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On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Laziness Does Not Exist – Devon Price – Medium
"I’ve been a psychology professor since 2012. In the past six years, I’ve witnessed students of all ages procrastinate on papers, skip presentation days, miss assignments, and let due dates fly by. I’ve seen promising prospective grad students fail to get applications in on time; I’ve watched PhD candidates take months or years revising a single dissertation draft; I once had a student who enrolled in the same class of mine two semesters in a row, and never turned in anything either time.

I don’t think laziness was ever at fault.

Ever.

In fact, I don’t believe that laziness exists.



I’m a social psychologist, so I’m interested primarily in the situational and contextual factors that drive human behavior. When you’re seeking to predict or explain a person’s actions, looking at the social norms, and the person’s context, is usually a pretty safe bet. Situational constraints typically predict behavior far better than personality, intelligence, or other individual-level traits.

So when I see a student failing to complete assignments, missing deadlines, or not delivering results in other aspects of their life, I’m moved to ask: what are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? And, when it comes to behavioral “laziness”, I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?

There are always barriers. Recognizing those barriers— and viewing them as legitimate — is often the first step to breaking “lazy” behavior patterns.



It’s really helpful to respond to a person’s ineffective behavior with curiosity rather than judgment. I learned this from a friend of mine, the writer and activist Kimberly Longhofer (who publishes under Mik Everett). Kim is passionate about the acceptance and accommodation of disabled people and homeless people. Their writing about both subjects is some of the most illuminating, bias-busting work I’ve ever encountered. Part of that is because Kim is brilliant, but it’s also because at various points in their life, Kim has been both disabled and homeless.

Kim is the person who taught me that judging a homeless person for wanting to buy alcohol or cigarettes is utter folly. When you’re homeless, the nights are cold, the world is unfriendly, and everything is painfully uncomfortable. Whether you’re sleeping under a bridge, in a tent, or at a shelter, it’s hard to rest easy. You are likely to have injuries or chronic conditions that bother you persistently, and little access to medical care to deal with it. You probably don’t have much healthy food.

In that chronically uncomfortable, over-stimulating context, needing a drink or some cigarettes makes fucking sense. As Kim explained to me, if you’re laying out in the freezing cold, drinking some alcohol may be the only way to warm up and get to sleep. If you’re under-nourished, a few smokes may be the only thing that kills the hunger pangs. And if you’re dealing with all this while also fighting an addiction, then yes, sometimes you just need to score whatever will make the withdrawal symptoms go away, so you can survive.


[image of cover of "Self-Published Kindling: The Memoirs of a Homeless Bookstore Owner," by Mik Everett with caption "Kim’s incredible book about their experiences being homeless while running a bookstore."]

Few people who haven’t been homeless think this way. They want to moralize the decisions of poor people, perhaps to comfort themselves about the injustices of the world. For many, it’s easier to think homeless people are, in part, responsible for their suffering than it is to acknowledge the situational factors.

And when you don’t fully understand a person’s context — what it feels like to be them every day, all the small annoyances and major traumas that define their life — it’s easy to impose abstract, rigid expectations on a person’s behavior. All homeless people should put down the bottle and get to work. Never mind that most of them have mental health symptoms and physical ailments, and are fighting constantly to be recognized as human. Never mind that they are unable to get a good night’s rest or a nourishing meal for weeks or months on end. Never mind that even in my comfortable, easy life, I can’t go a few days without craving a drink or making an irresponsible purchase. They have to do better.

But they’re already doing the best they can. I’ve known homeless people who worked full-time jobs, and who devoted themselves to the care of other people in their communities. A lot of homeless people have to navigate bureaucracies constantly, interfacing with social workers, case workers, police officers, shelter staff, Medicaid staff, and a slew of charities both well-meaning and condescending. It’s a lot of fucking work to be homeless. And when a homeless or poor person runs out of steam and makes a “bad decision”, there’s a damn good reason for it.

If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple. I’m so grateful to Kim and their writing for making me aware of this fact. No psychology class, at any level, taught me that. But now that it is a lens that I have, I find myself applying it to all kinds of behaviors that are mistaken for signs of moral failure — and I’ve yet to find one that can’t be explained and empathized with.



Let’s look at a sign of academic “laziness” that I believe is anything but: procrastination.

People love to blame procrastinators for their behavior. Putting off work sure looks lazy, to an untrained eye. Even the people who are actively doing the procrastinating can mistake their behavior for laziness. You’re supposed to be doing something, and you’re not doing it — that’s a moral failure right? That means you’re weak-willed, unmotivated, and lazy, doesn’t it?

For decades, psychological research has been able to explain procrastination as a functioning problem, not a consequence of laziness. When a person fails to begin a project that they care about, it’s typically due to either a) anxiety about their attempts not being “good enough” or b) confusion about what the first steps of the task are. Not laziness. In fact, procrastination is more likely when the task is meaningful and the individual cares about doing it well.

When you’re paralyzed with fear of failure, or you don’t even know how to begin a massive, complicated undertaking, it’s damn hard to get shit done. It has nothing to do with desire, motivation, or moral upstandingness. Procastinators can will themselves to work for hours; they can sit in front of a blank word document, doing nothing else, and torture themselves; they can pile on the guilt again and again — none of it makes initiating the task any easier. In fact, their desire to get the damn thing done may worsen their stress and make starting the task harder.

The solution, instead, is to look for what is holding the procrastinator back. If anxiety is the major barrier, the procrastinator actually needs to walk away from the computer/book/word document and engage in a relaxing activity. Being branded “lazy” by other people is likely to lead to the exact opposite behavior.

Often, though, the barrier is that procrastinators have executive functioning challenges — they struggle to divide a large responsibility into a series of discrete, specific, and ordered tasks. Here’s an example of executive functioning in action: I completed my dissertation (from proposal to data collection to final defense) in a little over a year. I was able to write my dissertation pretty easily and quickly because I knew that I had to a) compile research on the topic, b) outline the paper, c) schedule regular writing periods, and d) chip away at the paper, section by section, day by day, according to a schedule I had pre-determined.

Nobody had to teach me to slice up tasks like that. And nobody had to force me to adhere to my schedule. Accomplishing tasks like this is consistent with how my analytical, hyper-focused, Autistic little brain works. Most people don’t have that ease. They need an external structure to keep them writing — regular writing group meetings with friends, for example — and deadlines set by someone else. When faced with a major, massive project, most people want advice for how to divide it into smaller tasks, and a timeline for completion. In order to track progress, most people require organizational tools, such as a to-do list, calendar, datebook, or syllabus.

Needing or benefiting from such things doesn’t make a person lazy. It just means they have needs. The more we embrace that, the more we can help people thrive.



I had a student who was skipping class. Sometimes I’d see her lingering near the building, right before class was about to start, looking tired. Class would start, and she wouldn’t show up. When she was present in class, she was a bit withdrawn; she sat in the back of the room, eyes down, energy low. She contributed during small group work, but never talked during larger class discussions.

A lot of my colleagues would look at this student and think she was lazy, disorganized, or apathetic. I know this because I’ve heard how they talk about under-performing students. There’s often rage and resentment in their words and tone — why won’t this student take my class seriously? Why won’t they make me feel important, interesting, smart?

But my class had a unit on mental health stigma. It’s a passion of mine, because I’m a neuroatypical psychologist. I know how unfair my field is to people like me. The class & I talked about the unfair judgments people levy against those with mental illness; how depression is interpreted as laziness, how mood swings are framed as manipulative, how people with “severe” mental illnesses are … [more]
devonprice  2018  laziness  procrastination  psychology  mikeverett  kimberlylonghofer  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  mentalhealth  executivefunctioning  neurodiversity  discrimination  stress  anxiety  trauma  colleges  universities  academia  unschooling  deschooling  depression  mentalillness 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Talent. A Football Scholarship. Then Crushing Depression. - The New York Times
"Maybe you have never heard of Isaiah Renfro. He did not start at the University of Washington, nor did he play in the N.F.L. But you should know his struggle. There are scores like him, young athletes on college campuses grappling with mental illness — a crisis that is only now getting serious attention.

What experts know is this: Recent studies place suicide as the third leading cause of death for college athletes, behind motor vehicle accidents and medical issues.

And nearly 25 percent of college athletes who participated in a widely touted 2016 study led by researchers at Drexel University displayed signs of depressive symptoms.

Since that percentage is roughly in line with the general college population, the findings countered a long-held belief that athletes are less likely than their peers to become depressed — largely because they benefit from regular, emotion-lifting exercise.

As the stigma of mental illness has eased, the reporting of cases has increased. But experts also believe that young athletes now face more stress, which contributes to mental illness, than ever before.

“Performance and parental pressure, social media, more games on TV, more players who think they can go to the pros,” said Timothy Neal, the director of athletic training education at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a nationally recognized expert on mental health and college sports.

The N.C.A.A. is playing catch-up.

“We are still so young in addressing this,” said Brian Hainline, a neurologist who in 2013 became the N.C.A.A.’s first chief medical officer. He cited increasing concern not only about depression, but also about bipolar, eating, anxiety and attention deficit disorders, as well as addiction. “Mental health is our single most important priority.”

What happened to Isaiah Renfro seemed to be a result of this combustible mix, where brain chemistry meets the burdens of reaching success and then maintaining it.

He was hardly alone in his struggle."
athletics  anxiety  mentalhealth  depression  2018  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  parenting  expectations  americanfootball  pressure  health 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us. - The New York Times
"Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.

Being sold to can be socially awkward, for sure, but when it comes to corrosive self-doubt, being the seller is a thousand times worse. The constant curation of a salable self demanded by the new economy can be a special hellspring of anxiety.

Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently “maintaining a presence on social media,” attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time.

The trick of doing this well, of course, is to act as if you aren’t doing it at all — as if this is simply how you like to unwind in the evening, by sharing your views on pasta sauce with your 567,000 followers. Seeing the slick charm of successful online “influencers” spurs me to download e-courses on how to “crack Instagram” or “develop my personal brand story.” But as soon as I hand over my credit card details, I am flooded with vague self-disgust. I instantly abandon the courses and revert to my usual business model — badgering and guilting my friends across a range of online platforms, employing the personal brand story of “pleeeeeeeeeeaassssee.”

As my friend Helena (Buy her young adult novel! Available on Amazon!) puts it, buying, promoting or sharing your friend’s “thing” is now a tax payable for modern friendship. But this expectation becomes its own monster. I find myself auditing my friends’ loyalty based on their efforts. Who bought it? Who shared it on Facebook? Was it a share from the heart, or a “duty share” — with that telltale, torturous phrasing that squeaks past the minimum social requirement but deftly dissociates the sharer from the product: “My friend wrote a book — I haven’t read it, but maybe you should.”

In this cutthroat human marketplace, we are worth only as much as the sum of our metrics, so checking those metrics can become obsessive. What’s my Amazon ranking? How many likes? How many retweets? How many followers? (The word “followers” is in itself a clear indicator of something psychologically unhealthy going on — the standard term for the people we now spend the bulk of our time with sounds less like a functioning human relationship than the P.R. materials of the Branch Davidians.)

Of course a fair chunk of this mass selling frenzy is motivated by money. With a collapsing middle class, as well as close to zero job security and none of the benefits associated with it, self-marketing has become, for many, a necessity in order to eat.

But what’s more peculiar is just how imperfectly all this correlates with financial need or even greed. The sad truth is that many of us would probably make more money stacking shelves or working at the drive-through than selling our “thing.” The real prize is deeper, more existential. What this is really about, for many of us, is a roaring black hole of psychological need.

After a couple of decades of constant advice to “follow our passions” and “live our dreams,” for a certain type of relatively privileged modern freelancer, nothing less than total self-actualization at work now seems enough. But this leaves us with an angsty mismatch between personal expectation and economic reality. So we shackle our self-worth to the success of these projects — the book or blog post or range of crocheted stuffed penguins becomes a proxy for our very soul. In the new economy you can be your own boss and your own ugly bug brooch.

Kudos to whichever neoliberal masterminds came up with this system. They sell this infinitely seductive torture to us as “flexible working” or “being the C.E.O. of You!” and we jump at it, salivating, because on its best days, the freelance life really can be all of that.

But as long as we are happy to be paid for our labor in psychological rather than financial rewards, those at the top are delighted to comply. While we grub and scrabble and claw at one another chasing these tiny pellets of self-esteem, the bug-brooch barons still pocket the actual cash.

This is the future, and research suggests that it’s a rat race that is already taking a severe toll on our psyches. A 2017 study suggests that this trend toward increasingly market-driven human interaction is making us paranoid, jittery, self-critical and judgmental.

Analyzing data from the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale from 1989 to 2016, the study’s authors found a surprisingly large increase over this period in three distinct types of perfectionism: “Self-orientated,” whereby we hold ourselves to increasingly unrealistic standards and judge ourselves harshly when we fail to meet them; “socially prescribed,” in which we are convinced that other people judge us harshly; and “other-orientated,” in which we get our revenge by judging them just as harshly. These elements of perfectionism positively correlate with mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and even suicide, which are also on the rise.

The authors describe this new-normal mind-set as a “sense of self overwhelmed by pathological worry and a fear of negative social evaluation.” Hmm. Maybe I should make that my personal brand story."
hustle  anxiety  capitalism  precarity  money  passion  2018  socialmedia  gigeconomy  microlabor  labor  work  perfectionism  happiness  ruthwhippman  sales  depression  mentalhealth  alwayson  personalbranding 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Educational Tyranny of the Neurotypicals | WIRED
"Ben Draper, who runs the Macomber Center for Self Directed Learning, says that while the center is designed for all types of children, kids whose parents identify them as on the autism spectrum often thrive at the center when they’ve had difficulty in conventional schools. Ben is part of the so-called unschooling movement, which believes that not only should learning be self-directed, in fact we shouldn't even focus on guiding learning. Children will learn in the process of pursuing their passions, the reasoning goes, and so we just need to get out of their way, providing support as needed.

Many, of course, argue that such an approach is much too unstructured and verges on irresponsibility. In retrospect, though, I feel I certainly would have thrived on “unschooling.” In a recent paper, Ben and my colleague Andre Uhl, who first introduced me to unschooling, argue that it not only works for everyone, but that the current educational system, in addition to providing poor learning outcomes, impinges on the rights of children as individuals.

MIT is among a small number of institutions that, in the pre-internet era, provided a place for non-neurotypical types with extraordinary skills to gather and form community and culture. Even MIT, however, is still trying to improve to give these kids the diversity and flexibility they need, especially in our undergraduate program.

I'm not sure how I'd be diagnosed, but I was completely incapable of being traditionally educated. I love to learn, but I go about it almost exclusively through conversations and while working on projects. I somehow kludged together a world view and life with plenty of struggle, but also with many rewards. I recently wrote a PhD dissertation about my theory of the world and how I developed it. Not that anyone should generalize from my experience—one reader of my dissertation said that I’m so unusual, I should be considered a "human sub-species." While I take that as a compliment, I think there are others like me who weren’t as lucky and ended up going through the traditional system and mostly suffering rather than flourishing. In fact, most kids probably aren’t as lucky as me and while some types are more suited for success in the current configuration of society, a huge percentage of kids who fail in the current system have a tremendous amount to contribute that we aren’t tapping into.

In addition to equipping kids for basic literacy and civic engagement, industrial age schools were primarily focused on preparing kids to work in factories or perform repetitive white-collar jobs. It may have made sense to try to convert kids into (smart) robotlike individuals who could solve problems on standardized tests alone with no smartphone or the internet and just a No. 2 pencil. Sifting out non-neurotypical types or trying to remediate them with drugs or institutionalization may have seemed important for our industrial competitiveness. Also, the tools for instruction were also limited by the technology of the times. In a world where real robots are taking over many of those tasks, perhaps we need to embrace neurodiversity and encourage collaborative learning through passion, play, and projects, in other words, to start teaching kids to learn in ways that machines can’t. We can also use modern technology for connected learning that supports diverse interests and abilities and is integrated into our lives and communities of interest.

At the Media Lab, we have a research group called Lifelong Kindergarten, and the head of the group, Mitchel Resnick, recently wrote a book by the same name. The book is about the group’s research on creative learning and the four Ps—Passion, Peers, Projects, and Play. The group believes, as I do, that we learn best when we are pursuing our passion and working with others in a project-based environment with a playful approach. My memory of school was "no cheating,” “do your own work,” "focus on the textbook, not on your hobbies or your projects," and "there’s time to play at recess, be serious and study or you'll be shamed"—exactly the opposite of the four Ps.

Many mental health issues, I believe, are caused by trying to “fix” some type of neurodiversity or by simply being insensitive or inappropriate for the person. Many mental “illnesses” can be “cured” by providing the appropriate interface to learning, living, or interacting for that person focusing on the four Ps. My experience with the educational system, both as its subject and, now, as part of it, is not so unique. I believe, in fact, that at least the one-quarter of people who are diagnosed as somehow non-neurotypical struggle with the structure and the method of modern education. People who are wired differently should be able to think of themselves as the rule, not as an exception."
neurotypicals  neurodiversity  education  schools  schooling  learning  inequality  elitism  meritocracy  power  bias  diversity  autism  psychology  stevesilberman  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  ronsuskind  mentalhealth  mitchresnick  mit  mitemedialab  medialab  lifelongkindergarten  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  pedagogy  tyranny  2018  economics  labor  bendraper  flexibility  admissions  colleges  universities  joiito 
november 2018 by robertogreco
9 Books That Capture What It's Like To Live With Mental Illness
"For many, the stigma around mental illness is decreasing; we’re opening up more, sharing resources, and rejecting shame. But that's not the case for everyone, and there's still a lot of work to do. Below are some of my favorite books which offer a refreshing perspective on mental health conditions, breaking through the cultural, social, and political barriers that can keep people from speaking openly. A mix of fiction and non-fiction, these books show what it's like when your brain seems to be working against you.

1. Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott …

2. Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful by Stephanie Wittels Wachs …

3. Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li …

4. The Incantations of Daniel Johnston by Ricardo Cavolo and Scott McClanahan …

5. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert …

6. Colour Me In by Lydia Ruffles …

7. Chemistry by Weike Wan …

8. Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton …

9. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan"
books  lists  booklists  mentalhealth  mentalillness  2018  zackmcdermott  stephaniewittelswachs  yiyunli  ricardocavolo  scottmcclanahan  brandycolbert  lydiaruffles  weikewang  dandalton  emilyxrpan  maggyvaneijk 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Drugs, Alcohol and Suicide Are Killing So Many Young Americans That the Country’s Average Lifespan Is Falling | Time
"Young Americans are dying in rising numbers because of drugs, alcohol and suicide, according to new federal data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) issued its annual comprehensive health and mortality report, which analyzes trends in death rates by cause and demographic. Drugs, alcohol and suicide, the report says, have contributed to the first drops in U.S. life expectancy since 1993. While U.S. life expectancy rose from 77.8 to 78.6 years between 2006 and 2016, the trend reversed during the end of the decade, leading to a 0.3-year decline between 2014 and 2016 — in large part because of rising rates of drug overdoses, suicide and liver disease, as well as Alzheimer’s.

Death rates for Americans ages 15 to 44 rose by around 5% each year between 2013 and 2016, and drugs, alcohol and suicide are chiefly to blame, the CDC report says.

Drug overdoses alone killed more than 63,600 people in 2016, the report says. Among men ages 24 to 35, overdose rates rose by more than 25% each year between 2014 and 2016; nearly 50 out of every 100,000 people in this population died of overdose-related causes by 2016. Women ages 45 to 54 had the most overdoses overall, but those ages 15 to 24 saw the highest rate of increase: about a 19% jump per year between 2014 and 2016.

Alcohol is also a major public health concern. Liver disease replaced HIV as the sixth-leading killer of adults ages 25 to 44 in 2016. Among men and women ages 25 to 34, deaths from liver disease and cirrhosis increased by about 11% and 8% per year, respectively, between 2006 and 2016. Older adults, however, still die of liver disease at much higher rates than young adults.

