Category : Psychology

(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

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Seeing What Isn’t There: A Reflection on the Sending out of and Reporting back from the Spies in Canaan (Numbers 13)

His name is Aaron T. Beck and he is the founder of one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy yet devised: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. He discovered it through his work at the depression research clinic he founded in the University of Pennsylvania. He began to detect a pattern among his patients. It had to do with the way they interpreted events. They did so in negative ways that were damaging to their self-respect, and fatalistic. It was as if they had thought themselves into a condition that one of Beck’s most brilliant disciples, Martin Seligman, was later to call “learned helplessness.” Essentially they kept telling themselves, “I am a failure. Nothing I try ever succeeds. I am useless. Things will never change.”

They had these thoughts automatically. They were their default reaction to anything that went wrong in their lives. But Beck found that if they became conscious of these thoughts, saw how unjustified they were, and developed different and more realistic thought patterns, they could, in effect, cure themselves. This also turns out to be a revelatory way of understanding the key episode of our parsha, namely the story of the spies.

Recall what happened. Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land. The men were leaders, princes of their tribes, people of distinction. Yet ten of them came back with a demoralising report. The land, they said, is indeed good. It does flow with milk and honey. But the people are strong. The cities are large and well fortified. Caleb tried to calm the people. “We can do it.” But the ten said that it could not be done. The people are stronger than we are. They are giants. We are grasshoppers.

And so the terrible event happened. The people lost heart. “If only,” they said, “we had died in Egypt. Let us choose a leader and go back.” God became angry. Moses pleaded for mercy. God relented, but insisted that none of that generation, with the sole exceptions of the two dissenting spies, Caleb and Joshua, would live to enter the land. The people would stay in the wilderness for forty years, and there they would die. Their children would eventually inherit what might have been theirs had they only had faith.

Essential to understanding this passage is the fact that the report of the ten spies was utterly unfounded.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Psychology, Theology: Scripture

(Usa Today Op-ed) Daniel Payne–Assisted suicide is not about autonomy. It’s a tragedy that we shouldn’t allow

The skeptic might ask: Why object to legalized suicide, particularly where terminally ill patients are concerned? If people want to take their own lives, why should anyone feel entitled to stand in the way?

The answer is twofold. For one, we should not as a rule grant doctors the prerogative to help kill their patients. The whole history of medicine has been one of improved healing or, in terminal cases, reduced suffering; euthanasia, which devalues life to the point of liquidation, is the precise opposite of good and responsible medical care. To legalize suicide in this way is to weaponize the medical system against the very people to which it should be most attentive.

On a deeper, more substantive level, legalized suicide strikes at the heart of one of the most indispensible ideas in human history: That every human life is precious beyond reckoning and worthy of both honor and protection. Killing someone, even someone who is already dying, directly controverts this principle; you cannot inject people with fatal doses of barbiturates without declaring, however implicitly, that their lives are worth less than an artificial minimum standard.

Those who advocate for legalized suicide see it as a matter of radical autonomy: We should leave it up to each individual to determine the worth of his own life, up to and including an act of suicide. But this is simply an evasive, almost cowardly instance of passing the buck. If you are actively or even passively complicit in an act of euthanasia, you cannot say you do not, in some way, agree with the suicidal person’s assertion that his life is a waste and that he is better off dead.

It is philosophically unavoidable.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(NYT) For ‘Columbiners,’ School Shootings Have a Deadly Allure

The May 18 mass shooting at Santa Fe provides the latest evidence of a phenomenon that researchers have in recent years come to recognize, but are still unable to explain: The mass shootings that are now occurring with disturbing regularity at the nation’s schools are shocking, disturbing, tragic — and seemingly contagious.

Interviews with law enforcement officials, educators, researchers, students and a gunman’s mother, as well as a review of court documents, academic studies and the writings of killers and would-be killers, show that the school-shooting copycat syndrome has grown more pervasive and has steadily escalated in recent years. And much of it can be traced back to the two killers at Columbine, previously ordinary high school students who have achieved dark folk hero status — their followers often known as “Columbiners” — in the corners of the internet where their carefully planned massacre is remembered, studied and in some cases even celebrated.

