Tag Archives: mental health

The Treatment Advocacy Center

Treatment Advocacy CenterIf you’re interested to learn how an absence of nationwide mental healthcare assistance contributes in a very real way to violent and aggressive events in the U.S., please check out the website for the Treatment Advocacy Center. This organization was founded by the prominent and distinguished psychiatrist, E. F. Torrey, known for his exhaustive research correlating a decline in therapy (especially outpatient follow-up) with violent crime in the United States.

 

The Treatment Advocacy Center website provides access to a wealth of information and statistics surrounding mental health and crime; you can see how your state measures up against others with the laws they have in place, the population of severe mentally ill persons, an estimate of how many severely ill people are incarcerated, and the ratio of the likelihood of incarceration vs. hospitalization for the severely mentally ill. There is also a database of preventable tragedies, options to become involved, and media to explore surrounding the issues.

 

Torrey’s book, The Insanity Offense, also provides excellent reading on the rise of a national problem, how state governments and politicians have without fail misunderstood (or not cared about) the root of the problem, and how many of the U.S.’s violent crimes stood a chance of being prevented had common sense measures been in place. All too frequently laws have been written that seem to encourage the violent act before any action can be taken (are they a danger to themselves or others?), and enforcing measures that encourage the severely mentally ill to take their medications. Forcing people into institutions and to take their meds has often been viewed as barbaric and an affront to personal liberties, but the severely ill cannot live ‘freely’ unless they are treated (humanely), and neither can their family or friends.

 

Clearly, it is time to acknowledge that mental illness can affect anyone at any time, and sensible, common sense, and compassionate measures need to be put into place.

 

A wonderful resource if you have the time.

The Onion in the Ointment: Neurodiversity With Psychopathy and Pedophilia

The formation of (and participation in) support groups to help individuals deal with unique medical or psychological conditions is a common occurrence in the United States. These groups help to build solidarity for individuals who once felt isolated, stories and anecdotes can be shared, and potential solutions or coping strategies can be imparted based upon similar experiences. These groups therefore provide an environment that is sensitive to the experiences and conditions that can stoke consternation and grief in everyday life.

Steve Silberman meticulously documented how the right group for those with autism can diminish the stresses experienced in a culture that has struggled to understand this neurodiversity. The number of support groups is endless, and they range from assisting victims of aggression, helping those suffering from debilitating and terminal illnesses, assisting those with neurological or psychological differences, and helping those who experienced extreme weather devastation. The point is that the support is there because there is a difference that majorities of people do not experience (or do not actively address), and this generates adaptation or standard of living concerns.

Technically, anything that meets this description generates the need of a support group, where measures can be addressed to help individuals onto a path that allows them to make the most of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. From a mental health perspective, this is often accompanied by movements that push for culture to accept neurodiversity as personality differences, moving away from the stigmas of disorders.

However, there are at least two groups that by definition fall under the neurodiversity banner, which are problematic; psychopaths and pedophiles. While there is no unified neurological profile that can within an acceptable level of error capture all those that meet the diagnostic criteria for each condition, many studies have identified neurological differences; although, there is much diversity within psychopathy and within pedophilia, which make it hard to suggest unifying neurological differences, and behavior is diverse, too.

The behavior of both psychopaths and pedophiles can often be catastrophic, and could pose a serious threat to those who interact with them. For other neurodiverse conditions, individuals are taught to learn and structure their lives in a way that works with their set of differences; this clearly cannot be encouraged with psychopaths and pedophiles. In fact, if either of these groups wished to exercise their right for self-determination, as certain pedophile groups often have, society will push back. Support groups for pedophiles tend to focus on encouraging them to control their desires and drives, although the success rate remains questionable.

For psychopathy and pedophilia, therefore, neurodiversity is met with the need for resistance and legal protections that inhibit destructive and antisocial behavior which can result from their neurodiversity. This makes them unique from other neurodiverse conditions, and so therefore needs to be acknowledged and addressed in discussions that seek to encourage acceptance of neurodiversity. This may seem obvious, but arguments looking to support self determination based upon diversity need to be taken seriously, not in the least because there are exceptions.

While breaking stigmas remains a crucial battle, psychopathy, along with pedophilia, remain the elephants in the room.