Suicide, meanwhile, is on the rise in nearly every demographic — but a few trends emerged. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24, increasing by 7% in this group each year between 2014 and 2016. It’s also the third-leading cause of death among people ages 25 to 44, killing almost 17 of every 100,000 people in this population in 2016. Suicide rates even rose among children ages 1 to 14, increasing around 9% each year during the study period — though fewer than one of every 100,000 people in this group died by suicide in 2016.

And while men still die by suicide much more frequently than women, increasing rates among young women are starting to narrow that gap. Suicide rates among young and teenage girls rose by 70% between 2010 and 2016, according to previous CDC data.

Nearly three-quarters of the Americans who died in 2016 were older than 65. Rates of many common killers decreased in this population during the preceding decade; deaths from heart disease and cancer, the top two killers of adults older than 65, both declined, as did those from strokes.The exception, however, was Alzheimers, the death rate of which rose by 21%. According to separate CDC data released Thursday, that trend is likely to continue. The number of people affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias is projected to double by 2060, rising from 5 million people (1.6% of the U.S. population) in 2014 to an estimated 13.9 million people (3.3% of the population) in 2060, according to the CDC."
drugs  alcohol  lifeexpectancy  2018  us  disease  suicide  anxietydepression  mentalhealth  cdc  epidemics  youth  teens  gender  data  health  mortality  society 
september 2018 by robertogreco
The Equality Trust | Working to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing economic inequality
[See also:
(book) "The Spirit Level"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Level_(book)
The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better[1] is a book by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett,[2] published in 2009 by Allen Lane. The book is published in the US by Bloomsbury Press (December, 2009) with the new sub-title: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.[3] It was then published in a paperback second edition (United Kingdom) in November 2010 by Penguin Books with the subtitle, Why Equality is Better for Everyone.[4]

The book argues that there are "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption".[5] It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal countries, whether rich or poor.[1] The book contains graphs that are available online.[6]

In 2010, the authors published responses to questions about their analysis on the Equality Trust website.[7] As of September 2012, the book had sold more than 150,000 copies in English.[8] It is available in 23 foreign editions.

"The Spirit Level authors: why society is more unequal than ever"
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/09/society-unequal-the-spirit-level

[follow-up book] "The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Wellbeing"
https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/188607/the-inner-level/
Why is the incidence of mental illness in the UK twice that in Germany? Why are Americans three times more likely than the Dutch to develop gambling problems? Why is child well-being so much worse in New Zealand than Japan? As this groundbreaking study demonstrates, the answer to all these hinges on inequality.

In The Spirit Level Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett put inequality at the centre of public debate by showing conclusively that less-equal societies fare worse than more equal ones across everything from education to life expectancy. The Inner Level now explains how inequality affects us individually, how it alters how we think, feel and behave. It sets out the overwhelming evidence that material inequalities have powerful psychological effects: when the gap between rich and poor increases, so does the tendency to define and value ourselves and others in terms of superiority and inferiority. A deep well of data and analysis is drawn upon to empirically show, for example, that low social status is associated with elevated levels of stress, and how rates of anxiety and depression are intimately related to the inequality which makes that status paramount.

Wilkinson and Pickett describe how these responses to hierarchies evolved, and why the impacts of inequality on us are so severe. In doing so, they challenge the conception that humans are innately competitive and self-interested. They undermine, too, the idea that inequality is the product of 'natural' differences in individual ability. This book sheds new light on many of the most urgent problems facing societies today, but it is not just an index of our ills. It demonstrates that societies based on fundamental equalities, sharing and reciprocity generate much higher levels of well-being, and lays out the path towards them.

"Does inequality cause suicide, drug abuse and mental illness?"
https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/06/14/does-inequality-cause-suicide-drug-abuse-and-mental-illness

"“The Inner Level” seeks to push that debate forward, by linking inequality to a crisis of mental health. This time the authors’ argument focuses on status anxiety: stress related to fears about individuals’ places in social hierarchies. Anxiety declines as incomes rise, they show, but is higher at all levels in more unequal countries—to the extent that the richest 10% of people in high-inequality countries are more socially anxious than all but the bottom 10% in low-inequality countries. Anxiety contributes to a variety of mental-health problems, including depression, narcissism and schizophrenia—rates of which are alarming in the West, the authors say, and rise with inequality.

Manifestations of mental illness, such as self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse and problem gambling, all seem to get worse with income dispersion, too. Such relationships seem to apply within countries as well as between them. Damaging drug use is higher in more unequal neighbourhoods of New York City, in more unequal American states and in more unequal countries. The authors emphasise that it is a person’s relative position rather than absolute income that matters most. A study of 30,000 Britons found that an individual’s place in the income hierarchy predicted the incidence of mental stress more accurately than absolute income did. And in America, relative income is more closely linked to depression than absolute income. It is not enough to lift all boats, their work suggests, if the poshest vessels are always buoyed up more than the humblest.

The fact that relative status matters so much is a result of human beings’ intrinsically social nature, Ms Pickett and Mr Wilkinson argue. Group interaction and co-operation have been an essential component of humanity’s evolutionary success; indeed, the authors say, its social nature helped drive the growth of human brains. Across primates, they write, the size of the neocortex—a part of the brain responsible for higher-level cognitive functions—varies with the typical group size of a species. Living in complex social groups is hard cognitive work. Survival requires an understanding of roles within the social hierarchy, and intuition of what others are thinking. Thus people are necessarily sensitive to their status within groups, and to social developments that threaten it.

Such hierarchies are found in all human societies. But as inequality rises, differences in status become harder to ignore. There is more to be gained or lost by moving from one rung on the ladder to another. And however much some maintain that disparities in pay-cheques do not correspond to differences in human worth, such well-meaning pieties feel hollow when high-rollers earn hundreds or thousands of times what ordinary folk take home. Money cannot buy everything, but it can buy most things. The steeper the income gradient, the less secure everyone becomes, in both their self-respect and their sense of the community’s esteem.

And so people compensate. They take pills, to steel their nerves or dull the pain. Some cut themselves. Some adopt a more submissive posture, avoiding contact with others. Yet such withdrawal can feed on itself, depriving recluses of the social interaction that is important to mental health, undermining relationships and careers and contributing to economic hardship.

Others respond in the opposite way, by behaving more aggressively and egotistically. Studies of narcissistic tendencies showed a steep increase between 1982 and 2006, the authors report; 30% more Americans displayed narcissistic characteristics at the end of the period than at the beginning. Scrutiny of successive American cohorts found a progressive rise in those listing wealth and fame as important goals (above fulfilment and community). Over time, more people cited money as the main motivation for attending college (rather than intellectual enrichment).

Domineering responses to anxiety are associated with loss of empathy and delusions of grandeur. Thus highly successful people often display narcissistic or even psychopathic behaviour. In surveys, the rich are generally less empathetic and more likely to think they deserve special treatment than others. Modern capitalism, the authors suggest, selects for assertiveness, for a lack of sentimentality in business and comfort in sacking underlings, and for showy displays of economic strength. From the top to the bottom of the income spectrum, people use conspicuous consumption and other means of enhancing their image to project status.

The least secure are often the most likely to exaggerate their qualities. For example, countries with lower average life-expectancy tend to do better on measures of self-reported health; 54% of Japanese say they are in good health compared with 80% of Americans, though the Japanese live five years longer on average. Whereas 70% of Swedes consider themselves to be above-average drivers, 90% of Americans do. Such figures cast declamations of America’s greatness, and the politicians who make them, in a new light."

"The Inner Level review – how more equal societies reduce stress and improve wellbeing"
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/20/the-inner-level-review ]

[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/BmquJ7Ngvme/ ]
equality  inequality  society  trust  anxiety  well-being  stress  mentalhealth  uk  economics  community  socialmobility  class  education  drugs  drugabuse  health  violence  illness  consumption  hierarchy  horizontality  mentalillness  status  self-harm  gambling  depression  narcissism  schizophrenia  relativity  excess  cooperation  egotism  selfishness  empathy  dunning–krugereffect  greatness  politics  lifeexpectancy  japan  sweden  us  driving  capitalism  latecapitalism  fame  fulfillment  money  motivation  colleges  universities  exceptionalism  assertiveness  aggressiveness  richardwilkinson  katepickett  growth  erichfromm 
august 2018 by robertogreco
SUPER. AND HUMAN
"The Why

I learned recently that my story doesn't belong to me. Also, it worries me that if I don't tell my own story then someone else might do so incorrectly or coopt it.

When I look up stuff about this, I don’t find many Black & Brown men speaking from a position of experience. There might be an academic type talking about the research and statistics. You might find media personas talking about the phenomenon not being acknowledged or addressed. Maybe there's a celebrity who's open about it with a smile and they talk about how much they love their therapist. What is hard to come across is someone with whom I can relate. A low income, previously religious, Black/Brown man who's a first generation college grad that's not exactly on the other side of the mountain. Representation matters.

I don't know exactly where this will lead. I have considered the potential outcomes and some are not favorable. Stigma and misconception abound. It's also possible that this will be beneficial to someone. I guess that's what matters the most.

So here it is. My truth.

The What

So, what is this exactly?

It's a look at the intersection of race/ethnicity, education, and mental health. All through the lens of me. It's that simple.

Some vignettes to start. Later, something a little more op-ed.

After that, let's see..."

[Via: "We explore…gifted students, twice exceptional students, educators who shift from traditional to self-directed education, civic connections, the truth about college, and giving black and brown children more access.

Anthony Galloway wasn’t willing to be another cog in the system.

He’s a smart, twenty-something year old African-American man who chose to go into the field of education. He came up through the system, and learned how to excel in it. He also knew that he wanted to be part of the change in public education that allowed children of color access to the same resources and opportunities as children in white schools or private ones.

Anthony co-founded an Agile Learning Center, now facilitated by both him and long-time educator, Julia Cordero. I think you’re gonna find this discussion interesting because Anthony’s an educator who saw the school system for what it was and is, and started his own school to create something better."
http://www.akilahsrichards.com/heartwood/

"In this episode, Atlanta-based SDE facilitator and education entrepreneur, ANTHONY GALLOWAY II, speaks on moving past the mental aspect of self-care over to the literal practice. You’ll also learn about two Atlanta events in support of Self-Directed Education, both of which Anthony is playing a major role in bringing to the city. Also, the Jamaican patois term “Dat nuh mek it” basically means “that isn’t nearly enough.” In other words, something needs leveling up, because in its current state, it just won’t do. You’re welcome! #POCinSDE"
http://www.akilahsrichards.com/61/ ]
anthonygalloway  education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  race  mentalhealth  codeswitching  experience  racism  howwelearn  school  schooling  lcproject  openstudioproject 
july 2018 by robertogreco
School is 'biggest concern' for children | News
"Nearly half of 12-year-olds report feeling sad or anxious at least once a week, survey finds
School is the biggest source of stress for young people, according to a new survey by children's charity Barnardo's.

The charity found that almost half of children aged 12 feel sad or anxious at least once a week, with the proportion rising as they get older.

Barnardo's commissioned YouGov to examine what is troubling young people and how they might be better supported.

According to the survey, nearly half of 12-year-olds in England (48 per cent) feel sad or anxious at least once a week. By the age of 16, 70 per cent report feeling this way at least once a week, with more than a fifth (22 per cent) having negative feelings as often as once a day.

Twelve-to-16-year-olds report that school is their main cause of stress (65 per cent), followed by thoughts about their future (42 per cent), problems at home (31 per cent), their weight (26 per cent) and offline bullying (25 per cent).

By the age of 16, stress at school is a worry for 83 per cent of children in England and 80 per cent are worrying about their future.

The survey found that social media has an important effect on mental health for young people, with 11 per cent reporting that they worry about getting enough "likes" or responses to posts.

Twelve per cent say they are concerned about online bullying, while 15 per cent say they have been troubled by something they have seen on social media.

According to the survey, which was commissioned to mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week today, three-quarters (75 per cent) of 12-to-16-year-olds think it would be helpful if they had a counsellor or another professional at their school to talk to when they were feeling down.

When asked who they would talk to if they felt sad or anxious, 38 per cent said teachers, 63 per cent said friends and 71 per cent said family members.

Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "It is deeply concerning that so many children in England are growing up feeling sad and anxious, and these feelings are intensified as they get older.

"Although these can be normal emotions experienced while growing up, children need support to deal with the pressures of everyday life.

"We need to create a culture where everyone has a greater understanding of what keeps children mentally well and when professional help is needed."

He added: "We want parents and carers to be confident in recognising if their children are unhappy, and teachers and other professionals to be sufficiently trained, adequately resourced and available to support them.""
children  stress  schools  schooling  mentalhealth  health  sfsh  pressure  socialmedia  bullying  anxiety  education 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Touch of Madness - Pacific Standard
"So Jones grew alarmed when, soon after starting at DePaul in the fall of 2007, at age 27, she began having trouble retaining things she had just read. She also struggled to memorize the new characters she was learning in her advanced Chinese class. She had experienced milder versions of these cognitive and memory blips a couple times before, most recently as she’d finished her undergraduate studies earlier that year. These new mental glitches were worse. She would study and draw the new logograms one night, then come up short when she tried to draw them again the next morning.

These failures felt vaguely neurological. As if her synapses had clogged. She initially blamed them on the sleepless, near-manic excitement of finally being where she wanted to be. She had wished for exactly this, serious philosophy and nothing but, for half her life. Now her mind seemed to be failing. Words started to look strange. She began experiencing "inarticulable atmospheric changes," as she put it—not hallucinations, really, but alterations of temporality, spatiality, depth perception, kinesthetics. Shimmerings in reality's fabric. Sidewalks would feel soft and porous. Audio and visual input would fall out of sync, creating a lag between the movement of a speaker's lips and the words' arrival at Jones' ears. Something was off.

"You look at your hand," as she described it to me later, holding hers up and examining it front and back, "and it looks the same as always. But it's not. It's yours—but it's not. Nothing has changed"—she let her hand drop to her knee—"yet it's different. And that's what gets you. There's nothing to notice; but you can't help but notice."

Another time she found herself staring at the stone wall of a building on campus and realizing that the wall's thick stone possessed two contradictory states. She recognized that the wall was immovable and that, if she punched it, she'd break her hand. Yet she also perceived that the stone was merely a constellation of atomic particles so tenuously bound that, if she blew on it, it would come apart. She experienced this viscerally. She felt the emptiness within the stone.

Initially she found these anomalies less threatening than weird. But as they intensified, the gap between what she was perceiving and what she could understand rationally generated an unbearable cognitive dissonance. How could something feel so wrong but she couldn't say what? She had read up the wazoo about perception, phenomenology, subjectivity, consciousness. She of all people should be able to articulate what she was experiencing. Yet she could not. "Language had betrayed me," she says. "There was nothing you could point to and say, 'This looks different about the world.' There were no terms. I had no fucking idea."

Too much space was opening within and around and below her. She worried she was going mad. She had seen what madness looked like from the outside. When Jones was in her teens, one of her close relatives, an adult she'd always seen frequently, and whom we'll call Alex for privacy reasons, had in early middle age fallen into a state of almost relentless schizophrenia. It transformed Alex from a warm, caring, and open person who was fully engaged with the world into somebody who was isolated from it—somebody who seemed remote, behaved in confusing and alarming ways, and periodically required hospitalization. Jones now started to worry this might be happening to her."



"Reading philosophy helped Jones think. It helped order the disorderly. Yet later, in college, she lit up when she discovered the writers who laid the philosophical foundation for late 20-century critical psychiatry and madness studies: Michel Foucault, for instance, who wrote about how Western culture, by medicalizing madness, brands the mad as strangers to human nature. Foucault described both the process and the alienating effect of this exclusion-by-definition, or "othering," as it soon came to be known, and how the mad were cut out and cast away, flung into pits of despair and confusion, leaving ghosts of their presence behind.

To Jones, philosophy, not medicine, best explained the reverberations from the madness that had touched her family: the disappearance of the ex-husband; the alienation of Alex, who at times seemed "there but not there," unreachable. Jones today describes the madness in and around her family as a koan, a puzzle that teaches by its resistance to solution, and which forces upon her the question of how to speak for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.

Jones has since made a larger version of this question—of how we think of and treat the mad, and why in the West we usually shunt them aside—her life's work. Most of this work radiates from a single idea: Culture shapes the experience, expression, and outcome of madness. The idea is not that culture makes one mad. It's that culture profoundly influences every aspect about how madness develops and expresses itself, from its onset to its full-blown state, from how the afflicted experience it to how others respond to it, whether it destroys you or leaves you whole.

This idea is not original to Jones. It rose from the observation, first made at least a century ago and well-documented now, that Western cultures tend to send the afflicted into a downward spiral rarely seen in less modernized cultures. Schizophrenia actually has a poorer prognosis for people in the West than for those in less urbanized, non-Eurocentric societies. When the director of the World Health Organization's mental-health unit, Shekhar Saxena, was asked last year where he'd prefer to be if he were diagnosed with schizophrenia, he said for big cities he'd prefer a city in Ethiopia or Sri Lanka, like Colombo or Addis Ababa, rather than New York or London, because in the former he could expect to be seen as a productive if eccentric citizen rather than a reject and an outcast.

Over the past 25 years or so, the study of culture's effect on schizophrenia has received increasing attention from philosophers, historians, psychiatrists, anthropologists, and epidemiologists, and it is now edging into the mainstream. In the past five years, Nev Jones has made herself one of this view's most forceful proponents and one of the most effective advocates for changing how Western culture and psychiatry respond to people with psychosis. While still a graduate student at DePaul she founded three different groups to help students with psychosis continue their studies. After graduating in 2014, she expanded her reach first into the highest halls of academe, as a scholar at Stanford University, and then into policy, working with state and private agencies in California and elsewhere on programs for people with psychosis, and with federal agencies to produce toolkits for universities, students, and families about dealing with psychosis emerging during college or graduate study. Now in a new position as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, she continues to examine—and ask the rest of us to see—how culture shapes madness.

In the United States, the culture's initial reaction to a person's first psychotic episode, embedded most officially in a medical system that sees psychosis and schizophrenia as essentially biological, tends to cut the person off instantly from friends, social networks, work, and their sense of identity. This harm can be greatly reduced, however, when a person's first care comes from the kind of comprehensive, early intervention programs, or EIPs, that Jones works on. These programs emphasize truly early intervention, rather than the usual months-long lag between first symptoms and any help; high, sustained levels of social, educational, and vocational support; and building on the person's experience, ambitions, and strengths to keep them as functional and engaged as possible. Compared to treatment as usual, EIPs lead to markedly better outcomes across the board, create more independence, and seem to create far less trauma for patients and their family and social circles."



"Once his eye was caught, Kraepelin started seeing culture's effects everywhere. In his native Germany, for instance, schizophrenic Saxons were more likely to kill themselves than were Bavarians, who were, in turn, more apt to do violence to others. In a 1925 trip to North America, Kraepelin found that Native Americans with schizophrenia, like Indonesians, didn't build in their heads the elaborate delusional worlds that schizophrenic Europeans did, and hallucinated less.

Kraepelin died in 1926, before he could publish a scholarly version of those findings. Late in his life, he embraced some widely held but horrific ideas about scientific racism and eugenics. Yet he had clearly seen that culture exerted a powerful, even fundamental, effect on the intensity, nature, and duration of symptoms in schizophrenia, and in bipolar disorder and depression. He urged psychiatrists to explore just how culture created such changes.

Even today, few in medicine have heeded this call. Anthropologists, on the other hand, have answered it vigorously over the last couple of decades. To a cultural anthropologist, culture includes the things most of us would expect—movies, music, literature, law, tools, technologies, institutions, and traditions. It also includes a society's predominant ideas, values, stories, interpretations, beliefs, symbols, and framings—everything from how we should dress, greet one another, and prepare and eat food, to what it means to be insane. Madness, in other words, is just one more thing about which a culture constructs and applies ideas that guide thought and behavior.

