12% of United States troops in Iraq and 17% of troops in Afghanistan are on anti-depressants

On June 5, 2008, Time Magazine ran a story entitled, "America's Medicated Army". Here is a snippet from the article:

The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines. Data contained in the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.

It seems that fighting pre-emptive and immoral wars is not good for one's mental health. I wonder when we as a nation will realize the error of our ways and demand that our government do something about it?

I don't know of any other occupation that has this high a rate of mental illness. Would you want your loved one to enter such a career?

Prozac: The Military's Secret Weapon, MSNBC with Joe Scarborough. Video lasts 3:25

This is article #4 on militarism.

Pediatric drug samples unsafe practice

Drug pushing Free drug samples pose risk to children's health according to a study in the October, 2008 issue of the journal, Pediatrics, as reported by Reuter's HealthDay on October 6, 2008. Here is a snippet from the Reuters HealthDay article:

 Free prescription drug samples distributed to pediatric patients may be unsafe, research suggests.

The study, published in the October 2008 issue of Pediatrics, examined data on 10,295 children and adolescents from the 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

The researchers found that one in 20 American children received free drug samples in 2004. And among those who took at least one prescription drug that year, nearly one in 10 received free samples.

This in concerning, since the researchers also found that some of the most frequently distributed samples may be unsafe.

Four of the 15 most frequently distributed samples in 2004 were identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as having significant new safety concerns, including new black box warnings or significant revisions to existing warnings.

The top 15 samples included (among others) Strattera (atomoxetine) and Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine), drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both of those medications are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they are controlled and monitored by the Drug Enforcement Agency due to high potential for abuse.

Some physicians welcome the use of free sample medications as a way to get medications to needy patients. But this study's findings showed that few free samples actually go to the children who most need them.

Only 16 percent of the children who received free samples were uninsured for all or part of 2004, and less than one-third had low family incomes, defined as less than $38,000 for a family of four.

This is article #2 in a series on medications.


1/4 - 1/3 of females in the United States military are raped by their fellow soldiers

I was reading at article recently which said that 1/3 of female soldiers in the United States military report being raped. I thought, "How can that be? That can't be right," and so I did a little research and it not only is right, but 1/3 may be low. Here is a snippet from an article in the Los Angeles Times from March 31, 2008. Here is a snippet:

The stories are shocking in their simplicity and brutality: A female military recruit is pinned down at knifepoint and raped repeatedly in her own barracks. Her attackers hid their faces but she identified them by their uniforms; they were her fellow soldiers. During a routine gynecological exam, a female soldier is attacked and raped by her military physician. Yet another young soldier, still adapting to life in a war zone, is raped by her commanding officer. Afraid for her standing in her unit, she feels she has nowhere to turn.

These are true stories, and, sadly, not isolated incidents. Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.

The scope of the problem was brought into acute focus for me during a visit to the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center, where I met with female veterans and their doctors. My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41% of female veterans seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and the downward spirals many of their lives have since taken.

Numbers reported by the Department of Defense show a sickening pattern. In 2006, 2,947 sexual assaults were reported -- 73% more than in 2004. The DOD's newest report, released this month, indicates that 2,688 reports were made in 2007, but a recent shift from calendar-year reporting to fiscal-year reporting makes comparisons with data from previous years much more difficult.
To read the whole LA Times article click here.
 
My wife and I had 9 children: 3 sons and 6 daughters. We have 12 grandchildren: 8 granddaughters and 4 grandsons. I would be opposed to their being in a situation where they were that likely to be raped. Using the 1/3 rape rate that would mean that 2 of my daughters and almost 3 of my granddaughters would be raped if they were in military service. It is a terrifying thought which leaves me with the conclusion that the greatest threat of terrorist attack to my loved ones would be in the United States military, not for Al Queda or whoever it is we are supposed to be afraid of.

NOW on PBS covers rape story.

Video lasts 3:45 CNN - Recruiter rape - Video lasts 6:20

This is article #3 in a series on militarism.