Investigators say school shootings have become the American equivalent of suicide bombings — not just a tactic, but an ideology. Young men, many of them depressed, alienated or mentally disturbed, are drawn to the Columbine subculture because they see it as a way to lash out at the world and to get the attention of a society that they believe bullies, ignores or misunderstands them.

The seemingly contagious violence has begun branching off Columbine, researchers say, and is now bringing in more recent attacks, many of them building off the details and media fixation with the last.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television, Psychology, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

([London) Times) Google dreams up future of manipulating everyone

Google has imagined a future where it uses enormous quantities of data it collects on individuals to manipulate their behaviour and achieve “desired results” for the whole species.

In a leaked video from the company’s secretive X research division, the narrator cites Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene and depicts Google’s data as a “selfish ledger” which treats users as “transient carriers” or “survival mechanisms” for valuable data.

He says that the ledger could move beyond a passive record to actively influence people’s actions, in line with Google’s “values”. If Google didn’t have enough data on a particular user its algorithms would identify a suitable “smart” product to sell him or her to gather that data.

Google dismissed the video as a “thought experiment” unrelated to any present or future plans. However, analysts said that the dystopian future it painted was plausible. Similar ideas can be found in some of the firm’s patent applications, including one for “detecting and correcting potential errors in user behaviour”.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Aeon) Jocelyn Crowley–Why are so many baby boomers getting divorced?

At first, Kathy, 53 years old, spoke to me calmly, but as the minutes ticked away, her voice started to crack. Her husband had a long-standing problem with alcohol. The couple, married for more than 25 years, had one son, and tried to keep the marriage together by seeing a therapist. But there came a decisive moment when she could no longer keep the relationship going. She told me: I discovered a hotel receipt and went and counselled with our priest at that point. [The hotel receipt] was for the Oriental Fantasy suite at [this hotel] at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday morning and I’m quite certain I wasn’t there at the time.’ At that point, she knew that her marriage was over.

Kathy experienced a mid-life or what is also known as a ‘grey divorce’. A grey divorce is simply a divorce that occurs at or after the age of 50. Even though the divorce rate across all age groups has stabilised, the number of grey divorces in the United States has recently dramatically increased. Currently, about one out of every four divorces is grey.

What has caused this dramatic surge in grey divorces? First has simply been the ageing of the Baby Boomer generation. In 1990, there were only 63.5 million Americans aged 50 and older, but by 2010, there were 99 million in this same age group. By 2050, the US Census Bureau predicts that there will be 158.5 million individuals aged 50 and over. In addition to the growth in absolute numbers of such individuals, life expectancy has mostly continued to tick upwards. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1950, men could be expected to live, on average, 65.6 years, while women could be expected to live 71.1 years, on average. By 2016, these ages had increased to 76.1 and 81.1, respectively. Both of these factors have worked to expose ever-greater numbers of couples to the possibility of a grey divorce.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, History, Marriage & Family, Psychology

(NPR) Hospitals See Growing Numbers Of Kids And Teens At Risk For Suicide

The number of kids who struggle with thoughts of suicide or who attempt to kill themselves is rising. New research, published Wednesday in Pediatrics, finds children ages 5 to 17 visited children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or attempts about twice as often in 2015 as in 2008.

The study found kids of all ages are affected though increases were greatest for older adolescents.

Lead author Gregory Plemmons, a pediatrician and researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., says the study results confirmed what he had been seeing at the hospital.

He says he hopes clinicians and families take note. “The No. 1 thing to take home is that it’s important to talk about this and important to ask about it,” he says.

Read it all.

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

(Globe+Mail) Andre Picard–Should universities inform parents when their children have mental-health issues?