But what connects these layers of culture to something so seemingly internal as a person's state of mind? The biocultural anthropologist Daniel Lende says that it helps here to think of culture as a series of concentric circles surrounding each of us. For simplicity's sake, let's keep it to two circles around a core, with each circle … [more]
2017  daviddobbs  mentalhealth  psychology  health  culture  madness  nevjones  japan  ethiopia  colombo  addisababa  schizophrenia  society  srilanka  shekharsaxena  philosophy  perception  treatment  medicine  psychosis  media  academia  anthropology  daniellende  pauleugenbleuler  emilkraepelin  danielpaulschreber  edwadsapir  relationships  therapy  tinachanter  namitagoswami  irenehurford  richardnoll  ethanwatters  wolfgangjilek  wolfgangpfeiffer  stigma  banishment  hallucinations  really  but  alterations  of  temporality  time  spatiality  depthperception  kinesthetics  memory  memories  reality  phenomenology  subjectivity  consciousness  donaldwinnicott  alienation  kinship  isolation  tanyaluhrmann 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Dr. Nev Jones on Vimeo
[found after reading:

"The Tough of Madness: Culture profoundly shapes our ideas about mental illness, which is something psychologist Nev Jones knows all too well."
https://psmag.com/magazine/the-touch-of-madness-mental-health-schizophrenia ]
nevjones  academia  psychology  psychosis  schizophrenia  2017  mentalhealth  healthcare  health  ptsd  immigration  support  culture  society  risk 
october 2017 by robertogreco
On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others – The Tattooed Professor
"We’re not sending graduates “out into the real world”–they’ve been there for their entire lives, and most of them know at least implicitly how the deck is stacked against people regardless of how hard they’re bootstrapping. We have given our students a wide array of tools, and tried to prepare them to use those tools well for themselves and for their communities. We teach in the hopes of a better, more compassionate, and more just world. But then we tell a graduation-day story that assumes our graduates will go out into a broken world riven by hate, fear, and inequality but also that it’s their fault if that world beats them down. I don’t think we do this on purpose, but the myth is no less insidious for being unintentional. Consider this: as the college student population increases, so to has the incidence and significance of mental health concerns for our students. Substance abuse among college students exhibits several worrisome trends. The scale and scope of the sexual assault epidemic on our campuses is horrifying. The uncertainty of the post-2008 job market and the increasingly contingent and precarious nature of work in our neoliberal world present a post-graduation outlook that is bleaker for this generation than it was for any of their predecessors (to say nothing of the victim-blaming from those very forebears).

These are interrelated and telling concerns; they describe a significant portion of our students’ reality. Yet we’re telling them that effort and pluckiness will suffice to change the world, just like that effort and pluckiness got them to graduation. But it wasn’t just effort and pluckiness. For many of our students, the path to graduation was strewn with detours, interruptions, even crises like the ones detailed above–perhaps the way forward for them will be littered with similar obstacles. We celebrate the triumph over adversity, as well we should, but I wish we would give ourselves permission to recognize that adversity as something more than the thing we get over and never speak of again. If we don’t sit with the rough edges of our journey, we forget how we made it. Our students make it through like we did: sometimes through individual effort, but more often from the support, compassion, and vital companionship and affirmation of those around us. I don’t think we pay nearly enough attention to that fact. Nobody does it all by themselves, but I worry that we’re telling our students they have to do exactly that, rather than giving them permission to fail, to fall short, to admit they need help. Because those lessons are hard ones to learn, all the more so if there aren’t examples or encouragement for us to follow. Believe me, I know."



"I was afraid of other people, and afraid of what I’d learn from them. I believed asking for help was an admission of defeat. I’m in a career field that places a high value upon the appearance of professionalism; I’m expected to have it together, to know what I’m doing. To admit that wasn’t the case was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can see now that I wouldn’t have done it were it not for the people around me who helped me feel safe and supported when I was at my most raw and wounded. I didn’t want to talk about my past, what I’d done, or what had been done to me, but those around me helped me realize that if I didn’t, I would continue to carry it with me. Doctors, nurses, counselors, clergy, spouse, parents, siblings, co-workers, others in recovery, random strangers, Vin Scully, my pets–it was their voice, their connection, and their freely-given kindness that sustained me.

It was not the smoothest or easiest road from there to here; don’t cue the happy closing music yet. I still struggle. I still need lots of help. I still act like a jerk to the people who are helping. But I have learned this truth: there are times when life will break me. The problem isn’t being broken, it’s in not letting others help put me back together. When I graduated, I went out into the world, and the world beat me up while I sat and watched. I thought fighting back was a solo project, so I failed. Only when I gave others the chance to help me, and accepted that support and affirmation honestly and without begrudging it, did I stop getting beaten up.

That’s my advice, then, to you graduates. You will go forth and hopefully forge many successes for you and your loved ones. But you will also fall short. There will be failures. There will be wounds inflicted by yourself and by others. You will find yourself in places you did not plan to be. You may even find yourself broken. And when that happens, remember that you are neither the first nor the last to end up there. Others have, too, and they can help. It is no defeat to ask for others to help you, and to depend upon that assistance. It’s a victory over fear and anger, that’s what it is. As a society, we tell ourselves that the individual reigns supreme. But it does serious damage when we take that ethos too seriously. Not every problem can be solved by an individual. Not every success is the product of an individual. There is no shame in recognizing those facts as they operate in our lives."
via:audreywatters  kevingannon  2017  resilience  pluckiness  grit  education  realworld  highered  highereducation  adversity  mentalhealth  well-being  uncertainty  expectations  kindness  compassion  companionship  substanceabuse  academia  colleges  universities  brokenness  professionalism  help  helplessness  success  individualism  support  assistance 
may 2017 by robertogreco
light
"What are the stories we tell about mental health? This little list seeks to contemplate the questions. This site in continuous improvement. Get an email for updates."
winnielim  depression  mentalhealth 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Suppression of Boys Emotions in a 30 Second Animation - YouTube
"This 30 second video shows the cycle of male emotional suppression for boys. Its pared down to just the brutal facts, that boys are belligerently are repeatedly taught throughout their lives to hide their emotions."
boys  emotions  2016  suppression  psychology  masculinity  society  mentalhealth 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Mental illness is a result of misery, yet still we stigmatise it | Richard Bentall | Opinion | The Guardian
"Of course genes play a role in making some people more vulnerable to psychiatric disorder than others, but the formidable advances in molecular genetics over recent years show that the same genes are involved when people are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD and even autism.

More importantly hundreds, possibly thousands, of genes are involved, each conferring a tiny increase in risk. Hence, as American genetic researcher Kenneth Kendler says: “The genetic risk for schizophrenia is widely distributed in human populations, so that we all carry some degree of risk.” Everyone reading this article is likely to have some risk genes although, of course, some will have more than others.

The fact that so many genes are involved suggests it is unlikely that studying them will lead to therapeutic breakthroughs anytime soon. (Consider Huntington’s disease, a terrible degenerative neurological condition that is caused by a single dominant gene with a known biological function. Years after this gene was discovered there is still no sign of a medical therapy for this simplest of all the genetic conditions.)

Recent studies have pointed to a wide range of social and environmental factors that increase the risk of mental ill health. These include poverty in childhood, social inequality and early exposure to urban environments; migration and belonging to an ethnic minority (all trending in the wrong direction); early separation from parents; childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse; and bullying in schools.

In an analysis of all the research on childhood trauma and psychosis, my colleagues and I found that exposure to any of these childhood adversities increased the risk of psychosis approximately three-fold, and those who had multiple traumatic experiences were at much higher risk. In fact, the evidence of a link between childhood misfortune and future psychiatric disorder is about as strong statistically as the link between smoking and lung cancer.

There is also now strong evidence that these kinds of experiences affect brain structure, explaining many of the abnormal neuro-imaging findings that have been reported for psychiatric patients. And of course there are myriad adult adversities that also contribute to mental ill health, including debt, unhappy marriages, excessively demanding work environments and the threat of unemployment. Arguably the biggest cause of human misery is miserable relationships with other people, conducted in miserable circumstances.

Why is all this important? For one thing, many psychiatric patients in Britain feel that services too often ignore their life stories. In the words of Eleanor Longden, a mental health activist, “They always ask what is wrong with you and hardly ever ask what happened to you.” Patients are routinely offered powerful drugs (which clearly have a place but only help some patients), but very rarely the kinds of psychological therapies that may help them come to terms with these kinds of experiences, or even practical advice (debt counselling probably has a place in the treatment of depression, for example).

A narrow medical approach has been extraordinarily unsuccessful, despite what many people assume. Whereas survival and recovery rates for severe physical conditions such as cancer and heart disease have improved dramatically since the second world war, recovery rates for severe mental illness have not shifted at all. Those countries that spend the least on psychiatric services have the best outcomes for severe mental illness, whereas those that spend the most have the highest suicide rates.

To make matters worse, research shows that an exclusively biological approach tends to increase the stigma associated with mental illness. The more that ordinary people think of mental illness as a genetically determined brain disease, and the less they recognise it to be a reaction to unfortunate circumstances, the more they shun psychiatric patients. An exclusively biological approach makes it all too easy to believe that human beings fall into two subspecies: the mentally well and the mentally ill.

Finally, a narrow biomedical approach entirely neglects the public health dimension. Given the evidence, we should be able to dramatically reduce the prevalence of mental health problems by, for example, addressing childhood poverty and inequality, figuring out which aspects of the urban environment are toxic (not surprisingly, living close to a park appears to provide some protection against mental illness), and by aiming to ensure that all our children experience benign childhoods. Some potential influences on mental health (eg the way we organise our schools) have hardly been studied. We cannot create a mentally healthier world if we spend all our time peering into test tubes.

This is not to say that biological approaches have no value, or that research into the genetics and neuroscience of psychiatric disorders has no place. I have been involved in biological studies myself. But portraying mental ill health simply as brain disease can only increase stigma, diverts our attention away from other ways in which we can help patients, stops us from building a healthier world, and encourages in patients alienation, pessimism and a deep despair."
richardbentall  health  mentalhealth  2016  economics  poverty  schizophrenia  bipolardisorder  depression  psychology  publichealth  inequality  socialinequality  migration  race  class 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Delaying kindergarten until age 7 offers key benefits to kids — study - The Washington Post
"A new study finds strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school.

The study, titled “The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health” and published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that these benefits — which are obviously important to student achievement — persist at least until age 11. Stanford Graduate School of Education Prof. Thomas Dee, who co-authored the study with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Center for Social Research, was quoted in a Stanford release as saying:
“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11 and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.”

The researchers used data on tens of thousands of students from a mental-health screening survey used to evaluate children across Denmark (and in clinical and academic settings in other countries) and compared it Denmark’s census, according to the Stanford release. Youngsters who were deemed to have better self-control over attention and activity had higher assessment scores.

In Denmark, children generally enroll in kindergarten during the calendar year in which they turn 6. In the United States, too, kindergartners are typically 5 or 6 years. The researchers wrote in the study that they found “that a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 …. a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement.” They also found this this “large and targeted effect persists at age 11″ and affects both boys and girls.

There is a loud debate in the United States and other developed countries about the proper age to start formal schooling — with ever-younger students being put into school with formal academic work. Many early childhood experts have expressed concern about forcing very young children to sit and do academic work, arguing that kids learn best through structured play. Dee noted:
“It’s not just a question of when do you start kindergarten, but what do you do in those kindergarten classes? If you make kindergarten the new first grade, then parents may sensibly decide to delay entry. If kindergarten is not the new first grade, then parents may not delay children’s entries as much.”

Indeed, a study released early this year found that the requirement in the Common Core State Standards that kindergartners read could harm the reading development of some kids. It says:
When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.

In Finland and some other developed countries, formal academic education doesn’t start until the age of 7, when children are deemed to be mentally and physically ready for the challenge (though students in Finland have had access to high-quality preschool, which would affect their performance in kindergarten).

Many U.S. parents hold their children back a year — especially boys — so that they start kindergarten at age 6 rather than 5 to give them a chance to mature. The paper says that about 20 percent of kindergarten students are now 6 years old:
This “lengthening of childhood” reflects in part changes in state laws that moved forward the cutoff birth date at which 5 year olds were eligible for entering kindergarten (Deming and Dynarski, 2008). However, most of the increase in school starting ages is due to academic “redshirting”; an increasingly common decision by parents to seek developmental advantages for their children by delaying their school entry (i.e., the “gift of time”).

There have been early studies looking at the same or similar issue, and the results have been mixed. But Dee was quoted as saying:

“This is some of the most convincing evidence we’ve seen to support what parents and policymakers have already been doing – choosing to delay kindergarten entry.”

You can read the paper here [https://cepa.stanford.edu/content/gift-time-school-starting-age-and-mental-health ]."
kindergarten  education  children  redshirting  2015  unschooling  deschooling  finland  schools  hyperactivity  inattention  attention  selfregulation  denmark  mentalhealth  thomasdee  hanshenriksievertsen  behavior 
march 2016 by robertogreco
This speech could reignite Bernie Sanders: Here’s the argument he needs to make about capitalism - Salon.com
"Bernie uses every public opportunity to show how unjust the economic system is toward the most vulnerable. And he is right.

What he fails to do is help the rest of the American public understanding that some of their biggest heartaches are also tied to capitalism–not because it doesn’t give them enough economic returns or the ability to consume more, but because it promotes values that are destructive to human relationships and families , popularizes an ethos of “looking out for number one” and popularizes materialism and self-destructive self-blaming.

I learned about this as principle investigator of an NIMH-sponsored research project on stress at work and stress in family life. What my team heard from thousands of middle income working class people was that there was a huge spiritual crisis in American society generated by the experience most middle income non-professional people have in the world of work.

It’s hard for professionals and the upper middle class to believe this, but most people spend most of their awake hours each work day doing work that feels meaningless and unfulfilling. They quickly learn that their sole value in the marketplace is the degree to which they can contribute directly or indirectly to the old “bottom line” of money and power of those who own and manage the corporations, businesses and other institutions where they find employment. Moreover, they learn that those who are most successful are those who have learned best how to maximize their own advantage without regard to the well being of others in the work world outside their particular work unit, or the well being of those buying their goods or services.

What we learned was that most working-class people (not all, just most) come away from their work with a complex set of seemingly contradictory feelings. On the one hand, they hate the values of selfishness and materialism they see surrounding them at work and brought home by everyone they know. On the other hand, they believe that everyone is so completely enmeshed in those values that selfishness just is “the real world” and that they themselves have no choice but to seek to maximize their own advantage wherever they can. They find relief from this when they go to church, synagogue or mosque, identify with those spiritual or religious values, but are so depressed by their daily work-world experience that they feel those alternative values have no chance of working in the “real world.”

Moreover, from their earliest experiences in school they have been immersed in the capitalist indoctrination into the fantasy that they live in a meritocracy, and that “anyone can make it if they deserve to.” As a result, they blame themselves for the lack of fulfillment in their lives. And they blame themselves for not being better at “looking out for number one” and maximizing their own self-interest.

The result is a society increasingly filled with people who see each other through the framework of capitalist values: other people are valuable primarily to the extent that they can satisfy our own needs and desires, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable just for who they are regardless of what they can deliver for us.

No wonder, then, that so many people feel lonely and scared. They see themselves as surrounded by people who have internalized the “look out for number one” ethos of the capitalist marketplace. Many notice these same attitudes in friends, even in one’s spouse. Some report that their children have picked up these same values and look at their parent with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So increasing numbers of people feel afraid not only because there is no effective societal mechanism to protect them should they be out of money or in need of too-expensive-to-afford health care and pharmaceuticals, but also because they fear that no one will really be there for them when they are most vulnerable and in need of caring from others, Of course these dynamics play out differently depending on one’s own circumstances, but they are prevalent enough to make many people feel bad about themselves and worried about the enduring quality of their most important relationships.

Bernie Sanders could help tens of millions of Americans reduce their self-blaming were he to help people see that his campaign against capitalism is not just about its unjust allocation of economic well-being, but also and most importantly about how to strengthen loving relationships, friendships and family life by repudiating the values of the marketplace, rejecting the meritocratic fantasies that lead to self-blame, and embracing a New Bottom Line. If his democratic socialism also included the insistence that work provide people with the opportunity to satisfy the deep human need to see their lives contributing to the best interests of the planet and the best interests of the human race, rather than solely to the interests of maximizing the income of the wealthiest, he would be embracing what I once called a “Politics of Meaning” and now call a spiritual politics defined by a New Bottom Line.

Instead of judging institutions, corporations, government policies, our economic system, our legal system and our educational system as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), the New Bottom Line would also include in this assessment how much these institutions and social practices enhance our human capacities for love and generosity, kindness and ethical behavior, environmental responsibility sustainability, our ability to transcend narrow utilitarian ways of seeing other human beings and the earth, so that we can see others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the magnificence of this planet and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement rather than just seeing them as “resources” to be used for our own needs."
capitalism  berniesanders  2016  economics  well-being  health  meritocracy  individualism  socialism  materialism  consumerism  selfishness  fulfillment  self-blaming  middleclass  workingclass  relationships  mentalhealth  success  healthcare  politics  policy  business  efficiency 
march 2016 by robertogreco
bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats and Loving Blackness - The New York Times
"G.Y.: Absolutely. You’ve talked about how theory can function as a place of healing. Can you say more about that?

b.h.: I always start with children. Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them. I think that theory is essentially a way to make sense of the world; as a gifted child growing up in a dysfunctional family where giftedness was not appreciated, what held me above water was the idea of thinking through, “Why are Mom and Dad the way they are?” And those are questions that are at the heart of critical thinking. And that’s why I think critical thinking and theory can be such a source of healing. It moves us forward. And, of course, I don’t know about other thinkers and writers, but I have the good fortune every day of my life to have somebody contacting me, either on the streets or by mail, telling me about how my work has changed their life, how it has enabled them to go forward. And what greater gift to be had as a thinker-theorist, than that?"



"G.Y.: Is there a connection between teaching as a space of healing and your understanding of love?

b.h.: Well, I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching. I don’t do a lot of teaching these days. I am semi-retired. Because, like any act of love, it takes a lot of your energy."



"G.Y.: You’ve conceptualized love as the opposite of estrangement. Can you say something about that?

b.h.: When we engage love as action, you can’t act without connecting. I often think of that phrase, only connect. In terms of white supremacy right now for instance, the police stopped me a few weeks ago here in Berea, because I was doing something wrong. I initially felt fear, and I was thinking about the fact that in all of my 60-some years of my life in this country, I have never felt afraid of policemen before, but I feel afraid now. He was just total sweetness. And yet I thought, what a horrible change in our society that that level of estrangement has taken place that was not there before.

I know that the essential experience of black men and women has always been different, but from the time I was a girl to now, I never thought the police were my enemy. Yet, what black woman witnessing the incredible abuse of Sandra Bland can’t shake in her boots if she’s being stopped by the police? When I was watching that video, I was amazed the police didn’t shoot her on the spot! White supremacist white people are crazy.

I used to talk about patriarchy as a mental illness of disordered desire, but white supremacy is equally a serious and profound mental illness, and it leads people to do completely and utterly insane things. I think one of the things that is going on in our society is the normalization of mental illness, and the normalization of white supremacy, and the evocation and the spreading of this is part of that mental illness. So remember that we are a culture in crisis. Our crisis is as much a spiritual crisis as it is a political crisis, and that’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so profoundly prescient in describing how the work of love would be necessary to have a transformative impact.