Sources

Neurological study reviews focused on psychopathy

Anderson, N. E., & Kiehl, K. A. (2012) The psychopath magnetized: insights from brainimaging. Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(1), 52-60

Umbach, R., Berryessa, C. M., & Raine, A. (2015) Brain imaging research on psychopathy: Implications for punishment, prediction, and treatment in youth and adults. Journal of criminal justice, 43(4), 295-306

Weber, S., Habel, U., Amunts, K., & Schneider, F. (2008) Structural brain abnormalities in psychopaths—A review. Behavioral sciences & the law, 26(1), 7-28

Neurological study reviews focused on pedophilia

Fonteille, V., Cazala, F., Moulier, V., & Stoléru, S. (2012) Pedophilia: contribution of neurology and neuroimaging techniques. L’Encephale, 38(6), 496-503

Mohnke, S., Müller, S., Amelung, T., Krüger, T. H., Ponseti, J., Schiffer, B., … & Walter, H. (2014) Brain alterations in paedophilia: a critical review. Progress in neurobiology, 122, 1-23

Wiebking, C., & Northoff, G. (2013) Neuroimaging in pedophilia. Current psychiatry reports, 15(4), 1-9

Goodbye, Facebook

It is with a heavy heart, but a free spirit, that I have decided to say “Goodbye!” to Facebook. I have enjoyed many of the advantages of using the behemoth webpage/social media system, such as sharing jokes and commentary with friends, engaging in fun/tedious web-debates with my nearest and dearest, and seeing entertaining posts and links that I would’ve never stumbled across otherwise.

Yet given these fun aspects of Facebook time, I always felt that it was never good for me, and I could never figure out why.

I am aware that there are now many social media experiments taking place, and the reason for this is that nobody ever really knew the implications of this kind of mass sharing. These websites were always destined to be “a hit” with the public (provided that they got in early, established their brand, and offered something fun and novel).

I personally feel like Facebook hijacked my brain. Accessing the program was always in my fingertips, even though the thought of logging-on hadn’t consciously entered my mind. When opening a new browser window, there are countless times I have caught myself typing ‘fa’ into the address line before I’ve even really thought about what I’m doing.

This started to bother me.

Facebook has become an integral part of my procedural memory – the same memory that has refined how you pick up a hot drink, or brush your teeth, is now facilitating my exposure to the program. And the worst part is that this has happened because I have done it so many times before, and my brain is simply helping me to repeat the past.

I also feel that using Facebook has affected the way that I read online articles. I am plagued by a terrible attention span, and I have often wondered if I would meet the criteria for adult ADHD. Reading is very often not only an act to be informed, but a means of self discipline. As it is not uncommon to want to share interesting things that you have read, or more likely to comment or joke about something in the news, the fact that you can instantly share and comment instantly interrupts the reading experience. My brain becomes conflicted – to comment on this interesting line, or finish reading the article first? If I do challenge the impulse, it will be there nagging me for the remaining paragraphs, like suppressing the need to pee while driving until you arrive at the next rest area. I like to read, and I like to understand what I read, and so Facebook needs to go.

It has also been widely acknowledged that for a healthy brain it is important to forget things. Now, obviously, it also very important to remember things, but there is an abundance of material that you have been exposed to since day one that can happily disintegrate and float around in the recesses of the mind. By re-exposing yourself to many of the people you have met throughout the course of your life, you are forcing your brain to build upon old memories and re-collections. Biologically, this can be very demanding. Perhaps even contribute to fatigue, and result in your inability to focus on arguably more important endeavors, such as current relationships and hobbies. I’m not convinced the brain has evolved to keep healthy tabs on somebody you might’ve known in your early school days, especially in the milieu of everyone you have met since.

These are the main reasons that I am done with the website. But, I also don’t like being told that my profile is only ‘67% Complete’ (Facebook, you’re just 33% too nosy), I don’t like agonizing over whether a comment I posted was appropriate, and I don’t like that I seem to have a mild dependence on friends and family validating my sense of humor and worldviews.

I was thinking that my departure from Facebook might only be for the time being, but after re-reading everything I’ve just written here, not a Damn chance.

Recent crime and the need for mental healthcare reform

Alexis Carey Lanza

Aaron Alexis (left), Miriam Carey (center), Adam Lanza (right)

After a string of violent incidents that clearly indicate the presence of an unhealthy mental state, it is still shocking that a Congressional debate on improving mental healthcare in this nation has not been mentioned. Clearly, with the government shutdown, hands are probably tied right now, but it is not even getting suggested. Stop me if you have evidence of impending mental healthcare reform with the inclusion of ongoing care and assistance of the mentally ill once they have left hospital.

When yet another violent attack by an individual happens, everyone gets bogged down in motives and intentions, which are important, but secondary to the mental health of the individual. Poor mental health can only serve to exacerbate or create dangerous motives and intentions, and a discussion of the motives and intentions of mentally ill people cannot happen if mental health is excluded.

