Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Service of Hope

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Forgiveness, grief, perseverance, guilt, disabilities, World War II, 9/11 and racism are all powerful, life-changing emotions, conditions and events that don’t always evoke hope.  Yet the books, TV programs and films that The Christophers selected for their 2018 Christopher Awards, celebrated last Thursday in NYC, characterize and exemplify optimism and courage. The 69 year old awards laud writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose films, TV/cable programs and books “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Here are just a few examples from this year’s winning books:

Dr. Edith Eger, who at 90 lives in La Jolla, Calif., was a holocaust survivor pulled barely alive from a pile of bodies when the camp that held her captive was liberated. An eminent psychologist, she maintains a busy clinical practice and lectures around the world helping survivors of abuse, soldiers suffering from PTSD and others she wrote about in her memoir “The Choice.” She experienced and observed that many live within a mind that has become a prison. She described how she achieved freedom by confronting her suffering and how she helped others do the same. Far from a Pollyanna take on her life, “The Choice” is a compelling, thoughtful–and helpful–read.

Rev. Jonathan Morris presents Meadow Rue Merrill her Christopher Award.

Meadow Rue Merrill, in “Redeeming Ruth,” wrote about her severely disabled adopted child, abandoned at birth in Uganda, whose short life she and her husband Dana and their three kids made the best possible. “She was more than just our daughter; she was an ambassador, who opened our hearts to the needs of children with disabilities in the developing world,” said the award-winning journalist. “We miss Ruth every day, but we wouldn’t trade one day we had with her for the world.” Ruth’s spirit lives on well beyond the hearts of her loving family. Proceeds from “Redeeming Ruth” support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda and Meadow and Dana Merrill are dedicated to assisting these otherwise helpless people and to drawing attention to their plight.

From left Jameel McGee, Father Morris and Andrew Collins

“Convicted” is about a crooked white police officer, Andrew Collins and the innocent African American man, Jameel McGee, he sent to jail. Collins arrested and charged McGee, who was launching a business at the time, with possession of crack cocaine. Sentenced to 10 years in federal prison McGee served three until his conviction was overturned when Collins admitted to falsifying evidence. Collins resigned due to an investigation for misconduct and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for drug possession with the intent to distribute, serving 18 months. Years following their release, the men worked together at Café Mosaic, a coffee shop and community development program in Benton Harbor. Spoiler alert**: McGee forgave Collins, they are friends today and they travelled to and attended the Awards together. **I’m being silly as the subtitle, “A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship” gives away what happened. And you thought your sister in law was unforgivable.

Children 8 and older will read about an American child who makes the decision to stay with her French grandmother, whom she doesn’t like, on a farm in Alsace just as World War II breaks out. They’ll see what happens when Nazi’s move into their home. Thanks to Patricia Reilly Giff in “Genevieve’s War,” they’ll learn about deprivation, hunger, fear and anxiety when Genevieve shares a secret with someone who may be collaborating with Germans. She was warned not to whisper a word. In addition to seeing how a clash of cultures can affect family members, they’ll observe the child’s change of heart when love and respect take the place of the disdain Genevieve once felt toward her grandmother.

This year’s Christopher Life Achievement Award winner, Ken Burns, who has also won previous Christopher Awards said that it will be through storytelling, not political debates, that people will change their minds.  “In an awards environment that is all ego, it is refreshing to have the Christopher Awards around to remind us all of the real purpose of our work. Without much fanfare or hoopla, and with the simple grace that echoes their objectives perfectly, The Christophers reaffirm the best impulses we have – that is to transform humanity for the better with our hard work, compassion and art.”

Have you read books or seen films/TV programs or experienced dire situations in which the ancient Chinese proverb “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” led the way? In addition to The Christophers, for which that proverb guides all its programs, there are other sources that celebrate people who turn negatives into positives such as “The Moth Radio Hour” on NPR and “The Kindness Challenge” on Facebook. They share instances that build people up and shed light on possibilities and solutions. Can you name others?

Authors at Christopher Awards from left Amy Guglielmo, “Pocket Full of Colors;” Kate Hennessy, “Dorothy Day;” Andrew Collins and Jameel McGee, “Convicted;” Meadow Rue Merrill, “Redeeming Ruth” and Jacqueline Tourville, “Pocket Full of Colors.”

Service of Quick and Easy Solutions for Depression: Intrusive Much?

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Photo: pano.com

Photo: pano.com

I appreciate companies that tackle a challenge in resourceful, efficient ways, but not at risk to safety, privacy and efficacy. According to Rachel Emma Silverman, “Companies are waking up to the costs of untreated mental illnesses like depression, which is linked to $44 billion a year in lost workplace productivity, according to the University of Michigan Depression Center. The center cites data suggesting that workers suffering from depression cost companies 27 lost work days a year.”

Her Wall Street Journal article “Tackling Workers’ Mental Health, One Text at a Time–Employers are turning to counseling services that can be accessed on smartphones,” inspired questions. We’re not talking about tips to treat a paper cut here. Plus, to receive what resembles a mental Band-aid an employee must be willing to give up privacy.

StressEmployee assistance programs [EAPs], where staff has access to free counseling on the phone, don’t seem to work, she reported. In contrast, Silverman wrote: “Some apps mine data about employees’ phone usage, or medical and pharmaceutical claims, to determine who might be in need of care. Others allow workers to text and video chat with therapists—in what are being called ‘telemental’ health services.”

The apps also collect data—telling employers how many look for help for stress, anxiety or depression–but according to Silverman, an employer doesn’t learn anything about individuals. However some in the industry worry that a lost or hacked phone puts an employee’s privacy at risk and others, who are happy to see something is being done, point out that the security of the privacy is unproven.

AnxietyAccording to Silverman, one app, Ginger.io, “alerts a health coach when a user hasn’t texted in a while or hasn’t left the house, potential signals of increased stress or anxiety.” She continued, it “gathers phone-activity data with users’ permission; the app does not monitor the content of messages or a phone’s specific location.” The human resources director at a company that offers both EAPs and mobile apps reports about the latter. It “feels like a more immediate solution for folks, because they are always on their phones anyway.”

Another corporation expects an ROI of over $2 million this year. Last year it spent $11.5 million on “behavioral health treatments” for its US employees wrote Silverman. It has signed them up at Castlight Health Inc. that “computes users’ health and pharmaceutical claims, as well as their search history within the app, to identify who might be at risk for a mental health condition and direct them to appropriate care.” Silverman described that the smartphone screen of staffers with something like chronic pain– associated with depression and anxiety–might be “Feeling overwhelmed?” A click leads to a list of questions about mood, treatment suggestions and an online therapy program.

Mental health mavens add, “While treatment by text is convenient, some users may still need to supplement it with in-office visits to a therapist.”

I’m all for mobile apps that share weather, sports scores, the shortest driving distance between here and there, movie reviews and the time to expect the next First Avenue bus and I don’t care if the world knows I’ve accessed them. With technology as fine tuned as it is, I can’t believe that the employer won’t know if someone seeks out help which might prevent them from getting a promotion.

  • And if an app determines someone has stayed at home for two days, might the reason not be the flu or a sick child–rather than an indication that you are paralyzed by depression?
  • Haven’t you researched a disease or condition a friend or relative mentions? How would the app know it’s not about you?
  • Are corporations blaming stress and anxiety on staff, who must be cured, instead of fixing the management style, unrealistic expectations or work conditions that may have caused much of the employee anxiety and blues in such numbers?
Photo: tinybuddah.com

Photo: tinybuddah.com

Service of “I Told You So”

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Told you so

Certain specialties, while critical, are fragile because they have so many naysayers. Psychology is one of them. I believe in its effectiveness so much I wish I’d studied to be a psychologist.

When a once respected PhD like Diederik Stapel, a social psychologist, fakes tests to gain fame it’s as bad for the field as the damage charlatans do for currently incurable diseases. Because naysayers think psychology [and its offshoots] is so much bunk, when a star is caught red-handed can’t you just hear the “I told you so!”

I read about Stapel in Yudhijit Bhattacharjee’s “The Mind of a Con Man,” in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. The reporter notes that such fraud is nothing new in science which I know firsthand. As a newbie PR person in a then unfamiliar field I uncovered a clinician who had invented test results that a pharmaceutical client was about to tout. I always thought that this was the exception and was disheartened to read in the Times article, “But the scientific misconduct that has come to light in recent years suggests at the very least that the number of bad actors in science isn’t as insignificant as many would like to believe.”

social psycologyStapel, a Dutchman, blamed the media, in part, for the path he chose. Bhattacharjee wrote: “In his early years of research — when he supposedly collected real experimental data — Stapel wrote papers laying out complicated and messy relationships between multiple variables. He soon realized that journal editors preferred simplicity. ‘They are actually telling you: ‘Leave out this stuff. Make it simpler,’ Stapel told me. Before long, he was striving to write elegant articles.”

This I don’t buy. Much of my business involves simplifying my clients’ sometimes complicated or technical information for industry trade and consumer audiences which, like me, thousands do daily without fakery. That’s what links, footnotes and charts are for.

Bhattacharjee continued, “What the public didn’t realize, he said, was that academic science, too, was becoming a business. ‘There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,’ he said.’Normal people go to the edge to get that money. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman.”

SalesmanDoes every salesman lie? In addition, Stapel doesn’t think much of the public’s brains if he believes we know nothing about scarce resources, competition and budgets/funds for projects in his or any business.

The fake studies also marred the work of countless doctoral students for whom Stapel conducted studies though the universities where they and Staple were involved didn’t find the students guilty. Yet earlier in the article Bhattacharjee commented about the students, “They don’t appear to have questioned why their supervisor was running many of the experiments for them. Nor did his colleagues inquire about this unusual practice.”

fake brandToward the end of the article Bhattacharjee wrote: “The field of psychology was indicted, too, with a finding that Stapel’s fraud went undetected for so long because of ‘a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data.’”

Are you especially dismayed when people in a field that’s supposed to help others do more to help themselves thereby leaving subjects at risk, giving ammunition to the “I told you so” crowd? Is the media to blame for scientists who cheat because editors look to cover simple subjects and conclusions? It’s hard to get grants and financial support for scientific research: a viable excuse for faking a study, yes or no?

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