Category : Psychology

(1st Things) John Waters–Choosing to refuse

Sometimes, digesting the latest news of the unhinging of the world, one is tempted to fall into despair. I experienced this feeling acutely recently, reading a report of a conservative commentator who had been questioned by the FBI because he posted a one-liner on Twitter mocking the Human Rights Campaign for seeking to persuade businesses to put rainbows in some visible place about their premises, presumably as an indicator of acquiescence in the LGBT agenda.

“That’s a nice business. Too bad if something happened to it,” tweeted Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights. It was an obvious riff on Mafia-style protection methodologies, but you can count on social-justice-warrior types not to get jokes. Ruse was reported by the Human Rights Campaign and as a consequence received a visit and later a phone call from an FBI officer. Luckily, the officer knew a joke from a shakedown and that was the end of it.

Ruse subsequently observed that the HRC has made a habit of attacking Christians who defend traditional sexual morality. He elaborated:

It works like this: A local restaurant is owned by a faithful Catholic who objects to the gay agenda. … Gays notice he doesn’t have the gay rainbow affixed to his window. “Why don’t you have the rainbow on your window?,” they ask. “Are you homophobic? Do you really want the local community to know about you?” You can see it spooling out from there. He is targeted by the local bully boys who proceed to make his life miserable, perhaps harming and even shuttering his business.

This kind of thing is escalating at a rate that begins to be very ominous indeed. Not only do these people brook no dissent from their agendas, but they do not rest until anyone who questions them is badly burnt toast. And officialdom everywhere plays along and treats them like jolly pranksters….

Ruse’s experience brought to mind Vaclav Havel’s story, in his essay “The Power of the Powerless,” about the greengrocer who put the sign in the window with the slogan, “Workers of the World Unite.” Havel draws us into the mindset of the greengrocer, who places the sign essentially as a gesture of obedience. The sign might as easily read, “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient”—but this would cause the greengrocer to lose face. The “Workers of the World” sign serves both the needs of the greengrocer and the needs of the regime. So it is with rainbow stickers. The sign or sticker thus becomes another kind of sign: of the operation within a culture of an ideology. This is its true function.

Read it all and make sure to read the full article in Stream from which he is quoting.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, The U.S. Government

(Commentary) Christine Rosen–The Suicide Epidemic

The recent suicides of fashion entrepreneur Kate Spade and chef-turned-TV-star Anthony Bourdain have sparked a culture-wide discussion, as often happens when a celebrity dies in a horrible fashion. But unlike previous celebrity suicides, the anxieties prompted by these deaths took on a different coloration when it became clear in their wake that their deaths are part of a larger and disturbing public-health crisis we’ve failed to acknowledge. 

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing twice as many people (45,000) as homicide does each year. In more than 25 states across the country, the suicide rate has increased by more than 30 percent since 1999.  

Most of the deaths are people (like Spade and Bourdain) at an age once considered the prime of  life, which suggests a kind of epic, deadly new form of the midlife crisis: The largest number of suicides are happening among white men and white women between the ages of 45 and 65 (although rates are rising steadily for nearly all racial and ethnic groups). The news is grimmest for men, who account for three-quarters of all suicides. The CDC’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, told Business Insider that the new data are “disturbing.”

Disturbing and confusing. Suicide has often increased during times of economic hardship; in 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, for example, the rate was 22 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the New York Times. But in the U.S. today, during an economic recovery under way for nearly a decade, the rate is 15.4 per 100,000. And the number of deaths has stubbornly increased despite much better screening and mental-health diagnosis. As the CDC researchers who worked on the recent report noted, “More than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.” Rather, the researchers listed substance abuse, job loss, relationship problems, and financial woes as some of the many factors potentially implicated in rising suicide rates.

How did suicide, a disease of despair, a last resort, become a solution to the challenges of everyday life for so many people?

Read it all.

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

(NPR) More Screen Time For Teens Linked To ADHD Symptoms

Most teens today own a smartphone and go online every day, and about a quarter of them use the internet “almost constantly,” according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center.

Now a study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that such frequent use of digital media by adolescents might increase their odds of developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“It’s one of the first studies to look at modern digital media and ADHD risk,” says psychologist Adam Leventhal, an associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California and an author of the study.

When considered with previous research showing that greater social media use is associated with depression in teens, the new study suggests that “excessive digital media use doesn’t seem to be great for [their] mental health,” he adds.

Read it all.