Human-Egg-Hatching

Mentally ill people hatching from their egg in the forest

These violent events often re-ignite quarrels about gun control. Regardless of whether or not you think all law-abiding U.S. citizens are entitled to own a gun, I think we can all agree that a gun in the hand of a mentally ill person is a recipe for disaster. What I think many fail to understand is that mental illness is not necessarily something you are born with and it can manifest itself at any point during a person’s life. It’s perfectly possible for a gun owner, who has safely owned and kept their gun for many years, to suffer mental illness. This does not automatically mean they will become a killer, but owning a gun might not be a good idea for this person any longer. Currently, in light of gun debates and commentary on mass shootings, the mentally ill seem to be treated like they are those ‘other’ people who hatch from eggs in the forest, and have nothing to do with us normal people.

Mental health is often excluded from initial discussions of these events, because as a nation we want immediate accountability. To say that a shooter killed a number of people was a schizophrenic who was off their medication is not a satisfying answer – it almost makes the event kind of pointless, meaning that lives were lost for nothing. To say that a killer was evil, had a hatred for a certain group of people, or was deranged as I’ve heard it explained, seems to give our rage and indignation of the event a focus or a purpose – after all, after a tragedy we need to stick our blame to something if we are to help our feet back to the ground.

Wanting to attach accountability to Aaron Alexis, the shooter at the Naval Yard in DC, in my opinion, is the easy and natural thing to do, especially for the victims and the victims’ families. But politicians and elected officials cannot allow themselves to fall back on this. President Obama referred to the intentions of Alexis as ‘cowardly’. This kind of comment is of no use to anyone – how is it useful to discuss the behavior of a man suffering psychotic symptoms, who had a shotgun in his possession and who killed 12 people, as acting cowardly? This attitude means that nothing gets done, and we’re almost guaranteed that a similar event is going to happen again. If the reason for a shooting is that the shooter was a schizophrenic off their medication, we should turn our indignation towards an inadequate mental healthcare system, and the absence of mental health education. We should also demand to know why so many red flags are often missed. Aaron Alexis had a ten year history of mental illness, was involved in three crimes, and yet he was still able to buy a gun and get a pass to work at the navy yard – this is the failure, and this should be the target of our national indignation.

In light of the shooting at the navy yard, a number of pundits were also quick to jump on Obama’s comment that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon Martin, and quipped, “If Obama had a son, he would look like Aaron Alexis.” This is no doubt supposed to be humorous because a number of conservatives and Zimmerman supporters were irked by Obama’s comment about Martin, because in their opinion Martin had been a threat. Alexis was a threat, and this is not something that is divided by opinion. Therefore, this recent comment serves to ridicule Obama’s original statement about Martin. This snide attempt to ridicule Obama is appalling, because it serves to undermine Alexis and his history of mental illness. Alexis “could’ve” been Obama’s son, because even people with schizophrenia have parents, and threat or not, Martin is now dead, after having only a very brief life. This kind of commentary only serves to obfuscate the real issues.

Whenever these type of tragedies come to pass, as they do all too frequently, there’s always mental illness or a mental disorder. Miriam Carey, the lady recently shot by police for driving her car into security barriers in DC, had suffered post-partum depression and psychosis. Adam Lanza, the teenager responsible for the Sandy Hook tragedy was diagnosed with Asperger’s and Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), and also had many articles about Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer who shot dead many people, including children, on the island of Utoya  in 2011. Figuring out how the disorder could have resulted in these acts is not always straight forward, but poor mental health is always there. Even with pathological serial killers, the brain is different from everybody else. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anytime a person’s natural in-built capacity for empathy fails completely, there is probably a disorder or the potential for a disorder present. This does not necessarily mean that an act of violence will result, but the chances have certainly increased.

One last thing I would like to comment upon is the term ‘isolated event’. Often after a mass shooting or an event that included the dangerous behavior of a citizen, you often see police officials or the media saying that it was an isolated event. I think this serves at least two purposes. Firstly, it lets us know that it wasn’t the result of terrorism, and there aren’t going to be similar acts to follow. And secondly, it bolsters the idea that the person responsible has been neutralized and will not commit further atrocities. I would like to contend that none of these events are isolated. They may not be the result of terrorism, but the issue of mental illness is behind all of them. Together, these events suggest that there is a tremendous ignorance and ineptitude regarding the mentally ill, and as mental illness can impact any of us at any time (either personally or by the actions of others), we need to stop looking at it as some weird anomaly that happens to other people, and start treating it as a human, national problem.