Counter recruiting of Army of None

I work with adolescents as part of my general practice and in the last couple of months I have had 3 or 4 young people say that they are thinking about joining the military. As a therapist I am ethically bound not to let my personal values interfere with my client's right to self determination, but I want to tell them about the high rates of PTSD, substance abuse, rape, and suicide among the military.

The military trains people to kill often civilian populations which goes against our human instinct to preserve life. The United States government has been involved in my lifetime in immoral wars that the Popes and other religious leaders have declared immoral. The moral and ethical conflicts which participating in the military places young people in can be soul damaging.

I wish young people were better informed. I wish they were not so naive and innocent. I wish they were not so gullible and susceptible to recruiting propaganda. In my professional role it is not appropriate for me to do counter recruiting, but in my private life I share my thought and values where appropriate.

Is it mentally healthy for 17, 18, 19 year old kids to sign up for the military to be trained to kill? I have my doubts. That's why so many of our soldiers are on anti-depressants and wind up with life long psychiatric disabilities. I watched my generation go through this and now a whole new generation in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This article is the first in a series of articles I will  be posting on this blog categorized as "militarism".

Army of None, Counter Recruitment, Olympia Washington. Video lasts 4:29


Children in U.S. 3xs more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications than in Europe

Child taking pill Science Daily reported on September 25, 2008 on a study which will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, which found that children in the United States are three times more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications than children in Western Europe. The authors speculate on the reasons for the difference in practice. If you would like to read more click here.


Unproven therapies used on traumatized kids

Puppet therapy Reuters reported on September 9, 2008 on a CDC report which will appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that a lot of therapies provided to kids with PTSD are not proven. Here is a snippet from the article:

Many doctors and therapists use unproven approaches such as drugs, art or play therapy on children suffering trauma when old-fashioned talk therapy has been shown to work, a report released on Tuesday said.

A review of a dozen different studies showed no evidence that alternative therapies helped children traumatized by violence or abuse, even though more than 75 percent of U.S. mental health professionals who treat children and teens with post traumatic stress disorder may use them.

But cognitive therapy -- a type of talk therapy aimed at changing negative thoughts -- does work, the group at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

"The good news is there is substantial research showing the effectiveness of group or individual cognitive behavioral therapy in treating children and teens experiencing the psychological effects of trauma," the CDC's Robert Hahn, who led the study, said in a statement.

"We hope these findings will encourage clinicians to use the therapies that are shown to be effective."

Children can be traumatized by many things including physical or sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, community violence or natural disasters.

In my office, I use cognitive based therapy and, when relevant, include parents and/or caretakers in on the sessions. I find that children and adolescents usually do very well. I am chagrined to hear about the play therapies, sand tables, EMDR, and other things my colleagues are doing with kids which they usually learned at some workshop and now have become born again disciples of the technique. I have often wondered, as the research report above suggests, why they didn't take a workshop and learn how to do therapy that works instead of the latest fad? Like many things in life we are enamored with the new, the novel, the gimicky approach which promises quick and almost miraculous success.

I find it increasingly difficult to find good therapists to refer people to. The mananged care system and the atrophy of the community mental health centers have made it difficult for young therapists to find adequate training environments.

MedlinePlus: Unproven therapies used on traumatized kids -study.


Cheerleading causes majority of female athlete injuries

Cheerleading Reuters HealthDay reported on August 25, 2008 on this year's report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that the most female sports injuries are sustained in cheerleading. Almost 2/3rds of all female sports injuries to females occur in cheerleading. Often denigrated as even being a sport at all, most people greatly underestimated the physical demands of cheerleading. Here is a snippet from the HealthDay article:

Over the past 25 years, cheerleading accounted for two-thirds of all catastrophic sports injuries experienced by high school and college females in the United States, a much higher proportion than previously thought, a new report says.

Cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of female high school athlete injuries and for 66.7 percent of female college athlete injuries.