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

(NR) Americans Quit Church but Still Search for Meaning, Now as Loners

People may be looking to nontraditional beliefs in their search for meaning, but there are reasons to doubt that those are effective substitutes for religion. Religion may be a uniquely powerful meaning resource because, in addition to providing a needed space for spiritual engagement, it binds individuals to a meaning-sustaining social fabric. Many alternatives to traditional religion are products of an increasingly individualistic culture, more focused on personal interests and less on social duties. However, the more a belief system promotes interdependence, the more likely it is to enhance meaning. Research shows that belongingness increases a sense of meaning, whereas loneliness and social alienation undermine it. Similarly, the people who are least vulnerable to existential anxiety perceive themselves not just as distinct individuals but as part of broader social and cultural groups. Religion is best able to serve an existential function when it cultivates strong family, friendship, and community bonds. This isn’t to say that religion doesn’t have its own problems. After all, humans are involved. When people form groups, whether secular or religious, they become susceptible to in-group biases that can contribute to social conflict.

It is no small matter that, in their search for meaning, people are turning to beliefs that may not reliably generate and maintain meaning. Viewing life as full of meaning is associated with a wide range of positive health outcomes, including longevity. People who believe they have an important purpose in life tend to be motivated to take care of their physical, mental, and social health and are better able to manage the many challenges and stressors of life. Moreover, feeling that life is meaningless is a risk factor for depression, anxiety, problem drinking, drug abuse, and suicide — which are all on the rise in America.

It isn’t enough to make life longer, easier, or even more pleasurable. People need to feel that they matter, that they are meaningful members of a meaningful social world. Not all beliefs in the supernatural or paranormal help to fulfill this need equally. Our society is becoming not more truly secular but more individualistic and, as a result, more likely to suffer from an epidemic of meaninglessness.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(AJ) Anglican Church of Canada hires two new suicide prevention workers

The Anglican Church of Canada has hired two new suicide prevention workers as part of its Indigenous ministry.

Jeffery Stanley, a master of divinity student at the Vancouver School of Theology, began work June 25; Yolanda Bird, a former member of Council of General Synod (CoGS) with extensive experience working with children and youth, began July 3.

Each will be responsible for helping deliver existing suicide prevention programs in the dioceses in their areas, as well as helping develop new ones, said Indigenous ministries co-ordinator Canon Ginny Doctor. Their work will also include developing teams of volunteers in dioceses where the need for suicide prevention is especially high, she said.

“We’re looking forward to working with them and developing a strategy that will hopefully alleviate suicides in our communities,” Doctor said. “It’s a start. It’s not going to end everything really quick, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”

Stanley, who will be based in Gingolx, a Nisga’a community on the Pacific coast of British Columbia northeast of Prince Rupert, will cover British Columbia, Yukon and Western Arctic; Bird will be based in Montreal Lake First Nation, about 100 km north of Prince Albert, Sask., and will cover Alberta and Saskatchewan, and, if necessary, also Manitoba and northern Ontario.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Psychology, Suicide

(WSJ) Kids Today Are Actually More Patient Than Kids 50 Years Ago

Kids today. The phrase is usually followed by eye-rolling and words like self-absorbed, impatient and entitled. But the idea that today’s children need immediate gratification turns out to be wrong. In fact, research published last month in the journal Developmental Psychology shows that they are much more patient than kids were 50 years ago.

Yes, you read that correctly. Twenty-first century children are able to wait longer for a reward than children of the same age a generation ago, and a generation before that. The new study shows that today’s preschoolers are better at what psychologists call self-regulation, which is the conscious control of one’s immediate desires—the ability to hold off and wait until the time is right.

Stephanie Carlson, the lead author of the paper and a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, knows that her findings will come as a surprise: “The implicit assumption is that there’s no way that kids can delay. They’re used to being gratified immediately and don’t know what it’s like to be bored anymore.”

But faithful re-enactments of the famous “marshmallow experiment” have upended that notion.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Q&A: Marriage App Founder Says Couples Benefit from Digital Therapy

What have you learned from this data?

There are competing things in our lives, whether it’s media or advertising you see—mobile phones distract couples way more than we actually thought—work or kids, so it’s easy to stop prioritizing your marriage. And it’s easy to stop prioritizing appreciation of your partner. Even though it’s easy to say thank you, it’s just so easy not to. It gets even easier to not do all these things when you become a parent. There’s a precipitous drop in marital satisfaction in the first three years of a new child, so we need to be really careful and sensitive and helpful toward parents.

What kind of personal feedback are you getting from users?

What we’ve been hearing in general is that some of these concepts from the app have really transformed all of their interactions. Let me explain our two most important ones: emotional call and the inner world principle.

The foundation of your marriage is your emotional connection. But what’s your emotional connection made of? It’s constructed by thousands of tiny moments where you partner turns to you and tries to connect with you. Those moments can look wildly different. It could be “Hey, honey, how was your day?” or “Hey, look at this new shirt I got.” But it can also be much more complex, like a deep sigh after a really long day at work. You don’t say your partner’s name, but you’re subtly reaching out. We call these moments “emotional calls.”

Read it all.

Posted in Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Atlantic) When Children Say They’re Trans Hormones? Surgery? The choices are fraught—and there are no easy answers

Claire humored her parents, even as her frustration with them mounted. Eventually, though, something shifted. In a journal entry Claire wrote last November, she traced her realization that she wasn’t a boy to one key moment. Looking in the mirror at a time when she was trying to present in a very male way—at “my baggy, uncomfortable clothes; my damaged, short hair; and my depressed-looking face”—she found that “it didn’t make me feel any better. I was still miserable, and I still hated myself.” From there, her distress gradually began to lift. “It was kind of sudden when I thought: You know, maybe this isn’t the right answer—maybe it’s something else,” Claire told me. “But it took a while to actually set in that yes, I was definitely a girl.”

Claire believes that her feeling that she was a boy stemmed from rigid views of gender roles that she had internalized. “I think I really had it set in stone what a guy was supposed to be like and what a girl was supposed to be like. I thought that if you didn’t follow the stereotypes of a girl, you were a guy, and if you didn’t follow the stereotypes of a guy, you were a girl.” She hadn’t seen herself in the other girls in her middle-school class, who were breaking into cliques and growing more gossipy. As she got a bit older, she found girls who shared her interests, and started to feel at home in her body.

Heather thinks that if she and Mike had heeded the information they found online, Claire would have started a physical transition and regretted it later. These days, Claire is a generally happy teenager whose mental-health issues have improved markedly. She still admires people, like Miles McKenna, who benefited from transitioning. But she’s come to realize that’s just not who she happens to be.

Read it all.

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

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

(NYT Op-ed) Clay Routledge–Suicides Have Increased. Is This an Existential Crisis?

As a behavioral scientist who studies basic psychological needs, including the need for meaning, I am convinced that our nation’s suicide crisis is in part a crisis of meaninglessness. Fully addressing it will require an understanding of how recent changes in American society — changes in the direction of greater detachment and a weaker sense of belonging — are increasing the risk of existential despair….

Critically, studies indicate that it isn’t enough to simply be around or even liked by other people. We need to feel valued by them, to feel we are making important contributions to a world that matters. This helps explain why people can feel lonely and meaningless even if they are regularly surrounded by others who treat them well: Merely pleasant or enjoyable social encounters aren’t enough to stave off despair.

All of which brings us to the changing social landscape of America. To bemoan the decline of neighborliness, the shrinking of the family and the diminishing role of religion may sound like the complaining of a crotchety old man. Yet from the standpoint of psychological science, these changes, regardless of what you otherwise think about them, pose serious threats to a life of meaning.

Consider that Americans today, compared with those of past generations, are less likely to know and interact with their neighbors, to believe that people are generally trustworthy and to feel that they have individuals they can confide in. This is a worrisome development from an existential perspective: Studies have shown that the more people feel a strong sense of belongingness, the more they perceive life as meaningful. Other studies have shown that lonely people view life as less meaningful than those who feel strongly connected to others.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Fourth Great Awakening

The competitive virtues of Athens are usually narrated in myth while the compassionate virtues of Jerusalem often get narrated in parable.

Myth is a specific kind of story. Myths are generally set in a timeless Perilous Realm. The Perilous Realm usually has different rules than the normal world. Creatures have different superpowers, like the ability to fly or throw shafts of lightning. And those rules are taken very seriously. Within the Perilous Realm everything that happens in myth is “true,” in the sense that everything obeys the rules of that other world.

Myths respond to our hunger to do something heroic. Whether it is Zeus, Thor, Luke Skywalker or Wonder Woman, myths trace the archetypal chapters of the heroic quest or combat: refusing the call, the meeting of the mentor, the ordeal, seizing the sword and so on.

The core drama is external: fighting the forces of evil, enduring the harsh journey, developing the skills that make you the best.

Parable is a different kind of story. Parables are usually set in normal time and reality. Parables have ordinary human characters, never superheroes. The word parable comes from the Greek word meaning comparison. Parables are meant to be relatable and didactic.

Parables respond to our deep hunger to be in close relationship. Parables — think of the good Samaritan, the emperor’s new clothes, the prodigal son or the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz — are mostly about inner states, not external combat. Characters are presented with a moral dilemma or a moral occasion, and the key question is whether they express charity, faithfulness, forgiveness, commitment and love.

Read it all.

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

(LA Times) Church attendance linked with reduced suicide risk, especially for R Catholics, study says

Against a grim backdrop of rising suicide rates among American women, new research has revealed a blinding shaft of light: One group of women — practicing Catholics — appears to have bucked the national trend toward despair and self-harm.

Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry.

It’s not clear how widely the findings can be applied to a diverse population of American women. In a study population made up of nurses and dominated by women who identified themselves as either Catholic or Protestant, the suicide rate observed was about half that for U.S. women as a whole. Of 89,708 participants aged 30 to 55, 36 committed suicide at some point over 15 years.

Read it all from 2016.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(NY Post) Salina Zito–How suicide became my ‘family secret’ — and shaped who I am

Three generations later, my great-grandfather’s suicide is still impacting my life.

I distinctly remember the moment my mother told me about the family secret. I was a teenager, and she let me know with the firmness and compassion only a mother possesses that the choice her grandfather made was one nobody should ever face.

Not only did it rob him of his life, it delivered countless blows to his immediate family. His children lost their father, they lost their home, my great-grandmother was forced to become a boarder who worked three backbreaking jobs to make ends meet, but it wasn’t enough.

Eventually, my 12-year-old grandfather was forced to quit school to help support the family.

Despite never meeting him and despite my grandfather never speaking of it, three generations later Clifford’s decision shaped who I became. Not because it was something I ever considered doing, but because I felt the importance of looking for signs of hopelessness and despair in the people I knew.

Read it all.

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

(USA Today) Kirsten Powers–Americans are depressed and suicidal because something is wrong with our culture

In September of 2004, I received the call that every person dreads: My father had dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 61. It came at a time when I was already grappling with other issues, including watching my mother fight breast cancer for the preceding six months, a breakup with a boyfriend and a lack of structure in my life as I was freelancing as a consultant while I tried to determine what I wanted to do next with my career.

I was in an emotional free fall, so I visited a psychiatrist. He said the antidepressant my general practitioner prescribed to help with my life-long struggle with anxiety wasn’t what I needed, so he prescribed a new one. This seemed to only make things worse. Within a few days, I found myself thinking the unthinkable: I want to die.

I couldn’t imagine a life without my father and our hours-long conversations about, well, everything. The pain was debilitating, getting out of bed was an Olympian event, and life was utterly devoid of meaning. I stopped eating and shed 15 pounds in a month. I couldn’t see any reason to be alive.

Read it all.

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

A NY Times Article on this week’s CDC Report–Defying Prevention Efforts, Suicide Rates Are Climbing Across the Nation

The analysis found that slightly more than half of people who had committed suicide did not have any known mental health condition. But other problems — such as the loss of a relationship, financial setbacks, substance abuse and eviction — were common precursors, both among those who had a mental health diagnosis and those who did not.

Other studies have found much higher rates of mental health disorders among people at high risk of suicide, experts noted.

The reason most suicide decedents don’t have a known mental disorder is that they were never diagnosed, not that they didn’t have one,” said Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.

Access to guns can make it more likely that an impulsive or intoxicated person will attempt suicide even if he or she has no clear mental health problem, Dr. Brent added.

“We have worked really hard to explain to the public that suicide is not simply a matter of too much stress, but that it involves the identification and treatment of mental disorders as one important component,” he said.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

(NPR Shots blog) CDC: U.S. Suicide Rates Have Climbed Dramatically

Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the last two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent.

Suicide is a major public health issue, accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016 alone. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta decided to take a comprehensive look at suicides from 1999 to 2016.

“Suicide in this country really is a problem that is impacted by so many factors. It’s not just a mental health concern,” says Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC and the lead author of the new study. “There are many different circumstances and factors that contribute to suicide. And so that’s one of the things that this study really shows us. It points to the need for a comprehensive approach to prevention.”

She and her colleagues collected data on suicide deaths from all states. In addition, to better understand the circumstances surrounding suicide, they turned to more detailed information collected by 27 states on suicides that occurred in 2015.

Read it all.

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