Category : Psychology

(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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.”

Read it all.

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

Yesterday’s NYT front page–‘I Can’t Turn My Brain Off’: PTSD and Burnout Threaten medical Workers

Screw all of you now I see exactly why the only thing left to do is suicide. — a Facebook post by a St. Louis paramedic in April

After Kurt Becker, a paramedic firefighter in St. Louis County, saw that post, which included a profanity-laced screed of frustration and despair over the job, he sent a copy to the man’s therapist with a note saying, “You need to check this out.”

“I’m reading this, and I’m ticking off each comment with, ‘stress marker,’ ‘stress marker,’ ‘stress marker,’ ” said Mr. Becker, who manages a 300-person union district. (The writer is in treatment and gave permission for the post to be quoted.)

The paramedics are part of a “warrior culture,” Mr. Becker said, which sees itself as a tough, invulnerable caste. Asking for help, admitting fear, is not part of their self-image.

Mr. Becker, 48, is himself the grandson of a bomber pilot and son of a Vietnam veteran. But his local has been hit by a dozen suicides since 2004, and he has become an advocate for the mental health of its members. To maintain his equilibrium, he works out and sees a therapist.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(NPR) With School Buildings Closed, Children’s Mental Health Is Suffering

[Dimitri ] Christakis says the serious effects of this crisis on children like Phoebe have been overlooked.

“The decision to close schools initially, and now to potentially keep them closed, isn’t, I think, taking the full measure of the impact this is going to have on children,” he told NPR. “Not just the short term, but the long term.”

The problem, Christakis says, isn’t just learning loss, which is expected to fall particularly hard on low-income children with unequal access to distance learning. Recent research from a large testing association on the “COVID-19 slide” suggests children may return in the fall having made almost a third less progress in reading, and half as much progress in math, compared with what they would have in a typical school year.

Mental health and social-emotional development, Christakis argues, have been less discussed: “The social-emotional needs of children to connect with other children in real time and space, whether it’s for physical activity, unstructured play or structured play, this is immensely important for young children in particular.” A new study in JAMA Pediatrics, he says, documents elevated depression and anxiety among children under lockdown in China.

A third major risk, says Christakis, is child abuse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Education, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology

(CJ) The Therapeutic Campus–Why are college students seeking mental-health services in record numbers?

“I don’t know anyone [at Yale] who hasn’t had therapy. It’s a big culture on campus,” says a rosy-cheeked undergraduate in a pink sweatshirt. She is nestled in a couch in the subsidized coffee shop adjacent to Yale’s Good Life Center, where students can sip sustainably sourced espresso and $3 tea lattes. “Ninety percent of the people I know have at least tried.” For every 20 of her friends, this sophomore estimates, four have bipolar disorder—as does she, she says.

Another young woman scanning her computer at a sunlit table in the café says that all her friends “struggle with mental health here. We talk a lot about therapy approaches to improve our mental health versus how much is out of your control, like hormonal imbalances.” Yale’s dorm counselors readily refer freshmen to treatment, she says, because most have been in treatment themselves. Indeed, they are selected because they have had an “adversity experience” at Yale, she asserts.

Such voices represent what is universally deemed a mental-health crisis on college campuses. More than one in three students report having a mental-health disorder. Student use of therapy nationally rose almost 40 percent from 2009 to 2015, while enrollment increased by only 5 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University. At smaller colleges, 40 percent or more of the student body has gone for treatment; at Yale, over 50 percent of undergraduates seek therapy.

Read it all.

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

(IFS) Rob Henderson–Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Ended the Tinder Era of Relationships?

In December 2019, the height of the Tinder era, women and men were setting up multiple dates on the same day. People were sexually carefree, spinning the digital slot machine in their hands, wondering who they would match with next.

Fast forward to December 2020. People will be more careful about who they date because, now, they have to be more careful.

As I wrote in the recent IFS symposium, new relationships and casual hookups will likely decline during this pandemic because of the difficulty to enter the dating scene as bars, clubs, and restaurants have closed. But even after social distancing practices ease up, many people will continue to be vigilant about their sexual partnerships.

When people feel safe, they are willing to take more risks. But when safety is threatened, such as during a disease outbreak, people become more cautious. Indeed, research led by evolutionary psychologists Mark Schaller and Damian Murray found that in countries where pathogens are more pervasive, people are less extraverted and less open to new experiences. They also more strongly urge one another to adhere to social customs.

Furthermore, experimental evidence by Laith Al-Shawaf at the University of Colorado and his colleagues showed that people who read about a parasitic infection expressed less willingness to sleep with someone they just met compared with a control condition. In the world we lived in until very recently, more people were willing to jump into bed with a stranger. In this widely-read Vanity Fair piece about Tinder, for example, a man tells the author that he slept with “30 to 40 women in the last year.” But a recent study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine discovered that people are reporting a decline in the number of sexual partners, as well as a decline in sexual frequency. Additionally, they found that “most individuals with a history of risky sexual experiences had a rapid reduction in risky sexual behaviors.”

In the future, people may be more vigilant about coming into sexual contact with an unknown person. At least for now, Coronavirus has killed the era of ‘Netflix and chill.’

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Men, Psychology, Women, Young Adults

Tim Harford–Why we fail to prepare for disasters

Part of the problem may simply be that we get our cues from others. In a famous experiment conducted in the late 1960s, the psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley pumped smoke into a room in which their subjects were filling in a questionnaire. When the subject was sitting alone, he or she tended to note the smoke and calmly leave to report it. When subjects were in a group of three, they were much less likely to react: each person remained passive, reassured by the passivity of the others.