G.Y.: And of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find an important place in your work for rage, as in your book “Killing Rage”?

b.h.: Oh, absolutely. The first time that I got to be with Thich Nhat Hanh, I had just been longing to meet him. I was like, I’m going to meet this incredibly holy man. On the day that I was going to him, every step of the way I felt that I was encountering some kind of racism or sexism. When I got to him, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I am so angry!” And he, of course, Mr. Calm himself, Mr. Peace, said, “Well, you know, hold on to your anger, and use it as compost for your garden.” And I thought, “Yes, yes, I can do that!” I tell that story to people all the time. I was telling him about the struggles I was having with my male partner at the time and he said, “It is O.K. to say I want to kill you, but then you need to step back from that, and remember what brought you to this person in the first place.” And I think that if we think of anger as compost, we think of it as energy that can be recycled in the direction of our good. It is an empowering force. If we don’t think about it that way, it becomes a debilitating and destructive force.

G.Y.: Since you mentioned Sandra Bland, and there are so many other cases that we can mention, how can we use the trauma that black people are experiencing, or reconfigure that trauma into compost? How can black people do that? What does that look like therapeutically, or collectively?

b.h.: We have to be willing to be truthful. And to be truthful, we have to say, the problem that black people face, the trauma of white supremacy in our lives, is not limited to police brutality. That’s just one aspect. I often say that the issue for young black males is the street. If you only have the streets, you encounter violence on all sides: black on black violence, the violence of addiction, and the violence of police brutality. So the question is why at this stage of our history, with so many wealthy black people, and so many gifted black people, how do we provide a place other than the streets for black males? And it is so gendered, because the street, in an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is male, especially when it is dark. There is so much feeling of being lost that it is beyond the trauma of racism. It is the trauma of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because poverty has become infinitely more violent than it ever was when I was a girl. You lived next door to very poor black people, but who had very joyful lives. That’s not the poverty of today.

G.Y.: How is the poverty of today different?

b.h.: Let’s face it, one of the things white people gave us when they gave us integration was full access to the tormenting reality of desire, and the expectation of constant consumption. So part of the difference of poverty today is this sort of world of fantasy — fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, fantasizing that money will come. I always cling to Lorraine Hansberry’s mama saying in “A in Raisin in the Sun,” “Since when did money become life?” I think that with the poverty of my growing up that I lived with and among, we were always made to feel like money is not what life is all about. That’s the total difference for everyone living right now, because most people in our culture believe money is everything. That is the big tie, the connecting tie to black, white, Hispanic, native people, Asian people — the greed and the materialism that we all invest in and share.

G.Y.: When you make that claim, I can see some readers saying that bell is pathologizing black spaces.

b.h.: As I said, we have normalized mental illness in this society. So it’s not the pathologizing of black spaces; it’s saying that the majority of cultural spaces in our society are infused with pathology. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of it, because it has become the culture that is being fed to us every day. None of us can escape it unless we do so by conscious living and conscious loving, and that’s become harder for everybody. I don’t have a problem stating the fact that trauma creates wounds, and most of our wounds are not healed as African-Americans. We’re not really different in that way from all the others who are wounded. Let’s face it — wounded white people frequently can cover up their wounds, because they have greater access to material power.

I find it fascinating that every day you go to the supermarket, and you look at the people, and you look at us, and you look at all of this media that is parading the sorrows and the mental illnesses of the white rich in our society. And it’s like everybody just skips over that. Nobody would raise the question, “why don’t we pathologize the rich?” We actually believe that they suffer mental illness, and that they deserve healing. The issue for us as black people is that very few people feel that we deserve healing. Which is why we have very few systems that promote healing in our lives. The primary system that ever promoted healing in black people is the church, and we see what is going on in most churches today. They’ve become an extension of that material greed.

G.Y.: As you shared being stopped by police, I thought of your book “Black Looks: Race and Representation,” where you describe whiteness as a site of terror. Has that changed for you?

b.h.: I don’t think that has changed for most black people. That particular essay, “Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” talks about whiteness, the black imagination, and how many of us live in fear of whiteness. And I emphasize the story about the policeman because for many of us that fear of whiteness has intensified. I think that white people, for the most part, never think about black people wanting to be in black only spaces, because we do not feel safe.

In my last book, “Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice,” I really wanted to raise and problematize the question: Where do we feel safe as black people? I definitely return to the home as a place of spiritual possibility, home as a holy place.

I bought my current house from a conservative white male capitalist who lives across the street from me, and I’m so happy in my little home. I tell people, when I open the doors of my house it’s like these arms come out, and they’re just embracing me. I think that is part of our radical resistance to the culture of domination. I know that I’m not who he imagined in this little house. He imagined a nice white family with two kids, and I think on some level it was very hard for … [more]
bellhooks  2015  georgeyancy  buddhism  christianity  spirituality  religion  race  class  patriarchy  racism  classism  mentalillness  money  greed  mentalhealth  society  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  domination  power  gender  feminism  idenity  listening  love  humor  martinlutherkingjr  cornelwest  allies  influence  homes  intellectualism  theory  practice  criticalthinking  pedagogy  writing  children  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  oedagogy  solitude  workinginpublic  publicintellectuals  narcissism  healing  malcolmx  blackness  whitesupremacy  abandonment  betrayal  anger  masculinity  markmcleodbethune  resistance  safety  whiteness  terror  wealth  imperialism  inequality  pathology  poverty  truth  truthfulness  sandrabland  thichnhathanh  activism  estrangement  everyday  humanism  humanization  humility  grace  change  changemaking  transformation  canon  empowerment  composting  desire  lotteries  lorrainehansberry  araisininthesun  culture  trauma  sorrow  leadership  psychology  self-determination  slow  small  beatpoets  jackkerouac  garysnyder  beatpoetry  ethics 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Work-Life Balance Needs an Update - The Atlantic
"How people think and talk about an issue matters. Every time people say “working mother” but don’t say “working father,” every time people talk about parental issues (or caregiving issues generally) as “women’s issues,”—together these small failures continually reinforce the assumption that it is up to women to raise children and care for elders, even though most people now accept that it is up to both women and men to earn a living. That assumption, in turn, enables male-female inequality to persist.

Another common idiom—that of “work-life balance”—does a disservice to women at the bottom of the income scale, implying that people have some control over this situation. The notion of “balance” summons an image of a see-saw or a scale, a stable equilibrium in which people have the right amounts of different things that they want. It is the ultimate expression of “having it all”—just enough of this and just enough of that.

The majority of American women who have caregiving obligations are persevering in the face of seemingly impossible conflicting pressures—how to get their jobs done and be at their children’s sports games and organize weekend activities and help with homework and take their mothers to the doctor and cook for or at least take dinner to a friend with cancer and and and. Or worse still, how to work two or three jobs to put food on the table and pay the rent and still have any time for children or parents at all?

Instead of balance, a better approach is to talk more simply and straightforwardly about making room for care, a concept I explore in my new book Unfinished Business. Begin from the proposition that we cannot survive, as individuals or as a nation, without caring for one another. George Halvorson, former head of Kaiser Permanente, recently wrote: “The biggest single public health deficit and failure in America today is the fact that almost no parents of newborn children have been told or taught that they can improve their child's learning abilities significantly by exercising their baby's brain in the first three years of life.” Caring for children properly, and valuing the unpaid and paid work of those who undertake this vital job, will determine America’s future competitiveness, security, equality, and the wellbeing of its citizens. And at the other end of life, who are we if we do not care for those who cared for us?

Making room for care is dependent on one thing: valuing it, economically. Yet instead of valuing care as the indispensable work that it is, society as a whole free rides on the labor of family caregivers, who are not compensated for their work. Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood, cites studies estimating a mother’s worth as somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000 a year, depending on whether the measure is the replacement value of each of the services she is expected to provide or what we could expect to have to pay one individual to provide a combination of those services. But none of those goods and services is ever counted in the U.S. GDP.

They could be. Plenty of economists have shown how. Bringing together much of this work, Riane Eisler is leading over 100 organizations in the Caring Economy Campaign, which has put together a set of Social Wealth Indicators specifically designed to track the value of caring for others and to measure where the U.S. stands on these measures versus other advanced industrial countries.

If society valued care, it would be accounted for in measurements of the economy and assessments of the country’s health and wealth. If society valued care, workplaces would adopt an entire set of new practices, from a right to request flexible work to the routine creation of work coverage plans for every worker, on the expectation that all workers must make room for caring for someone in their lives at some point in their lives. And if society valued care, the roles of teacher, lead parent, coach, nurse, therapist, or any other caring profession would have a degree of prestige and compensation that reflect the enormous importance of the work these people do.

“Balance” is a luxury, something only the very luckiest can ever attain. Equality—of the activities that are equally necessary for our survival and flourishing—is a better framework, as it demonstrates why care is something everybody needs to do and everybody needs access to. That’s not about balancing work and life. That’s about valuing all the activities that society needs for humans to flourish."
anne-marieslaughter  2015  work-lifebalance  caring  caringeconomy  economics  class  care  emotionallabor  gender  inequality  work  labor  health  mentalhealth  wellbeing  motherhood  women  society  values 
december 2015 by robertogreco
After a String of Suicides, Students in Palo Alto Are Demanding a Part in Reforming Their School's Culture | VICE | United States
"There are a few encouraging signs that the community is coming around to recognizing and ultimately fixing these flaws. In March, the school board voted to allocate $250,000 of the district's budget to hiring two more full-time therapists for the high schools, which will relieve the strained workload of the counseling staff. At Gunn, students took the matter of improving mental health into their own hands, organizing the Student Wellness Committee with the help of Herrmann. It organically grew out of their discussions on what needed to change at the school after Cameron Lee's death. One of the things they set up was a referral box, which allowed students to anonymously refer their friends to counseling. "A startling number of people have told me that they wouldn't talk to a counselor if they had a friend who was in trouble," Gunn sophomore class president Chloe Chang Sorensen explained.

The committee also launched a mental health awareness campaign to educate students about causes, symptoms, and resources available to them. And finally, the committee collaborated with an organization called Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) to implement a mindfulness curriculum in physical education classes starting in the fall. These students were not interested in waiting for the adults to act. They made themselves into agents of change."



"Students were not willing to passively accept the superintendent's decision. Two Gunn juniors, Ben Lee and Nina Shirole, co-founded the Palo Alto Student Union to advocate for and promote the student voice. They put up posters with the words SUPPORT STUDENT CHOICE, SUPPORT STUDENT VOICE all over Gunn. And many teachers supported their efforts. With the superintendent sitting behind him on stage, retiring Gunn mathematics teacher Peter Herreshoff said in a speech at graduation, "Your class this year witnessed the imposition of an unjust policy regarding zero period. Although it didn't affect you directly, you united in solidarity with future graduating classes to oppose that policy. Although you didn't win, yet, you learned about taking agency over your lives and working collectively to do that." The student union considered holding a student walkout over the zero-period change but ultimately decided to host a sit-in at a school-board meeting.

A few weeks after the decision was announced, dozens of students attended a Tuesday-evening board meeting. This was the meeting at which zero period was originally meant to be discussed, but McGee had unexpectedly made a unilateral decision beforehand. One after another, students came up to the podium and blasted the superintendent. Gunn senior and school-board student representative Rose Weinmann called the move "misguided paternalism." What students were most peeved about was that the zero-period decision was orchestrated in a top-down manner without their consultation. Ben Lee told me later, "We were blatantly disregarded by the community. It was good to show that we weren't lesser beings. We were going to fight for our right to be heard." He believes that the decision was rashly made to "appease a few people." Shirole also thinks it's a contradiction that physical education and broadcasting classes during zero period will remain when the underlying intention of the change was to help all students get more sleep. And she says the research on later start times does not "account for the element of choice," as zero period is optional."
nikhilgoyal  paloalto  suicide  education  schools  2015  culture  society  siliconvalley  mentalhealth  academics  gunnhighschool  depression  anxiety  stress  parenting  studentvoice  studentchoice 
december 2015 by robertogreco
How 'Treat Yourself' Became a Capitalist Command - The Atlantic
"In a 1982 lecture that went on to be published as an essay called "Technologies of the Self," the French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that looking after oneself, rather than being a form of navel-gazing or narcissism, is a kind of “vigilance” that dates back to antiquity. For Socrates, Plato, and their ilk, Foucault writes, “taking care of yourself eventually became absorbed into knowing yourself.”* As the thinking went, only with the proper amount of time set aside for the “active leisure” of reading, studying, and ruminating could a person come to grips with the profound nature of the universe and his own mortality.

After bubbling up through academic communities in the ‘80s, the term “self-care” accumulated health-related connotations as it gained mainstream renown. In the ‘90s, it referred to the way that patients could take supplementary responsibility for themselves in conjunction with their doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. This was not particularly surprising: Foucault once advised that “one must become the doctor of oneself,” and his theories inspired individual-focused health care even before WebMD.

What might surprise both ’80s professors and ’90s medical professionals, though, is the degree to which self-care has also become a capitalist enterprise. American culture, with its typical anything-worth-doing-is-worth-overdoing attitude, has reduced self-care to buying stuff and, even more counter-intuitively, to trying to become a more productive employee. In other words, active self-care was originally considered necessary to be a philosopher, typically for elite white men who had the luxury to sit and think. Now, America has democratized it by making it seemingly available to all—at least, for a price.

The advertising industry has nudged self-care away from introspection and towards reflexive consumerism. According to copywriters, you “deserve” everything from “a break today” (at McDonald’s) to “brighter eyes” (with new make-up) from “a decent sandwich” (from Milio’s) to, simply, “the best” (in the form of Beats By Dre). The implication is clear: Consumers who fail to purchase such treats are depriving themselves, failing to meet their own needs. By the late 2000s, the trope “you deserve it!” had irritated, among others, Rush Limbaugh, various entrepreneurs, and frugal bloggers. As one of those bloggers points out, “We definitely do not deserve the bondage that comes with being under obligation to a credit-card company.”

In this way, capitalism has taken what Foucault called “a general attitude and also a precise act every day” and broken it down into a series of indulgent yet somehow necessary purchases of cosmetics, electronics, and fast food. When combined with the constant reminders that well-being also requires a sensible diet and lots of exercise, America’s overall approach to self-care begins to appear shallow, haphazard, and contradictory.

Just like the advertising industry, the American office has taken up the cause, because employees who don’t keep themselves in good working order can represent lost revenue. According to William Davies, whose book The Atlantic excerpted this summer, many companies wrestle with the problem of employees who are regularly absent, unmotivated, or suffering from “persistent, low-level mental-health problems.” And, he goes on, “the way in which these problems manifest themselves in the workplace, threatening productivity as they do so, has placed them among the greatest problems confronting capitalism today.”

The kind of self-care being peddled to the 21st-century American white-collar worker is a cure for a quintessentially 21st-century American problem: that jobs demand ever-increasing amounts of time, energy, and creativity. Capitalism, faced with a problem it created, is itself trying to provide a solution. Little wonder, then, that the suggested fix isn’t to convince workers to actually take their vacation days or to go back to a more humane schedule of 40 hours a week, both of which would help employees to prioritize their own well-being. Instead, to avoid burnout, people are encouraged to spend more and exercise harder.

This message can be seen splashed across the homepages of a number of media outlets. At the Huffington Post, one writer attempted to model for readers how to “add self-care to your schedule” by showing how “seven super successful women leaders” do it. The results were off-putting, Type-A solutions such as “6:00 AM outdoor boot camp” and, for breakfast, “Parsley protein shakes.” Sleep deprivation and liquid breakfasts may not seem joyless to everyone, but they hardly qualify as pampering, let alone paying careful attention to one's needs. And on Jezebel’s Millihelen blog, the writer Jane Marie confesses that she does not know how to conceive of self-care in a practical way, since “everything that comes to mind either takes too much time or too much money.” (Appropriately enough, Gawker Media, which owns Jezebel, just announced that it is shuttering Millihelen and starting a new sub-site focused specifically on “health, beauty, and self-care.”)

Self-care may never have been easy, but it was once simple and certainly not expensive. It required little more than the ability and wherewithal for introspection. Foucault’s “active leisure,” the time “to study, to read,” is not impossible to carve out time for. Workers and employers alike only have to recognize that determining and meeting one’s needs has value, regardless if it can produce any profit."
consumerism  capitalism  marketing  2015  self-care  michelfoucault  health  williamdavies  treatingthesymptom  mentalhealth  productivity  esterbloom  foucault 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Rights of Refugees Who Do Wrong - The New Yorker
"In Sierra Leone, it is often said that female child soldiers grow up to be prostitutes, having lost their sexual purity, and that male soldiers dominate the okada industry, a motorbike taxi service, one of the cheapest forms of transportation. Theresa Betancourt, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that many of the okada drivers are dismissed as crazy and dangerous. Betancourt has been following war-exposed youth in Sierra Leone and has found that child soldiers endured new forms of trauma once the violence ended. Some returned to communities that performed cleansing and atonement ceremonies, but others were blamed for their brutal deeds, and continued to do drugs. The latter group often became hostile, aggressive, and anxious; their inability to reënter their community as equals, she said, could serve as a reminder of their unresolved guilt and remorse.

Sarah Sherman-Stokes, of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the Boston University School of Law, told me that she sees a similar dynamic in the U.S. The refugees she represents tend to respond to “any threats to their well-being or personal safety in a really disproportionate way. It has to be—that’s the only way they made it this far.” She added, “Their bad acts, which are often fuelled by substance abuse, tend to be responses to untreated, protracted complex trauma. And then we send them back to the place where the trauma was inflicted.”

In response to the Syrian-refugee crisis, the Obama Administration has promised to increase the number of refugees it resettles, from seventy thousand a year to a hundred thousand. The Department of State gives preference to the most vulnerable refugees, who have been tortured or persecuted at home. Their traumas will inevitably follow them here. Studies show that migration, especially when coupled with discrimination, elevates people’s risk of psychosis. An analysis of more than four million medical records in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that immigrants from East Africa and Southeast Asia were nearly twice as likely to develop psychosis as the general population was.

Within the immigration system, the link among crime, mental illness, and trauma is largely ignored. Heidi Altman, the legal director of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, in Washington, D.C., told me, “In recent years, we’ve seen this trend of people who survived the big civil wars of the nineties—Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone—come to the U.S. as refugees, and now, many years later, are struggling with the traumas they endured.” Immigration detention, she said, is even less suited for the mentally ill than are jails and prisons, which have become the default provider for Americans who need psychiatric care. “In the criminal justice system, at least there is some acknowledgment that jails are functioning as de-facto psychiatric facilities,” she said. “But that conversation isn’t even happening on the immigration side.”

Until 2011, the immigration system had no guidelines for dealing with people who were mentally impaired or incompetent, and they routinely appeared in court without lawyers. In the past few years, in response to a class-action suit, California, Arizona, and Washington, along with some cities, have begun providing government-appointed counsel for the mentally incompetent. But in most parts of the country these people must either find a lawyer on their own or, like eighty-four per cent of detained migrants, represent themselves. Immigration law is notoriously complex; to understand it, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has written, “Morsels of comprehension must be pried from mollusks of jargon.”"
refugees  ptsd  deportation  mentalhealth  2015  immigration  rachelaviv  us  policy  trauma 
december 2015 by robertogreco
First they make you crazy. Then they sell you the cure: Be Mindful of Mindless Mindfulness
"So – if I’m not against art, or coloring, or relaxation or mindfulness what is my problem? Here it is: The explosion of mindfulness as the cure-all du jour. And I’m wondering why is this happening? Why now?

Brave New World is Aldous Huxley’s ironic title for his dystopian novel. In this future the fictional drug soma has “All of the benefits of Christianity and alcohol without their defects.” Huxley takes the word soma – this “Christianity without tears” – from an unknown drug believed to have been used in ancient Indian Vedic cults as part of religious ceremonies. The soma of Brave New World is a perversion of that ancient drug. Rather than conferring insight and wisdom it clouds reality. It is not used to deliver enlightenment but rather to blunt ugly truths that arise to disturb the surface of experience. Soma is a tool of the state to keep its citizens quiet and to prevent them from the seeing the truth and demanding change."



"I have no problem with children learning anything that can help them thrive in our stress-inducing, anxiety-ridden age. My problem lies with the fact that we must first stop creating and exacerbating the problems to which all this is then the answer. As a society we are driving our kids crazy and we have to stop."