The transition from high school to university or college is one of the most stressful times in a young person’s life.

The late teens, early 20s are also the time in life when severe mental illness often reveals itself and when earlier mental-health issues – eating disorders, anxiety, depression and the like – can be exacerbated.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in this age group, second only to motor-vehicle crashes.

“Every parent should know that this can happen to any family. We’re living proof of this,” says Eric Windeler, founder and executive director of Jack.org, which promotes mental- health advocacy by young people.

Jack Windeler died by suicide in March, 2010, while he was a student at Queen’s University. His parents had no idea he had stopped attending class, withdrawn socially and was depressed.

“Parents are often the last to know,” Mr. Windeler says.

Read it all.

Posted in Psychology, Young Adults

(NYT) Teddy Wane–Are My Friends Really My Friends?

…digital media channels “don’t distinguish between quality of relationships,” he said. “They allow you to maintain relationships that would otherwise decay. Our data shows that if you don’t meet people at the requisite frequencies, you’ll drop down through the layers until eventually you drop out of the 150 and become ‘somebody you once knew.’ What we think is happening is that, if you don’t meet sometime face to face, social media is slowing down the rate of decay.”

The result, then, can be a glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.

“Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the internet,” Dr. Dunbar said. If it’s spent with people who are “remote,” whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, “you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.”

Read it all.

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

(Psephizo) Ian Paul: How should we respond to this transgender moment?

Chapter Seven steps back from the specific issue of transgender, and looks at questions of gender and culture. Anderson does an excellent job of looking at the wider debates about gender, and against them develops a case for seeing (socially constructed) gender as connected with (though not always determined in form by) biological sex.

Gender is socially shaped, but it is not a mere social construct. It originates in biology, but in turn it directs our bodily nature to higher human goods. A sound understanding of gender clarifies the important differences between the sexes, and guides our distinctly male or female qualities toward our well-being (p 149).

This seems to me to be a much more robust and persuasive position, with much wider appeal, than the idea that we are male and female for the theological reasons that the Bible tells us this is the way God made us. We actually know we are male and female because that is what science tells us—and Scripture gives a theological significance to this physical reality.

The final main chapter looks at policy question in the United States, and his conclusion notes that the public are not all persuaded by the claims of transgender activists, so this ‘transgender moment’ might pass—though it will need courage for all sorts of people in public life to make a stand for the truth and the evidence that we have.

If you want a comprehensive, readable, evidence-based case for questioning the assumptions of this transgender moment, then Anderson’s book is for you. I think it must be essential reading for anyone engaging in the sexuality debate, in the Church of England and elsewhere.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Redistribution of Sex

…as offensive or utopian the redistribution of sex might sound, the idea is entirely responsive to the logic of late-modern sexual life, and its pursuit would be entirely characteristic of a recurring pattern in liberal societies.

First, because like other forms of neoliberal deregulation the sexual revolution created new winners and losers, new hierarchies to replace the old ones, privileging the beautiful and rich and socially adept in new ways and relegating others to new forms of loneliness and frustration.

Second, because in this new landscape, and amid other economic and technological transformations, the sexes seem to be struggling generally to relate to one another, with social and political chasms opening between them and not only marriage and family but also sexual activity itself in recent decline.

Third, because the culture’s dominant message about sex is still essentially Hefnerian, despite certain revisions attempted by feminists since the heyday of the Playboy philosophy — a message that frequency and variety in sexual experience is as close to a summum bonum as the human condition has to offer, that the greatest possible diversity in sexual desires and tastes and identities should be not only accepted but cultivated, and that virginity and celibacy are at best strange and at worst pitiable states. And this master narrative, inevitably, makes both the new inequalities and the decline of actual relationships that much more difficult to bear …

… which in turn encourages people, as ever under modernity, to place their hope for escape from the costs of one revolution in a further one yet to come, be it political, social or technological, which will supply if not the promised utopia at least some form of redress for the many people that progress has obviously left behind.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology