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April 2004
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June 2004

In America, the film

in_americaIn America, one of the best films I have seen in a long time, is about an Irish immigrant family who comes to New York City so the father can look for acting jobs. He, his wife, and two young daughters live on the top floor of a tenement filled with drug addicts, and other poor people of all colors and nationalities.

The family struggles with grief over the loss of a two year old son who fell down the stairs and then got a brain tumor. Sara, the mother gets pregnant again, and they make friends with an African American neighbor, Mateo, who appears to be dying of AIDS.

The creative tension in this film comes from the stuggle of hope and getting on with life, and dispair and the wish for death. This film is populated with heroic people who carry on against great odds to do the right thing and love one another in the midst of degrading and difficult circumstances.

I highly recommend this film.

The Lovely Bones, the book

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is the story about a 14 year old girl who gets raped and murdered in a cornfield by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey, who is a serial killer. However, this book is not a murder mystery or crime book. This story is about how grief affects a family as told by the dead 14 year old from heaven.

This book is strange because of the narrator's voice broadcast from her heaven as she observes her family and friends on earth. It allows us to look at ourselves from the point of view of the witness.

We watch Suzie's father, Jack, struggle with the loss as he tries to parent his other daughter Lindsey, a year younger than Suzie, and his son Buckley who is about 8 years younger than Suzie, only being six when she is killed.

The mother can't deal with the grief and moves to California while her mother, an alcoholic, moves in to help Jack with the kids.

Having lost two children of my own in a drunk driving crash in 1993, I found this family struggling with their grief, each in their own way, very believable.

The creative tension in the book comes from tremendous grief each family member feels with the loss of Suzie, and the tremendous grief, love and concern that Suzie feels for each of her family members as she longs to be on earth sharing life with them.

I liked this book a lot and I highly recommend it. As a loyal Behavioralhealth web log reader, I will send you my copy free of charge to the first person who sends me their request with a mailing address. As a member of Bookcrossings I only ask that you share with someone else when you are done with it.

Behavior at Age 10 May Predict Later Depression

In a study reported in the March, 2004 Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the researcher, Dr. W. Alex Mason, found that behavior at age 10 - 11 is predictive of latter life problems with depression, violence, and social phobia.

A child's behavior during the preteen years may predict whether he or she will experience depression, violent behavior or social phobia as a young adult, new research findings suggest.

In a decade-long study, the researchers collected data for 765 children between the ages of 10 and 11 years old. At follow-up, they found that those who reported fighting, stealing or other conduct problems were almost four times as likely as their more well-behaved peers to have experienced depression or violent behavior by 21 years old.

Not to be a smart ass, but I have found that any observant adult can watch a classroom of 3rd graders for 30 minutes and predict which kids will have problems in the coming years. I know I can because I have done it.

Identifying those troubled, or to be troubled kids is not hard in my experience. What is more difficult is developing and implementing strategies to help them so that they avoid problems in the future.

Schools are not meant to be therapeutic, and troubled kids usually do not get help from their families. So what to do?

School based mental health services might be part of the answer but they are the first programs cut when the school budget comes up for a vote. However, many studies show that for every dollar spent on preventive services, 7 dollars is saved in later criminal justice, health care, and social welfare costs. However, these costs get shifted to other sectors, from education to health care, from health care to criminal justice, from criminal justice to social welfare, and so every body is "passing the buck". The ones who get stuck, usually in the end, are the taxpayers. But they voted "no" on the school budget cutting these services to begin with.

My concern here is not just academic. GCASA, which provides prevention services in the schools, was cut out of two schools this year, not because we weren't doing good work, but because the schools were in a real crunch and having to lay off teachers and other staff, and they couldn't justify continuing to pay for prevention services when they are laying off teachers. I have no quarrel with school superintendents and school boards who made these decisions, but I say to myself, "If the taxpayers only knew" what will happen ten years from now.

In the United States we are one of the stingiest when it comes to spending money on our kids. They are seen as primarily the parents responsibility and as a society we wash our hands of them and go our way until we see the grissly reports we can tsk tsk tsk about on the 6:00 PM news.

The research says we can identify who these kids are. The question which research can't answer is what do we, as a society, want to do about them?

MedlinePlus: Behavior at Age 10 May Predict Later Depression

Substance Abuse Linked to 25% of Violent Crimes.

"People with serious drug and alcohol abuse problems are linked to about a quarter of all violent crimes, many of which could be avoided with better treatment, researchers in Sweden reported on Friday.

They found that 16 percent of crimes, such as murder, robbery, assault and rape, in Sweden between 1988-2000 were committed by people who had been discharged from hospital for alcohol abuse and 10 percent of crimes were associated with drug abusers.

"It is likely you will find the same sort of figures in Western Europe and North America," Seena Fazel, of the University of Oxford, said in an interview."

At GCASA in 2003 we had 854 admissions and about 65% had some involvment with the criminal justice system. These crimes were not all violent, but the involvement of people with substance abuse problems in the criminal justice system is very high.

MedlinePlus: Substance Abuse Linked to 25% of Violent Crimes.

Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, the film


The Fog Of War is a documentary released in May of 2004 about the life of Robert McNamara the Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson during the Viet Nam war. This documentary covers McNamara's early service, service in World War II, his work at Ford, and his service while Secretary of Defense.

I found this a very sad story about how good men did terrible evil perpetrating a needless war that killed 58,000 Americans, and over 3 million Viet Namese. McNamara justifies US policies in Viet Nam saying that they were a product of the cold war and that people make mistakes. He also says that had the United States lost the war government officials could have been tried as war criminals. Then he questions what is "morality"?

Another gruesome story is how close we came to having nuclear war during the Cuban Missle Crisis.

I found the documentary very troubling especially in light of similar policies and actions in Iraq. It makes me wonder how Americans can justify supporting a government that does such terrible things to other people on this planet in the name of moral superiority. I think this claim as a basis to kill our fellow inhabitants on the planet is disingenuous.

Individual Americans have not only a right, but a responsibility, to speak up about immoral governmental policies that are perpetrated in our name. As we said in the 60s, "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Watch Fog Of War and learn so that history will not repeat itself as it already has done once in Iraq.

I highly recommend this film.

Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, The (2003)