"Let’s return for a moment to those backpacking counter cultural wanderers and to those who have searched for inner peace and meaning and found answers that include the moral and spiritual wisdom of the Buddhist tradition. That tradition is about enlightenment and developing our intellectual capacity to the fullest. It is about waking up, compassion and kindness. Admirable goals and worthy aspirations. Nothing wrong with that. It would be good to see schools helping children know themselves better and see themselves as a part of the great universe. But the mindfulness fad is often about mindless acceptance of the unacceptable – more to do with mitigating symptoms of sickness rather than true self-awareness and personal growth."

[See also (referenced within): http://www.salon.com/2015/11/08/they_want_kids_to_be_robots_meet_the_new_education_craze_designed_to_distract_you_from_overtesting/ ]
josieholford  mindfulness  buddhism  schools  buzzwords  fads  2015  children  mentalhealth  anxiety  nclb  grit  health  injustice  testing  standardizedtesting  wellness  trends  education  learning  teaching 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Suicide Clusters at Palo Alto High Schools - The Atlantic
"In the late 1990s, when she was an assistant professor in Yale’s psychiatry department, Suniya Luthar was doing research at an inner-city school in Connecticut. She wanted to know whether misbehavior correlated more with poverty or with a stage of adolescence. She needed a second school to use as a comparison. An undergraduate student she worked with had connections at a school in a Connecticut suburb that was more upscale, and Luthar got permission to distribute her surveys there. The results were not what she expected. In the inner-city school, 86 percent of students received free or reduced-price lunches; in the suburban school, 1 percent did. Yet in the richer school, the proportion of kids who smoked, drank, or used hard drugs was significantly higher—as was the rate of serious anxiety and depression. This anomaly started Luthar down a career-long track studying the vulnerabilities of students within what she calls “a culture of affluence.” I called Luthar, now a professor at Arizona State University, in March to find out whether the anxiety she was recording amounted to familiar teenage angst or something more serious. As it happened, she was about to fly to Palo Alto. A meeting on adolescents and suicide, hosted by Stanford’s psychiatry department, had been organized in a hurry. Earlier that month a fifth kid had killed himself, Byron Zhu, a 15-year-old sophomore at Palo Alto High. He had walked in front of an early-morning northbound train. The police were still at the scene when kids were biking to school that morning; the principal, who had rushed over, asked the police to put up a special barrier so they wouldn’t see.

Luthar had been invited to give a presentation on affluent youth as a largely unrecognized at-risk group. Convincing people that rich kids are at high risk isn’t easy, she said. But she has amassed the most thorough data set we have on that group, from schools scattered across the country. Luthar’s data come from school districts where families have median incomes of more than $200,000, and private schools where tuition is close to $30,000 a year. Her research suggests a U‑shaped curve in pathologies among children, by class. At each extreme—poor and rich—kids are showing unusually high rates of dysfunction. On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

“We assume that because [these kids] have money and a good education, everything is fine,” Luthar says. And in the long run, money and education will protect them. But in adolescence, the dangers posed by the culture of affluence can be “quite potent.” That doesn’t mean rich kids are more likely to kill themselves. Studies on youth suicide have generally turned up few differences among social classes. But it does mean many are deeply suffering.

One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found, was the “pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.” In one study, for example, kids were asked to choose and rank their parents’ top five values, from a list of 10. Half of the values were related to achievement (“attend a good college,” “make a lot of money,” “excel academically”), and the other half to well-being and personal character (“are honest,” “are kind to others,” “are generally happy with yourself and your life”). When the kids chose a greater number of achievement-related goals, that usually correlated with personal troubles, Luthar said.

The kids were also asked how much they identified with sentences such as “The fewer mistakes I make, the more people will like me” and “If someone does a task at work/school better than I, then I feel like I failed the whole task.” From their answers, Luthar constructed a profile of elite American adolescents whose self-worth is tied to their achievements and who see themselves as catastrophically flawed if they don’t meet the highest standards of success. Because a certain kind of success seems well within reach, they feel they have to attain it at all costs—a phenomenon she refers to as “I can, therefore I must.” Middle-class kids, she told me, generally do not live with the expectation that they should go to Stanford or earn $200,000 a year. “If I’ve never been to the moon,” she said of middle-class families, “why would I expect my kids to go there?” The yardstick for the children of the meritocratic elite is different, and it can intimidate as much as it can empower.

The second major cause of distress that Luthar identified was perhaps more surprising: Affluent kids felt remarkably isolated from their parents. When I wrote “The Overprotected Kid” for this magazine last year, I assumed that the brand of helicopter parenting I described as typical of my cohort involved a trade-off. Parents might be sheltering their kids, but at least they were more emotionally in tune with them than, say, the parents of the ’70s divorce generation were with their children. Luthar disabused me of this comforting narrative. The kids in the affluent communities she studied felt their parents to be no more available to them, either emotionally or physically, than the kids in severe poverty did.

Some of the measures Luthar used were objective: Did the family eat dinner together, or hang out in the evenings? Here, she discovered that some busy parents would leave adolescents alone in the afternoon and evening and often weren’t home at all during those hours. She also measured the kids’ feelings of closeness—“My father understands me,” or “My mother knows when I am upset.” Here again Luthar saw a fissure: Children had the sense that their parents monitored their activities and cared deeply about how they were spending their time, but that didn’t translate into feeling close. Many children felt they were being prodded toward very specific goals and behaviors by parental cues, some subtle, some less so. Their parents glowed warmly when they did well in school or sports but seemed let down when they didn’t. Often the kids learned to hide their failures—real or imagined—for fear of disappointing their parents. Other research has shown that a feeling of closeness to parents was inversely linked to household income, meaning that the most-affluent kids felt the most alienated. “It’s mind-boggling,” Luthar says. “We are comparing them to a group of parents we think of as being in dire straits—largely single mothers on welfare whose circumstances are assumed to affect the quality of their parenting. And yet kids from these affluent families, mostly Caucasian, say they feel no closer to their parents than the poor kids do.”

Luthar’s research was incorporated into the 2006 best seller The Price of Privilege, by Madeline Levine, a child psychologist who practices in the Bay Area. She reported that the adolescents she was encountering would “complain bitterly of being too pressured, misunderstood, anxious, angry, sad, and empty.” In the past couple of years, other best sellers have sounded a similar note. William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor who contributes to this magazine, argues in Excellent Sheep that elite education “manufactures students who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose.” The New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania warns of the dangers of insisting that admission to an elite college is necessary for a successful life.

After leaving Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote a book, published in June, called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. In it, she confesses that as a dean, she had interacted with students who relied on their parents “in ways that felt, simply, off” and who seemed “existentially impotent.” She detailed the growing mental-health crisis at colleges, and described the brilliant, accomplished students who “would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that this outwardly successful situation was their miserable life.”

I’ve read all these books, and so have many of my friends. We have kids this age, or about to be this age, and yet somehow we can’t absorb the message. I didn’t, really, until I spent some time in Palo Alto.

Since Levine wrote The Price of Privilege, she’s watched the stress in the Bay Area and in affluent communities all over the country become more pervasive and more acute. What disturbs her most is that the teenagers she sees no longer rebel. A decade ago, she used to referee family fights in her office, she told me, where the teens would tell their parents, “This is bad for me! I’m not doing this.” Now, she reports, the teenagers have no sense of agency. They still complain bitterly about all the same things, but they feel they have no choice. Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a “mass delusion” that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow. Adolescents no longer typically identify… [more]
hannahrosin  suicide  siliconvalley  affluence  parenting  schools  education  2015  hannarosin  paloalto  gunnhighschool  anxiety  mentalhealth  children  youth  adolescence  psychology  depression  academics  suniyaluthar 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Eponis | Sinope — Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to...
"Are you hydrated? If not, have a glass of water.

Have you eaten in the past three hours? If not, get some food — something with protein, not just simple carbs. Perhaps some nuts or hummus?

Have you showered in the past day? If not, take a shower right now.

If daytime: are you dressed? If not, put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas. Give yourself permission to wear something special, whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a pretty dress.

If nighttime: are you sleepy and fatigued but resisting going to sleep? Put on pajamas, make yourself cozy in bed with a teddy bear and the sound of falling rain, and close your eyes for fifteen minutes — no electronic screens allowed. If you’re still awake after that, you can get up again; no pressure.

Have you stretched your legs in the past day? If not, do so right now. If you don’t have the spoons for a run or trip to the gym, just walk around the block, then keep walking as long as you please. If the weather’s crap, drive to a big box store (e.g. Target) and go on a brisk walk through the aisles you normally skip.

Have you said something nice to someone in the past day? Do so, whether online or in person. Make it genuine; wait until you see something really wonderful about someone, and tell them about it.

Have you moved your body to music in the past day? If not, do so — jog for the length of an EDM song at your favorite BPM, or just dance around the room for the length of an upbeat song.

Have you cuddled a living being in the past two days? If not, do so. Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs from friends or friends’ pets. Most of them will enjoy the cuddles too; you’re not imposing on them.

Do you feel ineffective? Pause right now and get something small completed, whether it’s responding to an e-mail, loading up the dishwasher, or packing your gym bag for your next trip. Good job!

Do you feel unattractive? Take a goddamn selfie. Your friends will remind you how great you look, and you’ll fight society’s restrictions on what beauty can look like.

Do you feel paralyzed by indecision? Give yourself ten minutes to sit back and figure out a game plan for the day. If a particular decision or problem is still being a roadblock, simply set it aside for now, and pick something else that seems doable. Right now, the important part is to break through that stasis, even if it means doing something trivial.

Have you seen a therapist in the past few days? If not, hang on until your next therapy visit and talk through things then.

Have you been over-exerting yourself lately — physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually? That can take a toll that lingers for days. Give yourself a break in that area, whether it’s physical rest, taking time alone, or relaxing with some silly entertainment.

Have you changed any of your medications in the past couple of weeks, including skipped doses or a change in generic prescription brand? That may be screwing with your head. Give things a few days, then talk to your doctor if it doesn’t settle down.

Have you waited a week? Sometimes our perception of life is skewed, and we can’t even tell that we’re not thinking clearly, and there’s no obvious external cause. It happens. Keep yourself going for a full week, whatever it takes, and see if you still feel the same way then.

You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through. You are stronger than you think."
depression  coping  health  mentalhealth  via:mattthomas  sleep  eating  exercise  self-care 
october 2015 by robertogreco
B E K K E
">>>> Since y’all always wanna talk about not romanticizing shit, how about we stop romanticizing pain and discomfort? 

>>>> Stop telling people they will only ever be successful if they take risks and leave their comfort zone.

>>>> Stop telling people that choosing contentment and security over “success” is lazy

>>>> Stop belittling disabled and mentally ill people for not “trying hard enough to overcome” their disabilities.

>>>> Stop forcing people to do things they hate to make them “grow as a person”

>>>> Stop telling people they’re supposed to hurt, that they’re supposed to be scared, that they’re supposed to be struggling to get by. 

>>> I thought that I was really really explicit in this post, but apparently I was still too vague, because people aren’t getting it. So let me clear something up.

>>> I DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT “PRODUCTIVITY”

>>> Like, I don’t care how productive a person is. I don’t care how much they “contribute to society.” I don’t give a fuck if they don’t have a job, if they don’t leave the house, if they don’t get out of bed every day. I care about people who are LITERALLY WORKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH because some of y’all care more about “production” than you do about people. 

>>> Whenever I make posts like this, people always leave the same comments. “Okay, but what about the people who are forty years old and live in their parent’s basements and have never had a job in their lives and don’t care about anything.” 

>>> ….What about them? Like, I have maybe met one person in my entire life who fits half of that description. But I know dozens upon dozens of young people who are making themselves sick, causeing themselves chronic health problems, ruining their mental health, because they are trying to live up to other’s standards of success. 

>>> I care about people being SAFE. I care about people being HAPPY. I care about people TAKING CARE OF THEIR OWN HEALTH. 

>>> I don’t give a fuck about how productive the are. 

>> this

> productivity is predicated on capitalism and whiteness."
productivity  capitalism  wellbeing  disabiliuty  mentalhealth  pain  discomfort  contentment  security  success 
june 2015 by robertogreco
No, it's not you: why 'wellness' isn't the answer to overwork
"Despite the endless column inches devoted to how we can find balance in our busy working lives, the solution here isn’t personal, it’s political. Those of us working in the health and wellbeing industries have had our skills hijacked by commercial interests. Employee Assistance Programs, corporate stress management training and the burgeoning multi-billion dollar wellness industry all trade on, support and are supported by the culture of overwork. If we are truly committed to wellbeing, we need to remember who our clients are meant to be and be willing to risk acting in their best interests.

No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise. Like a low-flying plane, the insidious culture of overwork is deafening and the only way we can really feel better is if we can find a way to make it stop."
work  labor  mindfulness  wellness  2015  zoëkrupka  health  mentalhealth  overwork  therapy  balance 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’ - NYTimes.com
"Most newly stylish coinages carry with them some evidence of grammatical trauma. Consider “affluencer,” “selfie,” “impactful.” Notes of cynicism and cutesiness come through. But every now and then a bright exception to this dispiriting routine appears. A rookie word makes its big-league debut, a stadium of pedants prepares to peg it with tomatoes and — nothing. A halfhearted heckle. The new word looks only passably pathetic. Maddeningly, it has heft.

“Mindfulness” may be that hefty word now, one that can’t readily be dismissed as trivia or propaganda. Yes, it’s current among jaw-grinding Fortune 500 executives who take sleeping pills and have “leadership coaches,” as well as with the moneyed earnest, who shop at Whole Foods, where Mindful magazine is on the newsstand alongside glossies about woodworking and the environment. It looks like nothing more than the noun form of “mindful” — the proper attitude toward the London subway’s gaps — but “mindfulness” has more exotic origins. In the late 19th century, the heyday of both the British Empire and Victorian Orientalism, a British magistrate in Galle, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), with the formidable name of Thomas William Rhys Davids, found himself charged with adjudicating Buddhist ecclesiastical disputes. He set out to learn Pali, a Middle Indo-Aryan tongue and the liturgical language of Theravada, an early branch of Buddhism. In 1881, he thus pulled out “mindfulness” — a synonym for “attention” from 1530 — as an approximate translation of the Buddhist concept of sati.

The translation was indeed rough. Sati, which Buddhists consider the first of seven factors of enlightenment, means, more nearly, “memory of the present,” which didn’t track in tense-preoccupied English. “Mindfulness” stuck — but may have saddled the subtle sati with false-note connotations of Victorian caution, or even obedience. (“Mind your manners!”)

“Mindfulness” finally became an American brand, however, a hundred years later, when the be-here-now, Eastern-inflected explorations of the ’60s came to dovetail with self-improvement regimes. In the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist in New England and a longtime meditator in the Zen Buddhist tradition, saw in Rhys Davids’s word a chance to scrub meditation of its religious origins. Kabat-Zinn believed that many of the secular people who could most benefit from meditation were being turned off by the whiffs of reincarnation and other religious esoterica that clung to it. So he devised a new and pleasing definition of “mindfulness,” one that now makes no mention of enlightenment: “The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”"



"If it’s a revolution, it’s not a grass-roots one. Although mindfulness teachers regularly offer the practice in disenfranchised communities in the United States and abroad, the powerful have really made mindfulness their own, exacting from the delicate idea concrete promises of longer lives and greater productivity. In January, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kabat-Zinn led executives and 1 percenters in a mindfulness meditation meant to promote general well-being. Many in pinstripes and conference lanyards also took time away from panels on Bitcoin and cybersecurity to communally breathe, and to attend a packed session called The Human Brain: Deconstructing Mindfulness, led by Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health."



"Mindfulness as “keeping in tune” has a nice ring to it. But it’s “focused on the task at hand” that appeals to managers, like Jackson, who are conscious of performance goals. Might workplace mindfulness — in the cubicle or on the court — be just another way to keep employees undistracted and to get them to work harder for nothing but airy rewards? In this context of performance enhancement, “mindfulness” seems perilously close to doggerel from the same playbook that brought us corny affirmations, inner children and vision boards.

Maybe the word “mindfulness” is like the Prius emblem, a badge of enlightened and self-satisfied consumerism, and of success and achievement. If so, not deploying mindfulness — taking pills or naps for anxiety, say, or going out to church or cocktails — makes you look sort of backward or classless. Like driving a Hummer.

As usual with modish and ideologically freighted words, this one has also come to inform high-minded prescriptions for raising children. Evidently they’re no longer expected to mind their manners; we are expected instead to mind their emotional states. Recently, Hanna Rosin, in Slate, argued that mindful parenting might be a Trojan horse: Though the mindful mother claims to stay open-minded about her child’s every action and communication, she ends up being hospitable to only the kid’s hippie, peacenik side — the side she comes to prefer.

In Rosin’s example, a mother supposedly mindful of her son’s capacity for violence nonetheless doesn’t rest until he gives a peaceable, sympathetic explanation for it — that he was hurt and overreacted. “I was mad, and he had it coming,” which might be the lad’s own truth, doesn’t fly. The mother’s “mindful attention,” rather than representing freedom from judgment, puts a thumb on the scale.

It’s profoundly tempting to dismiss as cant any word current with Davos, the N.B.A. and the motherhood guilt complex. Mindful fracking: Could that be next? Putting a neuroscience halo around a byword for both uppers (“productivity”) and downers (“relaxation”) — to ensure a more compliant work force and a more prosperous C-suite — also seems twisted. No one word, however shiny, however intriguingly Eastern, however bolstered by science, can ever fix the human condition. And that’s what commercial mindfulness may have lost from the most rigorous Buddhist tenets it replaced: the implication that suffering cannot be escaped but must be faced. Of that shift in meaning — in the Westernization of sati — we should be especially mindful."
mindfulness  2015  productivity  labor  words  virginiaheffernan  sati  buddhism  jonkabat-zinn  rhysdavid  meditiation  posturing  trends  openmindedness  parenting  davos  mentalhealth  awareness  via:ablerism 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Final Boss Form — Before you diagnose yourself with depression or...
"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. —William Gibson."
depression  mentalhealth  environment  symptomsvscauses  2015  williamgibson  self-esteem  company 
april 2015 by robertogreco
My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward - Pacific Standard
"We met at 18. We wed at 24. At 27, I checked my wife into a psych ward—for the first time. How mental illness reshapes a marriage."
marklukach  health  mentalhealth  mentalillness  2015  marriage  relationships  psychiatry  rdlaing  anti-psychiatry 
march 2015 by robertogreco
How To Fight Depression
"Talk to someone. The somewhat facile message of "get help" can be pretty annoying if you're a depressed person, because the state of mental health care in most places is a real mess; getting good help can be difficult, expensive, scary, and prohibitively exhausting for a person who's having trouble just getting out of bed. But talking to someone is crucial, whether it's a friend, a family member, a clergy person, or a counselor. I know it seems basic, but saying what you're feeling–honestly and straightforwardly—can lighten your burden anywhere from a little to a whole lot. And don't be scared to ask for exactly what you need, whether it's just an ear or help with grocery shopping; people can be daunted by depression and not know what to do, but if they care about you, they'll be glad to help you out. (Don't forget to be mindful of the fact that caring for a depressed person is a lot of emotional labor, but I think most depressed people lean too little on others rather than too much.)



Exercise. Oh, I hate this one. Exercising is hard and sucks. But what I probably hate the most about it is that it actually works, so now I have to do it. You don't have to become a gym rat or anything, but adding just a little movement and sweatiness to your day does some annoyingly super-effective mood-boosting thing to your brain. If you're not a gym or sports person (lord knows I'm not), try to work it into your daily routine by walking to a farther transit stop than usual, taking the stairs at work, or doing an exercise video at home. The real trick, though I've never managed this one myself, is to do it often enough that you get "addicted" to it—this is what people say happens! I swear!—and then you're stuck being slightly happier forever. Good luck with that.

Stop drinking, at least for a bit. This one can be pretty hard, because alcohol is fun, tastes good, makes socializing easier, and breaks up the monotony of your shitty feelings a bit. People will tell you alcohol is a depressant, and if you're anything like me, you'll smugly be like, "Actually, that's not technically even what depressant means," and finish your delicious beer.

But you know, even if alcohol doesn't actually make you more depressed (I anecdotally think it does, though the studies tend to be bedeviled by the obvious entanglement of cause and effect), it makes you more impulsive, which is extra dangerous when you're depressed. When you don't drink, you might be way bored and awkward at social events, and have to stay brutally aware of all your feelings (I'm sorry, I'm not really selling this), but you're also much less likely to scare the shit out of your friends with your uncontrollable weeping or to make a big old mess texting your ex. Who needs to deal with the consequences of drunk behavior when you're already depressed? Plus, the dark synergy of depression + hangover is to be avoided at all costs, and I always find my mood the day after drinking is a little lousier than usual. Worth giving it a rest for a bit, just to see if it helps. (And if you find you can't give it a rest, that tells you something important, too.)

Try practicing mindfulness. The idea of mindfulness comes from Buddhist practice; stated most basically, it means being non-judgmentally present in the moment, no matter where you are or what you're doing. Which maybe makes it sound really hard and not that fun: Probably the present moment doesn't seem that great, right? But with practice it can be an astonishingly anti-depressant brain habit that makes the present much more tolerable. It's got something for everybody—you can connect it with spiritual practice if you're into that, or do it on its own, and it also has a lot of support from peer-reviewed research as a treatment for anxiety and depression.

Hang out with some animals. I don't know what it is about animals that has such an anti-depressant effect. Maybe it's that they remind you that there's a different way to move through the world than "excruciatingly," or just that they're funny and cute or cool-looking. I like to go to the aquarium because looking at fish chills me out; either that or I play with a friend's dog. Volunteering at an animal shelter is another good way to get some quality animal time, plus doing any sort of volunteer work gets you out of the house and creates a brand new source of meaning in your life—another challenging but really effective anti-depression tactic.

Think about medication. This is a obviously a super-personal choice that requires the care and guidance of experts far more expert than me, and lots of people are opposed to taking antidepressants for all sorts of legitimate reasons, but talk to a handful of people who have dealt with depression and you'll definitely find someone who says medication saved his or her life. To me, this makes it at the very least worthy of some thoughtful consideration and discussion with a doctor. There's nothing to be ashamed of in using medications for depression, any more than there is for any other illness. They can give you the breathing room you need to get better.

Don't give up. "Easier said than done" is an understatement. But people who struggle with depression can have awesome, happy lives, too. Because if this endless winter proved anything, it's that even endless things don't last forever."
depression  lilybenson  2015  mindfulness  alcohol  mentalhealth  exercise  conversation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Don’t do away with the fairies: we need to relearn our sense of the magical | Sara Maitland | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Woods are magical. Throughout northern Europe they are deeply linked to older ways of being, to what we might now like to dismiss as superstitious, childish nonsense.

But we cannot so simply wipe this out. Woods are our original home. If we do not populate the woods with imagination, with stories, with wonders, we will destroy them, or limit our own flourishing – or both.

I believe that most of us have a deep yearning for the magical, for a secret “otherness”, for an environment flowing with abundance – not just with nature but with super-nature too; with a rich background of stories and concepts and images, to inform our individual imaginations and give them actual material to come to grips with.

We know that our children are growing up richer and safer, less likely to die in childhood than ever. We also know that they (and their grownups ) have increasingly poor mental health, with higher levels of depression, anxiety, attention deficit problems and eating disorders. There are lots of reasons for this, of course; it is complex and complicated. But in 2012 a survey suggested that more than half of Icelanders believe in, or at least entertain the possibility of the existence of, the huldufólk – the hidden people, the elves. Iceland ranks well above the UK in social stability, equality and most noticeably happiness (ninth in the world, compared with our 22nd). Is it possible that there is a connection? And would we lose anything by assuming that there might be?"
nature  forests  woods  children  imagination  creativity  fantasy  iceland  magic  mentalhealth  environment  hiddenpeople  huldufólk  depression  anxiety  otherness  trees 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — The Inner Life of Rebellion | On Being
"The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin and Quaker wise man Parker Palmer come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change."

[Also here: https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/parker-palmer-and-courtney-martin-the-inner-life-of-rebellion

and in clips

“Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — Learning in Public”
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/parker-palmer-and-courtney

“Courtney Martin — A New Relationship with Rebellion”
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/courtney-martin-a-new

“Parker Palmer — Holding the Paradox of Chutzpah and Humility”
https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/parker-palmer-holding-the-paradox-of-chutzpah-and-humility ]
parkerpalmer  courtneymartin  comfort  persistence  rebellion  rebels  humility  burnout  discomfort  2015  depression  sustainability  resilience  mentalhealth  socialchange  savingtheworld  generations  agesegregation  intergenerational  interconnectedness  activism  reflection  service  idealism  privilege  success  efficiency  emotions  learning  howwelearn  piaget  listening  pause  ethics  busyness  resistance  soul  identity  maryoliver  attentiveness  attention  quakers  clinicaldepression  learninginpublic  living  love  flipflopping  mindchanging  malcolmx  victoriasafford  hope  jeanpiaget  onbeing  mindchanges  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Loneliness is a modern epidemic in need of treatment - opinion - 30 December 2014 - New Scientist
"In recent decades, social isolation has been recognised as a major risk to our health and longevity. It's twice as bad for you as being obese and nearly as bad as smoking. The rising number of people who say they are affected, across a wide range of ages, is startling. Yet obvious mechanisms – such as self-neglect – do not explain the full health toll. So what else is going on?

To answer this question it is worth noting that you can suffer the ill effects of loneliness even if you are not socially isolated. It is essentially an emotional state, and recognising the brain's role is vital to understanding much of the harm that can be caused.

Comedian Robin Williams made a salient observation in 2009: "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone." Tracking large groups over time indicates that perceived social isolation carries its own risk for morbidity and mortality, independent of actual social isolation. What could drive this surprising effect?

Safety in numbers

The perception of isolation from others – of being on the social perimeter – is not only a cause of unhappiness, it also signals danger. Fish have evolved to swim to the middle of their group when predators approach, mice housed in social isolation show sleep disruptions and reduced slow-wave sleep and prairie voles isolated from their partners then placed in an open field explore their surroundings less and concentrate on predator evasion.

These behaviours reflect an increased emphasis on self-preservation when on the social perimeter. For instance, fish on the edge of a school are more likely to be attacked by predators because they are easier to isolate and prey upon. Such observations reflect a more general principle, that perceived social isolation in social animals activates neural, neuroendocrine and behavioural responses that promote short-term self-preservation. However, these responses bring a cost for long-term health and well-being.

The range of harmful neural and behavioural effects of perceived isolation documented in adults include increased anxiety, hostility and social withdrawal; fragmented sleep and daytime fatigue; increased vascular resistance and altered gene expression and immunity; decreased impulse control; increased negativity and depressive symptoms; and increased age-related cognitive decline and risk of dementia.

A little less lonesome

Sadly, to date, attempts to reduce loneliness have met with limited success. A meta-analysis of different strategies studied in randomised controlled trials, showed they had only a small effect. Among the four types of interventions examined, talking therapy that focused on inappropriate thought processes – a lack of self-worth, a lack of perspective and a skewed idea of how trustworthy others are and how they perceive you - had the largest impact. Social skills training, social support and increased opportunities for social contact were much less effective.

This finding is consistent with the idea that perceived social isolation can still put us in self-preservation mode – a hangover from ancient times when isolation would have left us very vulnerable to attack – which can lead to harmful thought processes and behaviour that is at odds with thriving in a modern society.

There is no pharmacological treatment for loneliness, although animal research is shedding light on this possibility. Given the scale of the problem today, the hunt for better treatments of all types deserves high priority."
loneliness  2014  psychology  isolation  johncacioppo  stephaniecacioppo  mentalhealth 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Just something | oddhack
"I firmly believe that the institution of schooling is a significant cause of the numbness and melancholia that we see in so many young people today. Not that they would recognise it in themselves, mostly, nor would they seem openly miserable. But the way in which schooling and its curriculum contribute to a sense of lack of control over one’s life, a lack of any sense of being able to celebrate the skills and passions one would like to concentrate on, means that many young people today are - at least subconsciously - unhappy about themselves, and their futures, and their present; but simultaneously unaware of what they most need in order to resolve this unhappiness. Schooling doesn’t want you to have the breadth of awareness to realise what you could have found out about yourself had you not been schooled."
francisbarton  education  schooling  schools  unschooling  deschooling  learning  melancholia  youth  control  empowerment  happiness  unhappiness  health  mentalhealth  well-being  2014 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Animals And Us : TED Radio Hour : NPR
"Our relationship with animals is complicated: we love and fear them; hunt, consume and protect them. In this hour, TED speakers explore what happens when humans and animals interact."
animals  jonmooallem  iandunbar  billycollins  laurabraitman  psychology  fransdewaal  morality  mentalhealth  relationships  animalhumanrelationships  2014  ted 
september 2014 by robertogreco
We had a lot of trouble with western mental health... - Noteworthy and Not
"We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.

They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.

Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave."

~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.

From The Moth podcast, ‘Notes on an Exorcism’
mentalhealth  trauma  depression  medicine  rwanda  exorcism  andrewsolomon 
august 2014 by robertogreco
New Statesman | Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary: Sleep is a standing affront to capitalism
"When hungry digital companies measure success in "eyeballs" is sleep the last remaining zone of dissidence, of anti-productivity and even of solidarity?"

"When I close my laptop, it goes to sleep. It’s a curiously domestic metaphor but it also implies that sleep in humans and other animals is just a kind of low-power standby mode. (Do computers dream of electric sleep?) Last year, Apple announced a twist on this idea: a new feature for the Mac operating system called “Power Nap”. Using Power Nap, your computer can do important things even while asleep, receiving updates and performing backups.

The name Power Nap comes from the term describing the thrusting executive’s purported ability to catch a restorative forty winks in 20 minutes but the functioning of Apple’s feature symbolically implies a yet more ultra-modern and frankly inhuman aspiration: to be “productive” even while dozing. It is the uncanny technological embodiment of the dream most blatantly sold to us by those work-from-home scams online, which promise that you can “make money even while you sleep”.

Sleep, indeed, is a standing affront to capitalism. That is the argument of Jonathan Crary’s provocative and fascinating essay, which takes “24/7” as a spectral umbrella term for round-the-clock consumption and production in today’s world. The human power nap is a macho response to what Crary notes is the alarming shrinkage of sleep in modernity. “The average North American adult now sleeps approximately six and a half hours a night,” he observes, which is “an erosion from eight hours a generation ago” and “ten hours in the early 20th century”.

Back in 1996, Stanley Coren’s book Sleep Thieves blamed insufficient rest for industrial disasters such as the Chernobyl meltdown. Crary is worried about the encroachment on sleep because it represents one of the last remaining zones of dissidence, of anti-productivity and even of solidarity. Isn’t it quite disgusting that, as he notices, public benches are now deliberately engineered to prevent human beings from sleeping on them?

While Apple-branded machines that take working Power Naps are figured as a more efficient species of people, people themselves are increasingly represented as apparatuses to be acted on by machines. Take the popular internet parlance of getting “eyeballs”, which means reaching an audience. “The term ‘eyeballs’ for the site of control,” Crary writes, “repositions human vision as a motor activity that can be subjected to external direction or stimuli . . . The eye is dislodged from the realm of optics and made into an intermediary element of a circuit whose end result is always a motor response of the body to electronic solicitation.”

You can’t get more “eyeballs” if the people to whose brains the eyeballs are physically connected are asleep. Hence the interest – currently military; before long surely commercial, too – in removing our need for sleep with drugs or other modifications. Then we would be more like efficient machines, able to “interact” with (or labour among) electronic media all day and all night. (It is strange, once you think about it, that the phrase “He’s a machine” is now supposed to be a compliment in the sporting arena and the workplace.)

Crary’s denunciation of the 24/7 world’s saturation in web-enabled media results in some splendid formulations – such as when he argues that activists who organise on the internet “voluntarily kettle themselves in cyberspace, where state surveillance, sabotage and manipulation are far easier than in lived communities”.

It also tempts him into some portentous exaggeration. He claims, for instance, that “wireless technologies” have accomplished an “annihilation of the singularity of place and event”. (Radical thinkers often seem to take pleasure in noticing some putative extreme violence in cultural change.)

There is an unfortunate passage arguing that our age has universally dulled everyone’s faculties – except, implicitly, those of the percipient critic: “24/7 is part of an immense incapacitation of visual experience,” Crary declares. “The contingency and variability of the visible world are no longer accessible.” Really, to no one? What’s more, he writes: “Contrary to many claims, there is an ongoing diminution of mental and perceptual capabilities rather than their expansion or modulation.” To this sentence is appended no footnote offering evidence.

Despite such rhetorical surfeit, Crary’s book is, on the whole, a humane and bracingly splenetic counterblast, with a lot of interesting micro-theses along the way. (Forget the heavy breathing of the celebrants of gadgets and networks; according to Crary, “the most important techniques invented in the last 150 years” are “the various systems for the management and control of human beings”.)

Into the baleful realm of 24/7 he draws, too, the diagnostic inflation of the pharmaceutical industry (always “discovering” new mental disorders for which it solicitously offers new pills), the pseudo-mandatory self-fashioning of social media and what he sardonically calls “the absolute abdication of responsibility for living” represented by all those bestselling “bucket-list” books that instruct us on “the 1,000 movies to see before we die”.

For him, the antidote to all of that is sleep and also its cousin daydream or “reverie”. At the end of the book, Crary waxes poetic about this and laments that few people these days besides New Agers are interested in their dreams. Crary complains that films such as The Matrix portray societies of sleepers as inert and duped and so work as propaganda for 24/7. So, too, he argues, do films such as Inception, in portraying dreams as, in essence, like movies: in theory, commodifiable and “sharable”.

After finishing this book, I had a dystopian nightmare. One day, through clever magnetic stimulation of the brain, it might be possible to insert adverts into our dreams. You could even volunteer to have them interpolated into your sleeping life in exchange for money. (“My dream last night was sponsored by Facebook and Walkers Crisps.”) If that day ever comes, we won’t be safe anywhere – even in the arms of Morpheus."
capitalism  latecapitalism  sleep  production  productivity  2014  stevenpoole  jonathancrary  efficiency  media  mentalhealth 
august 2014 by robertogreco
I Thought You Were a Poet by Joshua Mehigan
"Samuel Johnson, in his life of Dryden, reports that throughout the spring of 1686 the fifty-six-year-old laureate could often be seen strolling Leicester Field at daybreak, barefoot, in his nightclothes, skimming dew from leaves into a glass beaker. Dryden apparently ignored anyone who addressed him during these excursions. The beaker full, he would disappear into 44 Gerrard Street to work, in the same nightclothes, on The Hind and the Panther. No one is sure what Dryden did with the dew. Johnson admits uneasily that he is supposed to have drunk it, though Green and Giordani argue that he used it to boil gallnuts for ink. According to neighbors, Dryden sometimes leaned from his study window during work and in an inaudible whisper asked passing children or carriages to be quiet while elaborately pretending to shoot them down with bow and arrow. At 1:00 PM sharp, Dryden would scratch out his last five couplets, rise from his writing desk, pray, dress, and walk to his day job as Historiographer Royal, where he behaved normally. At day’s end he went home, dined with his wife, took laudanum, and slept with an upholstered wood block for a pillow.

In my experience, if a contemporary reader of poetry has never before heard this account of Dryden, it can add considerable interest. I know this was true for me, and I made the whole thing up. I like Dryden well enough (what I’ve read) and I don’t mean to suggest he’s not great, only that today, as Ian Ousby says in The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, he is often “admired but not quite enjoyed.” This phrase surely describes the reputation of most Augustan poets, and I wonder if it could have anything to do with their sense of balance and self-control, with their methodical technique and taste for grace and wit—in short, with their relative sanity. Part of the fun of a poet is rehearsing the legend, even if it’s false. In Dryden’s case, whatever gossip exists—his cruel taunting of Thomas Shadwell or his Catholic conversion—may seem tame if you’ve heard the one about the Blakes playing Adam and Eve in the garden. But poetic eccentricity is a game of continual escalation. Like the gossip it creates, it’s both sensational and boring.

•

Onward from Enheduanna, poets seem almost required to manifest some degree of psychic disturbance, whether as a true affliction, a poetic persona, or a pose. “Despondency and madness” were the expectation before Wordsworth, and reached pandemic proportions in the twentieth century. Readers are disappointed by poets who aren’t at least a little mad, which is to say visionary, melancholic, tormented, debauched, or somehow awry. The prodromal period in English-language poetry seems to have been the eighteenth century, otherwise known for its high appraisal of order and reason. But some minds we might imagine as tidy—Johnson’s, for instance—are thought to have been privately a little off. Things really got rolling with William Collins, Christopher Smart, and William Cowper, and then it was one small step to Thomas Chatterton, whose decision to drink arsenic at seventeen helped make suicide cool. (Henry Wallis’s Tiger Beat portrait shows the garret window ajar so that Chatterton’s soul can escape.) Smart was the eldest of this wave to put florid psychosis into his writing, but Blake made poetic capital from it, positioning himself not as a lunatic but a seer. On the continent, Hölderlin was smitten by both Apollo and madness. Now the gate stood open, and out flew Byron, Keats, and Shelley, and John Clare, and Thomas Lovell Beddoes, who followed Chatterton, along with all Miss Flite’s other birds, including Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach.

In Paris, as everyone knows, Gérard de Nerval walked his lobster Thibault on a ribbon through the Palais-Royal gardens. American lunacy found its apotheosis in Poe. And where Blake’s madness had mirrored Ezekiel’s, Baudelaire, Lautréamont, and Rimbaud sought transport in dissipation. By Modernism, the greatest poets are like the villains on the old Batman TV show, each known for his or her own inimitable brand of eccentricity, whether it’s Marianne Moore’s tricorn, Cummings’s typography, or Pound’s broadcasting career. This is also the period when sane poets begin composing poetry reminiscent of schizophrenia, like these lines from Gertrude Stein:

Do I see cake Do I do the reverse of acting
Yes Do I feel sensually deceived
thoughts in mental suggestion in increase of
senses in suggestion
senses deceptive
in in deception deception deception
deception
vanilla lemon as lemon vanilla as the beginning
of in in suggestion suggestion suggestion
suggestion of the suggestions as the
beginning of in suggestion

Real despondency and madness also continued, with a host of poets whose lives have earned wider repute than their poems. Meanwhile, many poets said to define our period, from Eliot to Ginsberg, and from Ashbery to Jorie Graham, have forged styles that echo the dislocations of madness: fragmented language, surreal imagery, oblique thought, shifting points of view, violent emotion. Surrealism, Dada, Imagism, the Beats, the Black Mountain poets, Language Poetry, and Flarf all adopt one or more of these characteristics as constitutive. But the power of this general stylistic tendency can also be felt in the work of popular poets like Mary Oliver, of traditionalists like Anthony Hecht and Donald Justice, and perhaps also of most MFA students.

•

On the subject of poetry and mental illness, I can’t pretend to impartiality. First, I and many of my closest friends and acquaintances are poets. Second, I’ve been extensively treated for what insurance companies resourcefully call “behavioral health” problems. While I have often behaved in behaviorally unhealthy ways, I should add for clarity’s sake that I am also diagnosed with disorders thought to be caused not by behavior at all but by inborn neurochemical imbalances. Many of my closest friends exhibit “behavioral health” issues as well, sometimes diagnosed and sometimes not, but plain to everyone. As someone preoccupied with both madness and poetry, I’ve often wondered what’s lost in the gap at the center of the collocation “mad poet.”

•

The above-quoted passage isn’t really the writing of Gertrude Stein but, according to Dr. Silvano Arieti, author of Interpretation of Schizophrenia, that of “a very regressed schizophrenic.” This is the last time I’ll lie for effect (here)."

[continues]
joshuamehigan  poetry  poems  writing  mentalillness  mentalhealth 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Animal Madness: Zoochosis, stereotypic behavior, and problems with zoos.
"Many zoos cite the longer life expectancy of zoo animals to show that living conditions are humane. The animals are free from the danger of predators, so how bad can it be? To this, Braitman writes, “A tally of years lived and calorically balanced meals eaten doesn’t account for quality of life or the pleasure that can come from making one’s own decisions.” But longer life expectancies are not found in all captive animals. A study in the journal Science found that zoo elephants’ life spans were less than half that found in protected wild populations in Africa and Asia.

When I spoke with Braitman, she went to great lengths to explain that zoos’ failures to provide satisfactory habitats are not the fault of the zookeepers, adding that most truly want what is best for their animals. During my visit to the National Zoo, I too was touched by my encounters with zookeepers. I met one gingerly handling a tenrec (a hedgehog-like creature native to Madagascar) who knew the answer to every question I peppered him with about the animals in the exhibit.

But if not zoos, then what? Both Braitman and DeMello agree that our desire to interact with animals is a good impulse. DeMello suggests non-intrusive activities like whale watching. Braitman offers a more drastic prescription: End zoos as we know them and replace them with hands-on petting zoos, teaching farms, urban dairies, and wildlife rehabilitation centers, where people can interact with the kinds of animals “who often thrive in our presence,” such as “horses, donkeys, llamas, cows, pigs, goats, rabbits.” Braitman chides us for our delusion “that it is our right to see exotic wildlife like gorillas, dolphins, and elephants in every major American city … especially since it often costs the animals their sanity.”"
animals  welfare  animalwelfare  mentalhealth  health  zoos  2014  wildlife  laurelbraitman  templegrandin  catherinejohnson  megodemello 
june 2014 by robertogreco
San Francisco’s (In)Visible Class War — Editor’s Picks — Medium
"San Francisco is in the middle of a class war. It’s not the first or last city to have heart-wrenching inequality tear at its fabric, challenge its values, test its support structures. But what’s jaw-dropping to me is how openly, defensively, and critically technology folks demean those who are struggling. The tech industry has a sickening obsession with meritocracy. Far too many geeks and entrepreneurs worship at the altar of zeros and ones, believing that outputs can be boiled down to a simple equation based on inputs. In a modern-day version of the Protestant ethic, there’s a sense that success is a guaranteed outcome of hard work, skills, and intelligence. Thus, anyone who is struggling can be blamed for their own circumstances.

This attitude is front and center when it comes to people who are visibly homeless on the streets of San Francisco, a mere fraction of the total homeless population in that city.

I wish that more people working in the tech sector would take a moment to talk to these men and women. Listening to their stories is humbling. Vets who fought for our country, under the banner of “freedom,” only to be cognitively imprisoned by addiction and mental illness. Abused runaways trying to find someone who will treat them with respect. People who were working hard and getting by until an accident struck and they lost their job and ended up in medical debt. Immigrants who came looking for the American Dream only to find themselves trapped. These aren’t no-good lazy leeches. They’re people. People whose lives have been a hell of a lot harder than most of us can even fathom. People who struggle on a daily basis to find food and shelter. People who we’ve systematically disenfranchised and failed to support. People who the bulk of tech workers ignore, shun, resent, and demonize.

A city without a safety net cannot be a healthy society. And nothing exacerbates this worse than condescension, resentment, and dismissal. We can talk about the tech buses and the lack of affordable housing, but it all starts with appreciating those who are struggling. Only a mere fraction of San Francisco’s homeless population are visible, but those who are reveal the starkness of what’s unfolding. And, as with many things, there’s more of a desire to make the visible invisible than there is to grapple with dynamics of poverty, mental illness, addiction, abuse, and misfortune. Too many people think that they’re invincible.

If you’re living in the Bay Area and working in tech, take a moment to do what I asked my colleague to do a decade ago. Walk around the Tenderloin and talk with someone whose poverty is written on their body. Respectfully ask about their life. Where did they come from? How did they get here? Where do they want to go? Ask about their hopes and dreams, struggles and challenges. Get a sense for their story. Connect as people. Then think about what meritocracy in tech really means."
danahboyd  sanfrancisco  poverty  2014  inequality  homeless  homelessness  meritocracy  libertarianism  mentalhealth  cities  healthcare  classwar 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning - YouTube
[See also: https://storify.com/audreywatters/ecologies-of-yearning-and-the-future-of-open-educa ]

[See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind and
PDF http://www.edtechpost.ca/readings/Gregory%20Bateson%20-%20Ecology%20of%20Mind.pdf ]

[References these videos by a student: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmFL4Khu2yJoR0Oq5dcY5pw ]

[via: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:e91b15f323b8

"In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video.) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”"]

"30:29 Bateson's Hierarchy of learning

30:52 Zero Learning:"receipt of signal". No error possible

31:37 Learning I: "change in specificity of response by correction of errors of choice within a set of alternatives". Palov, etc. Habituation, adaptation.

32:16 Learning II: Learning-to-learn, context recognition, "corrective change in the set of alternatives from which choice is made, or.. in how the sequence of experience is punctuated". Premises are self-validating.

34:23 Learning III: Meta-contextual perspective, imagining and shifting contexts of understanding. "a corrective change in the system of sets of alternatives from which choice is made" Puts self at risk. Questions become explosive.

36:22 Learning IV: change to level III, "probably does not occur in any adult living organisms on this earth"

38:59 "Double bind"

44:49 Habits of being that might be counter-intuitive

51:49 Participant observers constructed Wordles of students' blogs"

[Comment from Céline Keller:

"This is my favorite talk online: Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning +Gardner Campbell

This is what I wrote about it 7 month ago:

"Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing." Nassim Nicholas Taleb

If you care about education and learning don't miss listening to Gardner Campbell!

As described on the #edcmooc resource page:

"(This lecture)...serves as a warning that what we really want - our utopia - is not necessarily to be found in the structures we are putting in place (or finding ourselves within)."
Love it."

I still mean it. This is great, listen."]

[More here: http://krustelkrammoocs.blogspot.com/2013/02/gardner-campbell-sense-of-wonder-how-to.html ]
2012  gardnercampbell  nassimtaleb  academia  web  participatory  learning  howwelearn  hierarchyoflearning  love  habituation  adaption  open  openeducation  coursera  gregorybateson  udacity  sebastianthrun  mooc  moocs  georgesiemens  stephendownes  davecormier  carolyeager  aleccouros  jimgroom  audreywatters  edupunk  jalfredprufrock  missingthepoint  highered  edx  highereducation  tseliot  rubrics  control  assessment  quantification  canon  administration  hierarchy  hierarchies  pedagogy  philosophy  doublebind  paranoia  hepephrenia  catatonia  mentalhealth  schizophrenia  life  grades  grading  seymourpapert  ecologiesofyearning  systems  systemsthinking  suppression  context  education  conditioning  pavlov  gamification  freedom  liberation  alankay  human  humans  humanism  agency  moreofthesame  metacontexts  unfinished  ongoing  lifelonglearning  cognition  communication  networkedtranscontextualism  transcontextualism  transcontextualsyndromes  apgartest  virginiaapgar  howweteach  scottmccloud  michaelchorost  georgedyson  opening  openness  orpheus  experience  consciousness  pur 
may 2014 by robertogreco
‘Slomo’ - NYTimes.com
"Slomo came into my life at an opportune moment. Having just rolled into my 30s, I was looking for both a film subject and some wisdom on how to approach the encroaching “middle third” of my life — the years when youthful idealism is so often blunted by adult responsibilities.

Around this time, during a business trip to San Diego, my father had a chance meeting on the Pacific Beach boardwalk with John Kitchin, an old medical school classmate. My dad barely recognized Dr. Kitchin, who was meticulously skating up and down the promenade, blasting inspirational music from speakers hidden under his shirt. Disillusioned with a life that had become increasingly materialistic, he had abruptly abandoned his career as a neurologist and moved to a studio by the beach. The locals called him Slomo, knowing little about his past life, but cheering and high-fiving him as he skated by in slow motion. He had become a Pacific Beach institution. I was intrigued.

I’ve long been fascinated by people who make seismic changes late in life. It goes against the mainstream narrative: Grow up, pick a career, stick it out, retire. I was also curious about Slomo’s concept of “the zone,” a realm of pure subjectivity and connectedness that he achieves through his skating. The only thing Slomo loves more than being in the zone is talking about the zone, so it wasn’t hard to persuade him to take part in a documentary film.

Slomo’s combination of candor and eloquence made him a natural on camera, and his background as a neurologist legitimized his metaphysical theories about skating, lateral motion and the brain. But like many of the people who saw him skating by, I couldn’t help wondering: was this guy nuts, or was he onto something? And was his mantra – “Do what you want to” – translatable to those of us without the nest egg of a retired doctor? But just like the throngs of Slomo fans on Pacific Beach, I couldn’t get enough of him, and was determined to capture the effect he had on people in a cinematic way.

With this film, we hope to create a window into the ecstatic experience that Slomo has every day, transcending the trappings of the material world. And for my part, I continue to be intrigued by the particular joys and conflicts that define a person’s life once he decides to do exactly what he wants.

Josh Izenberg is a filmmaker based in San Francisco. “Slomo,” which is his first documentary, has received more than a dozen awards including Best Documentary Short by the International Documentary Association and the jury award for best short documentary at SXSW.

Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series."
johnkitchin  pacificbeach  joshizenberg  slomo  sandiego  slow  life  living  2014  documentary  materialism  power  consumerism  spirituality  idealism  responsibility  lifechanging  reinvention  mentalhealth  ratrace 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Science teacher: Anomie
"One in 6 children "experience a mental disorder in a given year." We know something is wrong.

The brain we have, the one that got us through untold generations of the folks before us, does not change because a few of us now worship the global economy. What has kept us alive for millions of years has been paying attention, close attention, to the earth we (literally) walk upon.

The hormones that surge through us now and the thousands of generations before us responded to real threats, real people that shared the air we breathed. Now we seek our lusts through flat screens, manipulated by strangers, and we respond with symphonic surges, weaving dopamine and oxytocin, cortisol and adrenaline as we wile away our time, emptying our wallets and our souls.

Arne Duncan wants us to train our children for the global economy, an oxymoron. I want to teach our children how to live happy lives right here in Bloomfield, or wherever else they lay down their roots.

I do not teach 21st century learners, I teach human children.
I do not teach biology as a discipline per se, I share with young humans our connections to the earth, the air, the water, and the organisms around us.

Until a child knows the life in her neighborhood, under her feet, in her very gut, teaching biology as just another mandated high school course is a waste of her time and mine.

We plant a lot in our classroom--most of the plants do not do well, not at first. Still, the seeds and the pots are available every day, and a few students persist. Right now there's some lettuce, one carrot, about a dozen basil plants, and several pea plants wending their way up makeshift wooden stakes.

And in our specialized, detached world, even something as simple as planting a seed has become "professionalized"--another sign that we have lost our way."
small  local  humans  humanism  michaeldoyle  2013  wendellberry  globalism  global  stress  mentalhealth  health  2014  children  learning  teaching  howweteach  place 
february 2014 by robertogreco
A Formula for Happiness - NYTimes.com
"Social scientists have caught the butterfly. After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. Armed with this knowledge and a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness."



"So don’t bet your well-being on big one-off events. The big brass ring is not the secret to lasting happiness.

To review: About half of happiness is genetically determined. Up to an additional 40 percent comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past — but that won’t last very long.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.

The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work."



"Along the way, I learned that rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars like the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.

So relieving poverty brings big happiness, but income, per se, does not. Even after accounting for government transfers that support personal finances, unemployment proves catastrophic for happiness. Abstracted from money, joblessness seems to increase the rates of divorce and suicide, and the severity of disease.

And according to the General Social Survey, nearly three-quarters of Americans wouldn’t quit their jobs even if a financial windfall enabled them to live in luxury for the rest of their lives. Those with the least education, the lowest incomes and the least prestigious jobs were actually most likely to say they would keep working, while elites were more likely to say they would take the money and run. We would do well to remember this before scoffing at “dead-end jobs.”

Assemble these clues and your brain will conclude what your heart already knew: Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others. Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success.

This is not conjecture; it is driven by the data. Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who don’t feel that way. And these differences persist after controlling for income and other demographics.

You can measure your earned success in any currency you choose. You can count it in dollars, sure — or in kids taught to read, habitats protected or souls saved. When I taught graduate students, I noticed that social entrepreneurs who pursued nonprofit careers were some of my happiest graduates. They made less money than many of their classmates, but were no less certain that they were earning their success. They defined that success in nonmonetary terms and delighted in it.

If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success. You will have found the secret to happiness through your work."
happiness  work  2013  arthurbrooks  income  money  success  life  living  purpose  genetics  values  faith  family  community  unemployment  mentalhealth  via:lukeneff 
december 2013 by robertogreco
How to be less of a jerk to students with anxiety disorders | Critical Spontaneity
"This list is dedicated to all of the brilliant and emotional and scared students out there:

1.) The only way to get rid of anxiety is to stop procrastinating and just do it. Anxiety is a result of your guilt and procrastinating will only make your amount of anxiety grow!

Thanks, Nike. I’m pretty sure that Anxiety Disorders are a serious mental health issue that can’t be overcome by recognizing they’re not helpful. Those of us with anxiety issues don’t choose to have them because it seems like a reasonable choice for overcoming procrastination.

2.) Maybe you should just do what makes you happy and find an occupation or program that is easier for you.

So I understand that victim-blaming is easier than shifting the dominant elite framework that academia is founded upon, but struggling is not a sign that a student is less intelligent. It perhaps says that the institution itself is ableist and psychophobic. You know what would make me happier? Being able to stop kicking myself for having self-doubt and feeling overwhelming guilt when I don’t perform in an exceptional manner. You know what would make things easier for me? If people would realize that it’s not my fault for being afraid of authority, mistrusting counselors and administrators, or being afraid to ask for help. There is a lot of stigma out there for people with anxiety issues. It would be easier for me if that stigma was challenged, rather than me as an individual.

3.) We all went through it. We’re all tired and overworked.

Cool story bro, but I didn’t realize I was going through fraternity initiation. This is the most annoying answer. I’m super tired *yawn* of these one-upping competitions people engage in to dismiss mutual hardships. “I only slept 4 hours” and then the next person says “I only slept 3 hours and had an energy drink instead of breakfast!” doesn’t fix anyone’s problems. As a woman of color, I have heard “be less emotional” or “try harder to overcome” enough times.

4.) Have you been to the counseling center? A counselor would be a better person to talk to right now. …

5.) Have you considered taking medication? My friend Joe Smith takes medicine and he’s much better now. …

6.) You should just do yoga or start running. …

7.) Did you finish yet? How about now? How about now?

8.) You can’t prove that your dad is dying. If you have trouble coping, you should have filed your issue with Student Disability Services at the beginning of the semester.

9.) You should be less public about this. It might hurt your career.

Oh you mean like that one time I didn’t get a position because I talked about mental health advocacy as one of my most passionate topics? You mean like that one time I talked about my mental health issues and was magically seen as “crazy” whenever I had a legitimate critique of patriarchy at meetings? Pathologizing has always been a swift tool of dismissal. Guess what? It has hurt my career, but I don’t want to be a part of a space that can’t make room for mental health issues to be at the table. Even in “progressive” spaces I experience the same militancy and policing around emotions and mental health. We can’t dismantle systems of oppression by emulating them!

Furthermore, I’ve lost track of the amount of other students who message me about eating disorders, anxiety, and guilt because they don’t know who else to talk to. I do have to be public about it even if it alarms or annoys you because of all of these people who matter (just like me).

10.) You’ll get through it if you’re meant to get through it.

There are some very warm-hearted and lovely people I know that have quit graduate school because it felt more like The Hunger Games than a collaborative learning environment. We need to stop applying a “survival of the fittest” mentality to academic success, wherein intelligence is linked to ability to endure rigor. I think it’s a huge loss of the academy that people I know to be brilliant and life changing have quit due to a lack of support.

11.) Social media and your blog should be a marketing tool for you to boost your voice and platform, not a diary. …"
highered  highereducation  empathy  mentalhealth  health  hazing  2013  sueypark  anxiety  anxietydisorders  compassion  procrastination  guilt  work  life  careers  academia  gradschool  support 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Materialism: a system that eats us from the inside out | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Perhaps I'm projecting my prejudices. But an impressive body of psychological research seems to support these feelings. It suggests that materialism, a trait that can afflict both rich and poor, and which the researchers define as "a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project", is both socially destructive and self-destructive. It smashes the happiness and peace of mind of those who succumb to it. It's associated with anxiety, depression and broken relationships.

There has long been a correlation observed between materialism, a lack of empathy and engagement with others, and unhappiness. But research conducted over the past few years seems to show causation. For example, a series of studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion in July showed that as people become more materialistic, their wellbeing (good relationships, autonomy, sense of purpose and the rest) diminishes. As they become less materialistic, it rises."
consumerism  loneliness  materialism  wealth  capitalism  2013  via:anne  consumption  richkidsoninstagram  instagram  conspicuousconsumption  happiness  mentalhealth  psychology 
december 2013 by robertogreco
On Quitting – The New Inquiry
"A symptom: long periods of “silence” on my blog. Long absences marked by infrequent, cryptic declarations. It is not that I don’t want to write. But reading Freud has taught me that symptoms speak. And I have a career ahead of me."



"I begin to wonder about the relationship between geo-history, the saturation of space with affect, and psychic health."



"I’m wrestling with my own disorganization. My own “persistent undoing” given the occasion of the social. I am “undone” when I leave the house, walk down the street, encounter an absenting normality. I have learned not to trust myself. Perhaps it’s all the chemicals that are working and not working in my head."



"I am leaving the United States, resigning from my job, and moving back to Kenya. As I have been trying to narrate this move to those who have known about it—over the past year—I have wondered about the partiality of the stories I was telling. They were not untrue; they were simply not what I really wanted to say, not what I permitted myself to say. In the most benign version, I have said that I cannot build a life here. Some might reasonably say that I could build a career here, as I have been doing, and build a life elsewhere, perhaps negotiate some kind of contract that would permit me to live here for one semester and work in Kenya for the rest of the year. Even assuming some institution was this generous with a junior faculty member, I am not sure that one can so easily separate moments of living from moments of working for extended stretches of time. I’m not sure that’s a sustainable model."



"I’m not sure this is “the life” I want to imagine. I worry about any life that can so readily be “imagined.” Where is the space for fantasy, for play, for the unexpected, for the surprising?"



"At a required end-of-year meeting with my then department chair, I confessed that I was exhausted. I was tired of the banal and uncomprehending racism of white students who spoke of blacks as “they” and “them” and complained about “their broken English” and “bad dialect”; I was tired of a system that served black students badly, promising an education that it failed to deliver, condemning them to repeat classes, to drop out, to believe they were stupid; I was tired of colleagues who marveled when I produced an intelligible sentence; I was tired of attending conference panels where blackness was dismissed as “simple,” “reactive,” “irrelevant,” “done”; I was tired of being invited to be “post-black” as the token African, so not “tainted” by the afterlife of slavery; I was tired of performing a psychic labor that left me too exhausted to do anything except go home, crawl into bed, try to recover, and prepare for the next series of assaults.

Blyden, of course, got it wrong. Fanon got it right.