As the new coronavirus spread, social cues influenced our behaviour in a similar way. Harrowing reports from China made little impact, even when it became clear that the virus had gone global. We could see the metaphorical smoke pouring out of the ventilation shaft, and yet we could also see our fellow citizens acting as though nothing was wrong: no stockpiling, no self-distancing, no Wuhan-shake greetings. Then, when the social cues finally came, we all changed our behaviour at once. At that moment, not a roll of toilet paper was to be found.

Normalcy bias and the herd instinct are not the only cognitive shortcuts that lead us astray. Another is optimism bias. Psychologists have known for half a century that people tend to be unreasonably optimistic about their chances of being the victim of a crime, a car accident or a disease, but, in 1980, the psychologist Neil Weinstein sharpened the question. Was it a case of optimism in general, a feeling that bad things rarely happened to anyone? Or perhaps it was a more egotistical optimism: a sense that while bad things happen, they don’t happen to me. Weinstein asked more than 250 students to compare themselves to other students. They were asked to ponder pleasant prospects such as a good job or a long life, and vivid risks such as an early heart attack or venereal disease. Overwhelmingly, the students felt that good things were likely to happen to them, while unpleasant fates awaited their peers.

Robert Meyer’s research, set out in The Ostrich Paradox, shows this effect in action as Hurricane Sandy loomed in 2012. He found that coastal residents were well aware of the risks of the storm; they expected even more damage than professional meteorologists did. But they were relaxed, confident that it would be other people who suffered.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Psychology

(Local Paper) South Carolina state mental health centers are predicting a rise in patient calls when pandemic slows

Although state mental health centers in the tri-county area haven’t seen an increase in the number of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant rise is likely just around the corner.

“Where that rise ends, we just don’t know,” said Matthew Dorman, executive director of the S.C. Department of Mental Health’s Berkeley County center.

During any type of crisis, whether it’s an intense hurricane or shooting, South Carolina’s mental health experts have found that the influx of patients doesn’t come until immediate problems have cleared.

After a hurricane, if a home needs repairs, the owner is likely to address that first prior to any mental health concerns. Mental health experts say the same is happening during the pandemic, where residents are immediately facing issues around unemployment and managing child care.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Gallup) Americans tilt optimistic about GDP and stock market going forward

Americans are concerned about the present state of the economy and believe conditions are worsening, but their six-month predictions for specific aspects of the economy are less dire — particularly in terms of the stock market and economic growth.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) Clergy tell of the effects of the ‘unknown enemy’ for people with mental-health problems

People who are used to being in control are among those most affected by the stress of the coronavirus lockdown: they can feel helpless in the face of a problem that they cannot deal with, a psychotherapist and studies have said.

One priest who works as a group analytic psychotherapist, the Revd Dr Anne Holmes, said that the “underlying angst is a very hard thing for people who are normally high-functioning. Adjusting puts a strain on them.” Describing the virus as the “unknown enemy”, she continued: “Because everyone is aware this is a unique situation and unknown to our usual living experiences, people with important positions have tended to downgrade themselves and might not be asking for help for themselves because it is not important in the great range of things.

“Those whose identity is tied up with being the one in charge are at risk of grandiosity and are likely to falter when faced with a situation over which they have no control.”

She compared the current crisis to her experiences as an army wife living in Belfast during the Troubles. “In Ireland, you got used to checking the car and having your handbag searched. You knew what you were dealing with. The difficulty with this is that it could be anywhere, on anything. People even worry about their shopping.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology

(RNS) Yale’s popular happiness class gains an online following among the socially distanced

“It’s a huge opportunity for introspection, spiritual renewal and creativity,” said Arthur Brooks, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School who taught Tabrizi in the happiness and leadership class and has also begun a column in The Atlantic on happiness. “These opportunities don’t come along that often.”

Brooks, a practicing Christian, said happiness shouldn’t necessarily be the highest goal of life.

“We need a full range of emotions and experiences,” he said.

But happiness studies can lead people to seek out meaning and purpose — a goal of working toward something bigger than the self, whether it’s religious — like faith — or secular, working toward the common good.

The irony of happiness studies, Brooks said, is that many people take the class for purely personal reasons but wind up learning that focusing on the self may not be the key to lasting happiness.

“If I live under the illusion I’m the only thing that matters, which is very easy to do,” Brooks said, “I become anxious and unhappy.”

Retraining the brain to think more broadly is the key to the class.

“This stuff is cool,” he said. “It’s serious and it matters.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Education, Psychology, Theology

(LARB) To Stop the Shrug: An Interview with Susannah Cahalan (author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness)

In Nellie Bly’s chapter, you write of her experience: “the first day, she quickly learned what it was like to be discarded by humanity…” and end with: “Other than some money being thrown at the problem, nothing changed after Bly’s exposé […] one of the most sophisticated and moneyed cities in the world, now aware of such cruelty visited upon its citizens, simply shrugged. As we still do.” This is potent. Instead of shrugging, othering, or hastily diagnosing, in what ways would you like to see the psychiatric community shift in the coming years? What’s your hope?

There’s so much to be excited about from the research side, but as we wait for these interventions (and I remain an optimistic), I hope that psychiatry can really take a hard look at what it can offer to those suffering right at this very moment. Good care comes from truly listening and bonding to patients — the whole “laying of hands” that distinguishes mediocre doctors from great ones — using all the senses with the patient and maintaining an open mind, searching for answers outside of the immediately obvious. I think we’ve turned our back on the more artistic side of clinical care because it’s not lucrative and it’s difficult, because it’s much easier to write a script and call it a day, and the system itself does not reward this kind of interaction. So clearly things need to change within our broken medical system in general. But I think that at the very simplest: psychiatrists need the time and space to spend more time with their patients. And we need to figure out a way to force the system to give them that opportunity.

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Posted in Books, Health & Medicine, Mental Illness, Psychology