It was previously believed that cheerleading accounted for 55 percent of injuries among high school females and 59.4 percent of injuries among college females. But the percentages increased when new data was used for this year's report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Center director Frederick O. Mueller, a professor of exercise and sports science who's authored the annual report since it began in 1982, said catastrophic injuries to female athletes have increased over the years.


Abstinence based sex ed programs don't work - Bush Administration gets it wrong

 Abstinence based sex ed Reuters HealthDay reported on August 21, 2008 on a study which appears in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health which found that abstinence based programs don't work.

In 2007 alone the Bush administration spent 176 million dollars on abstinence only sex education for our young people and nothing for comprehensive sex education. Here is a snippet from the HealthDay article:

"Interventions that have been created to encourage abstinence have treated abstinence and sexual activity as opposites. However, teenagers say they don't think of them as opposites," lead author Tatiana Masters, a doctoral student in social work, said in a university news release.

"These (abstinence-only) interventions are less likely to work than more comprehensive sex-education programs, because they are not meeting adolescents where they are, and they are speaking a different language," Masters said.

The study included 365 adolescents (230 girls, 135 boys) in Seattle who took part in an intervention to reduce HIV risk behavior. The participants filled out questionnaires asking them about their attitudes and intentions about abstinence and sex, and about their sexual activity in the previous six months.

At the start of the study, 11 percent of the boys and 4 percent of the girls had had sexual intercourse. That increased to 12 percent of the boys and 8 percent of the girls six months later, and to 22 percent of the boys and 12 percent of the girls one year later.

"This paper demonstrates that increasing abstinence intention does not lead to less sex. In fact, when abstinence intention and sex intention interact with each other a teenager is more likely to have sex," Masters said.

The study was published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

In 2007, the U.S. government provided $176 million for abstinence-only programs, but there is no federal funding for comprehensive sex education programs. This study's findings "raise serious concerns about the abstinence-only approach as a risk-reduction method for adolescent sexual behavior," Masters and colleagues concluded.


The boot camp of life

Boot camp In the book, Daily Afflictions, Andrew Boyd uses many concepts and phrases which are eye catching. One such phrase is "The boot camp of life." In the glossary at the back of the book, Boyd, defines this phrase as - "A traditional child-rearing practice in which the child is trained to handle the dysfunction of adult institutions by being relentlessly drilled in dysfunction by his own family." p. 91

As a therapist as well as in my personal life, I am continually struck by the observation that parents don't deny the dysfunction that their children are subjected to but excuse it as being good for them. There are many phrases such as "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger." "Compared to what I have to endure this is nothing." "He better get used to it now so he is prepared for real life." etc.

I have referred to this as the callous theory meaning that parents excuse the abuse that their children suffer as "toughening them up" so that he/she can better deal with abuse later on in life.

I don't think there is any research evidence to back up this callous theory - that abuse and dysfunction earlier in life makes one more resilient later on in life. In fact, the research evidence appears to be the opposite, that abuse and dysfunction earlier in life is a risk factor for problems later on in life.

This callous theory is part of what John Bradshaw named "poisonous pedagogy".

One of reasons that my wife and I decided to homeschool was to protect our children from the institutional dysfunction that occurs in Middle school. Schools are bureaucratic institutions which are very self serving and subject children to dysfunction which mirrors the dysfunction in families, - bullying, cliques, playing favorites, mind numbing worksheets and busy work, obedience and compliance with requirements that are artificially imposed, loss of control over one's own life, disrespect, and fear being used as a motivating factor.

In the criminal justice system, boot camps began being popular 25 years ago where rigorous physical exertion and browbeating inmates for compliance was thought to  bring about compliance, obedience, and self discipline. Research has found that boot camps don't work. The belief that dysfunction and abuse is somehow good for people is similarly erroneous. Whilte the boot camp of life is an eye grabbing metaphor, one would do well to question, deconstruct, and dismiss this idea as beneficial for facilitating the development of a high quality, healthy, happy life.