Leaving the U.S. will not remove me from toxicity and exhaustion. At best, it will allow limited detoxification, perhaps provide me with some energy. Perhaps it will provide a space within which scabbing can begin, and, eventually, scars that will remain tender for way too long."
academia  keguromacharia  2013  essays  writing  mentalhealth  precarity  lucidity  lifeofthemind  education  quitting  deracination  webdubois  toxicity  exhaustion  bipolardisorder  linearity  non-linear  non-linearity  blogging  multiplicity  discipline  labor  humanities  stem  race  guilt  shame  gender  ethnicity  idabwells  edwardwilmotblyden  racism  highered  highereducation  psychology  frantzfanon  linear  nonlinear  alinear 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Safe From Harm - Incisive.nu
"We live in fear of something closer, inside our walls, so we search frantically for something—anything—to tell us whom to exclude from our trust, to incarcerate or drug or commit to treatment, to keep our kids safe. It’s the most understandable thing, and the most basic."

"As far as I can remember, childhood and insanity kept pretty close quarters all the way through, and sometimes the thing that gets you through is people trusting you until you’re worthy of it. And that’s on all of us, all the time—not just parents or counselors, not even just adults."

"maybe we can be reminded that the thing we hold in our hands when we shelter and care for our quiet, weird children is nothing less than life.

So yes: Let us work with all the strength of our horror toward the things we know to be good. … But also, let us remember that the direction all our children must come is toward our hearts and toward our trust. Toward steady, open arms and a love that does not fear."
howwelive  teaching  living  life  canon  mentalhealth  fear  adolescents  adolescence  children  2012  sandyhook  society  love  trust  parenting 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Psychotherapy’s Image Problem Pushes Some Therapists to Become ‘Brands’ - NYTimes.com
"“Nobody wants to buy therapy anymore…They want to buy a solution to a problem.” This is something Truffo discovered in her own former private practice of 18 years, during which she saw a shift from people who were unhappy and wanted to understand themselves better to people who would come in “because they wanted someone else or something else to change,” she said. “I’d see fewer and fewer people coming in and saying, ‘I want to change.’”"

"I explained that I could help him with clarity but couldn’t guarantee his timeline. The day before our appointment, he called again and told me he found a relationship coach to help sort things out. She gave him a four-session-package guarantee.

There’s not a lot I can do when this happens, primarily because therapists, governed by a board, can’t make outcome claims the way coaches can."

"“For most people who seek therapy, they find a feeling of catharsis in sharing their story of suffering with an objective, caring therapist. On the other hand…"
mentalhealth  pharmaceuticals  consumerculture  quickfixes  lifecoaching  feelgood  therapy  niche  salesmanship  branding  confidence  guarantees  effort  tcsnmy  trends  2012  psychotherapy  via:lukeneff 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Attention Surplus? Re-examining a Disorder - New York Times
"But attention disorder cases, up to 5 to 15 percent of the population, are at a distinct disadvantage. What once conferred certain advantages in a hunter-gatherer era, in an agrarian age or even in an industrial age is now a potentially horrific character flaw, making people feel stupid or lazy and irresponsible, when in fact neither description is apt.

The term attention-deficit disorder turns out to be a misnomer. Most people who have it actually have remarkably good attention spans as long as they are doing activities that they enjoy or find stimulating…

Essentially, A.D.H.D. is a problem dealing with the menial work of daily life, the tedium involved in many school situations and 9-to-5 jobs.

Another hallmark, impulsivity, or its more positive variant, spontaneity, appears to be a vestige from lower animals forced to survive in the wild. Wild animals cannot survive without an extraordinary ability to react. If predators lurk, they need to act quickly…"
paulsteinberg  medicine  medication  survival  instinct  spontaneity  environment  mentalhealth  context  schooliness  schools  school  disadvantages  badfits  dailylife  menialtasks  cv  impulsivity  focus  attentionsurplus  add  adhd  unschooling  deschooling  via:litherland  2006  attention 
november 2012 by robertogreco
How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy - Magazine - The Atlantic
"Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s now discovering will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia? A biologist’s science- fiction hunch is gaining credence and shaping the emerging science of mind- controlling parasites."
kathleenmcauliffe  jaroslavflegr  pets  animals  mentalhealth  biology  science  schizophrenia  toxoplasma  psychology  parasites  toxoplasmosis  cats 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Mark Williams on Mindfulness on Vimeo
"Is mindfulness the answer to all our prayers? The benefits are compelling: it’s free, you can do it anytime, anywhere, and it’s been scientifically proven to work. It is recognised by those in and out of the health profession as a useful tool for generally improving our mental wellbeing, as well as dealing with more serious issues such as depression or anxiety disorders.

Professor Mark Williams, a leading authority on mindfulness, takes to our pulpit to explore the science behind it and look at its practical application in everyday life. He takes us through the myths, realities, and benefits of meditation, and looks at how such practices can help us to live lives of greater presence, productive and peace."
attention  noticing  imagination  ptsd  peace  presence  meditation  anxiety  well-being  teens  mentalhealth  mindfulness  2011  markwilliams  sadness  depression  life  health  parenting  philosophy  psychology 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Could A Club Drug Offer 'Almost Immediate' Relief From Depression? : Shots - Health Blog : NPR
"Ketamine has been used for decades as an anesthetic. It also has become a wildly popular but illegal club drug known as "Special K."

Mental health researchers got interested in ketamine because of reports that it could make depression vanish almost instantly.

In contrast, drugs like Prozac take weeks or even months…

I talk to Carlos Zarate, who does ketamine research at the NIH and has never met Merrill. Zarate says patients typically say, " 'I feel that something's lifted or feel that I've never been depressed in my life. I feel I can work. I feel I can contribute to society.' And it was a different experience from feeling high. This was feeling that something has been removed."

I compare this to what Merrill said about her experience: "No more fogginess. No more heaviness. I feel like I'm a clean slate right now. I want to go home and see friends or, you know, go to the grocery store and cook the family dinner.""
health  medicine  research  mentalhealth  drugs  carloszarate  2012  katamine  depression  psychology 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Why More Americans Suffer From Mental Disorders Than Anyone Else - Alice G. Walton - Life - The Atlantic
"That mental health disorders are pervasive in the United States is no secret. Americans suffer from all sorts of psychological issues, and the evidence indicates that they're not going anywhere despite (or because of?) an increasing number of treatment options…

The WHO has come up with vast catalogues of mental health data, which they are constantly updating. See how the U.S. compares to other countries:"
mentaldisorders  mentalhealth  psychology  us  comparison  2011  trends  international  depression  eatingdisorders  substanceabuse  drugs  pharmaceuticals  society  wealth  inequality  disparity 
october 2011 by robertogreco
There is a context to London's riots that can't be ignored | Nina Power | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
"As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world."
london  uk  violence  politics  policy  riots  2011  ninapower  inequality  society  crime  imprisonment  mentalillness  equality  disparity  wealth  selfishness  individualism  competition  unions  wealthdistribution  mentalhealth 
august 2011 by robertogreco
winesburg, ohio - Jesse Bernstein was a writer, performance artist,...
"Jesse Bernstein was a writer, performance artist, genuine wacko, and “highly provocative underground celebrity,” who is renowned for his spoken word recordings (released with Sub Pop), and widely glamorized for his rampant drug use, mental illness, and (natch) close personal relationship with William S. Burroughs.

I Am Secretly An Important Man is a documentary about his life, directed by Pete Sillen. The film traces the evolution of his influence on popular culture, but never falters in keeping an inquisitive, steady eye on the nature of its troubled protagonist: “…he was not only inventing colorful background for himself, but I think he was trying out different storylines.” This looks lovely, can’t wait for it."
jessebernstein  williamsburroughs  petesillens  documentary  underground  spokenword  mentalillness  popculture  mentalhealth 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Bipolar kids: Victims of the 'madness industry'? - health - 08 June 2011 - New Scientist
"Spitzer grew up to be a psychiatrist…his dislike of psychoanalysis remaining undimmed…then, in 1973, an opportunity to change everything presented itself. There was a job going editing the next edition of a little-known spiral-bound booklet called DSM - the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

DSM is simply a list of all the officially recognised mental illnesses & their symptoms. Back then it was a tiny book that reflected the Freudian thinking predominant in the 1960s. It had very few pages, & very few readers.

What nobody knew when they offered Spitzer the job was that he had a plan: to try to remove human judgement from psychiatry. He would create a whole new DSM that would eradicate all that crass sleuthing around the unconscious; it hadn't helped his mother. Instead it would be all about checklists. Any psychiatrist could pick up the manual, & if the patient's symptoms tallied with the checklist for a particular disorder, that would be the diagnosis."
children  psychology  health  2011  add  adhd  bipolardisorder  psychiatry  dsm  jonronson  robertspitzer  overdiagnosis  mania  pharmaceuticals  psychoanalysis  checklists  healthcare  mentalillness  mentalhealth  medicine  treatment  diagnosis  ptsd  autism  anorexia  bulimia  society  conformity  hyperactivity  childhood  parenting 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The Brain on Trial - Magazine - The Atlantic
"Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order."

"Neuroscience is beginning to touch on questions that were once only in the domain of philosophers and psychologists, questions about how people make decisions and the degree to which those decisions are truly “free.” These are not idle questions. Ultimately, they will shape the future of legal theory and create a more biologically informed jurisprudence. "
science  psychology  philosophy  behavior  biology  crime  punishment  nature  nurture  naturenurture  davideagleman  2011  mentalillness  mentalhealth  brain  impulsivity  impulse-control  adolescence  incarceration  adolescents  law  legal  future  forwardthinking  thinking  somnambulism  social  socialpolicy  rehabilitation  neuroscience  criminality  recidivism  predictions  data  brainchemistry  pathology  pathologies  tourettes  alzheimers  schizophrenia  mania  depression  murder  blame  blameworthiness  capitalpunishment  logic  freewill  will  jurisprudence 
june 2011 by robertogreco
City life: Scientists find link between urban life, brain's response to stress - latimes.com
"Offering new meaning to the expression “tough town,” German and Canadian neuroscientists have shown that living in a city — or being raised in one — is associated with differences in the way the brain handles stress.<br />
The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, marks the first time researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify specific brain regions that are affected by urban life."<br />
<br />
"People who live in cities are at higher risk for anxiety, mood disorders and schizophrenia, Preussner noted. The brain pathways identified in the team's experiment may have something to do with this.  Understanding the basic biological mechanisms could lead to strategies to combat mental health problems among city dwellers in the future."<br />
<br />
"They also called on researchers to look at the positive side of city life, noting that studies have shown higher rates of suicide in rural areas than in cities."
urban  urbanism  brain  stress  anxiety  psychology  mentalhealth  mentalillness  rural  suicide  2011 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Prophet, speak what’s on your mind – Blog – BERG
"Robertson (1936-1997) was born and lived most of his life in Louisiana. He left school at age 13 and in his late teens apprenticed as a sign painter in the western US. Later in his life, when his wife of 19 years – and mother of his 11 children – left him for another man and took all their children to Texas with her, he descended into paranoid schizophrenia. He declared himself a prophet and began to record his visions in his paintings. Frequent themes in his paintings included spaceships and aliens, futuristic cities, Biblical and religious references, numerology and misogyny, the latter apparently spurred by his wife’s betrayal."
royalrobertson  outsiderart  outsiders  art  design  sufjanstevens  albumart  spaceships  mentalillness  futurism  cities  painting  outsider  mentalhealth 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The Urge to End It - Understanding Suicide - NYTimes.com
"For each, it’s almost as if their near-death experience scared them straight, propelled them back to a point of recovery beyond even their own imagining. But that’s actually not so unusual; just as Seiden found that less than 10 percent of people thwarted from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge went on to kill themselves, a host of studies show that same percentage holds among those who carry out “near fatal” attempts but somehow survive. Beginning in the 1970s, Dr. David Rosen, a psychiatrist and Jungian psychoanalyst, tracked down and conducted lengthy interviews with nine people who survived leaps from the Golden Gate, as well as one who had gone off the nearby Bay Bridge.

“What was immediately apparent,” Rosen recounted, “was that none of them had truly wanted to die. They had wanted their inner pain to stop; they wanted some measure of relief; and this was the only answer they could find. They were in spiritual agony, and they sought a physical solution.”
psychology  suicide  research  culture  accessibility  mentalhealth  mentalillness  goldengatebridge  britishcoal-gasstory  impulsivity  firearms  guns  prevention  via:lukeneff 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Time to get off the analyst’s couch?
"What he had recognised was a significant shift in therapy culture which has been taking place since the 1970s. Instead of focusing on treating those with mental illnesses, therapists were now also there to help people find meaning in their lives. As M. Scott Peck once put it, therapy is a ‘short cut to personal growth’.<br />
<br />
The problem, writes Singer, is that you are unlikely to find meaning and purpose by looking inwards…Moreover, therapy culture is decidedly lacking in ethical content.…<br />
<br />
But what would turning outwards mean in practice? Singer has an answer. He thinks we would be best off by dedicating our lives to pursuing a ‘transcendent cause’. This refers to committing yourself to some cause or project that is ‘larger than the self’. At this point he turns to support from the psychotherapist Victor Frankl, who ‘is exceptional in his insistence on the need to find meaning outside the self’."
victorfrankl  psychotherapy  meaning  self  purpose  outrospection  mentalillness  therapy  mscottpeck  petersinger  romankrznaric  culture  society  mentalhealth 
september 2010 by robertogreco
BBC News - Why is teaching so stressful?
"Former teacher & ed researcher Dr Kevin Eames says pressures of job are very intense & draining. "It's exciting...adrenaline burn from classroom is like nothing else..."Teachers I've worked w/ who have come in from law, finance & journalism have commented that it is most demanding, tiring & busy thing they have ever done." Teachers have always had to get up in front of class & put on performance. But things seem to be getting tougher for teachers...very little down-time to re-charge & re-energise themselves."...But there is something else. Dr Eames says there has been a change in culture in recent years, which has turned students into consumers of ed services. "If something goes wrong - it's the teacher's fault. If the exam results are not what are expected it is also the teacher's fault. "It's this shift from pupils learning from someone who has the knowledge - to becoming consumers who are judging the providers of that knowledge - it's like a beauty contest into 'edutainment'""
teaching  stress  health  work  culture  uk  mentalhealth  schools  expectations  tcsnmy  demands  testing  standardizedtesting  pressure 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Reading on iPad before bed can affect sleep habits | Technology | Los Angeles Times
"Apple's iPad can do movies, music, e-mail, apps and rich Web browsing. And of course, e-books. Should Amazon just put its comparably basic e-reader, the Kindle, to sleep?
books  ebooks  ereaders  ipad  iphone  kindle  health  sleep  reading  mentalhealth  insomnia  reasonstostayawayfromtheipad  technology  light 
april 2010 by robertogreco
BBC Mundo - Ciencia y Tecnología - Relacionan inteligencia con trastorno bipolar
"Científicos británicos dicen tener "evidencia clara" de que a mayor capacidad intelectual de un individuo, mayor es el riesgo que tiene de desarrollar un trastorno bipolar."
mentalillness  health  bipolardisorder  intelligence  mentalhealth 
february 2010 by robertogreco
University of Leeds - Excessive internet use is linked to depression
"People who spend a lot of time browsing the net are more likely to show depressive symptoms, according to the first large-scale study of its kind in the West by University of Leeds psychologists.
internet  mentalhealth  depression  online  illness  medicine  psychology 
february 2010 by robertogreco
McSweeney's Internet Tendency: The Real Timothy McSweeney.
"I was intrigued by the letters so much that I kept them in a drawer in my room, wondering if Timothy was actually related to us...When a new letter would arrive, she would hand it to me, usually without reading it. I would pore over it for clues, then would add it to the stack...So many years later, when I was conceiving a name for this literary journal, the name Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern occurred to me...made sense on many levels...honor my Irish side of the family & also allude to this mysterious man & the sense of possibility and even wonder he'd brought to our suburban home...Knowing that the journal bore the name of a real person who had endured years of struggle threw melancholy shadows over the enterprise. But the McSweeneys insisted that the use of the name was acceptable, even appropriate, given Timothy's background as an artist & search for connection & meaning through the written word. Since 2000 we've implicitly dedicated all issues to the real Timothy."
daveeggers  history  writing  fun  journalism  celebrity  obituary  mystery  mentalillness  glvo  names  naming  letters  correspondence  mcsweeneys  weird  mentalhealth 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Many Minds, One Story § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
"Virginia Woolf’s mental illness may have ultimately defined her craft—one that rejected convention in a decades-long attempt to portray the very character of consciousness."
health  writers  neuroscience  virginiawoolf  mentalillness  bipolardisorder  writing  consciousness  convention  mentalhealth 
february 2010 by robertogreco
when richard feynman (3 January 2010, Interconnected)
"When Richard Feynman refuses to explain how magnets work he fidgets and bounces and puffs in a way I recognise from a friend with long-term mental illness, who does this when he gets excited and gets really into explaining a topic. ... The repulsion of magnets is the same as the repulsion you get when you push your hand against the sofa and it pushes back.
richardfeynman  physics  magnets  definitions  explaining  magneticforce  brain  excitement  mattwebb  mentalillness  2010  mentalhealth 
january 2010 by robertogreco
click opera - Raise your spirit, level your society!
"Inequality is bad for us...message of The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better, a new book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, two epidemiologists...draws political conclusions from scientific observations, and as such it's full of fascinatingly counter-intuitive insights, such as the idea that inequality makes the lives of the rich worse as well as the lives of the poor. The authors take up and run with Oliver James's point that capitalism makes you mentally sick, saying that it's not just the poor who suffer from the effects of inequality, but the whole population; mental illness is five times higher across the whole population of the most unequal societies than it is in the most equal ones. It's not being poor per se that sucks, it's living amongst people with very different life outcomes. Mental illness and obesity, drug addiction and violence, teenage pregnancy and the weakening of community life -- all increase in more unequal societies."
culture  spirituality  economics  politics  disparity  inequality  sweden  japan  us  trends  books  capitalism  well-being  health  society  momus  research  uk  portugal  scandinavia  lifeexpectancy  poverty  mentalhealth  mentalillness  stress  gini  equality 
december 2009 by robertogreco
The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » A mental health break
"Roy McDonald writes: “For the long news I’d suggest almost anything on mental health. My thesis is that we are in the stone age in understanding mental illness, minor and major and that it’s something we’re capable of making great progress on in the next century. If we improve mental health globally seems like we could reduce a lot of violence, social tension and international conflict as well as improve economic productivity.”
health  longnow  mentalhealth  mentalillness  medicine  future  demographics  society 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Review: Doctoring the Mind by Richard Bentall | Books | The Observer
"Bentall's thesis is that, for all the apparent advances in understanding psychiatric disorders, psychiatric treatment has done little to improve human welfare, because the scientific research which has led to the favouring of mind-altering drugs is..."fatally flawed"...cites some startling evidence from the WHO that suggests patients suffering psychotic episodes in developing countries recover "better" than those from the industrialised world...are distressing mental states the result of impaired brain chemistry or is it the other way round?...Psychoanalysis was popularly called the talking cure, but a better name is the listening one, because to be listened to properly inspires, or can inspire, hope. As Bentall starkly says: "Without hope, the struggle for survival seems pointless." At a time when dialogue in the presence of other human beings is becoming less and less available, this brave book gives a sense of why this could be disastrous."
drugs  depression  medicine  psychology  psychiatry  capitalism  mentalhealth  mentalillness 
june 2009 by robertogreco
In Rome, the Mind’s Museum Invites a Hands-On Approach to Insanity - NYTimes.com
"Overturning preconceptions about mental illness is the leitmotif of the eight-year-old Mind’s Museum (museodellamente.it), which reopened this month after a high-tech overhaul by Studio Azzurro, a Milan-based art collective that works mostly with interactive and video environments. “The idea was to make it extremely participatory, a museum that can register and note the impressions of the visitor,” said Paolo Rosa, who founded Studio Azzurro with two other artists in 1982. “It’s not a static but a dynamic project, in continuous flux.”"
mentalillness  interactive  museums  italy  rome  mentalhealth 
october 2008 by robertogreco
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