said, in New York, it seemingly felt like everyone knew someone who died.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, State Government, Theology

(PRC) Public’s Mood Turns Grim; Trump Trails Biden on Most Personal Traits, Major Issues

With less than five months until the 2020 elections, Americans are deeply unhappy with the state of the nation. As the United States simultaneously struggles with a pandemic, an economic recession and protests about police violence and racial justice, the share of the public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plummeted from 31% in April, during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, to just 12% today.

Anger and fear are widespread. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans say they feel both sentiments when thinking about the country, though these feelings are more prevalent among Democrats. And just 17% of Americans – including 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 10% of Democrats and Democratic leaners – say they feel proud when thinking about the state of the country.

However, nearly half of adults (46%) say they feel hopeful about the state of the country, although a 53% majority says they are not hopeful.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Psychology, Sociology

(Gallup) U.S. National Pride Falls to Record Low

American pride has continued its downward trajectory reaching the lowest point in the two decades of Gallup measurement. The new low comes at a time when the U.S. faces public health and economic crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Although a majority of adults in the U.S. still say they are “extremely proud” (42%) or “very proud” (21%) to be American, both readings are the lowest they have been since Gallup’s initial measurement in 2001.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Psychology, Sociology

(Yorkshire Post) How Church can keep the faith in online era

…as Stephen Cottrell, the incoming Archbishop of York, becomes tasked with looking at the CoE’s vision and strategy for the decade ahead, his starting point should be on how the use of all buildings can be maximised as places of worship and the focal point of the varied communities that they strive to serve.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Mental health: a hospital chaplain’s view

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Revd Jeremy Law, Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Coordinator at the Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH) NHS Foundation Trust, reflects on the impact that the coronavirus emergency has had on the mental health chaplaincy there.

He describes that “the impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental health and wellbeing has been enormous” and expects its effects to “continue for a long time.”

“Staff at GMMH have been caring for people at the end of life with dedication and professionalism” he says and “the effect of loved ones not being allowed to visit service users and accompany the dying has had a profound effect, both on relatives and staff.”

To help hospital staff deal with their emotional and spiritual needs, the chaplaincy team is planning to hold memorial services that staff are welcome to attend, with ongoing support.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Psychology, Theology

(BBC) Coronavirus: Archbishop Justin Welby says austerity would be catastrophic

Mr Welby has spoken openly of his own mental health struggles. He revealed he was suffering from depression last year in a Thought for the Day broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and separately said he was taking anti-depressants.

Speaking this week to the BBC’s religion editor Martin Bashir, he described “an overwhelming sense the world is getting more and more difficult and gloomy”.

Explaining how his own mental health has affected his behaviour, he said: “You turn inwards on yourself a lot. You become, frankly, narcissistic. And when you have good friends or family who spot it, they can say ‘might it not be an idea to talk to someone’. Which I did.”

He added: “There is nothing pathetic about it. It is no more pathetic than being ill in any other way. And we just need to get over that.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Poverty, Psychology, Religion & Culture