Americans are addicted to TV.

Kill_your_tv Americans are addicted to TV. This is Turn Off TV week, April 21-April 28. 2008.

First you've heard of it? Did you expect to see this on TV? Of course not. Advertisers would not pay for advertisements if no one was supposedly watching them. The materialistic, capitalistic enterprise that we have come to know as American democracy would be cut off at the roots for a week.

The majority of Americans could not go a week without TV anyway. We have become so addicted, TVs now appear in our restaurants, sports arenas, camping grounds, shopping malls, churches, everywhere. If someone were to swear off TV like an alcoholic swears off alcohol, where could you go where your addiction would not be triggered?

There are real withdrawal symptoms. The kids become irritable and fight more initially. Mom and Dad are out of sorts and their anxiety and tension goes up. Cravings become pronounced the first few days as your mind is full of vivid images of your favorite shows and you become distressed about what you are missing.

If you doubt my statement that Americans are addicted to TV, I encourage you to test the statement for a week and shut the TV off. Let me know how it goes.

Here is a brief video on how to break TV addiction. It lasts about 1 minute.

TV in the Bedroom Is Not a Teen's Best Friend

Tv_in_bedroom Reuters Health Day had an article on April 7, 2008, about a study in the April, 2008, issue of the journal, Pediatrics, which found that TVs in adolescent bedrooms contributes to several health and behavioral risks. Here is a brief snippet from the HealthDay article:

Although your teenager may poignantly plead that he or she is the only child left in America without a bedroom television, health experts recommend that parents stand their ground and keep TV out of the bedroom. There seems to be a good reason for this.

The latest research, published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, shows that having a bedroom television not only leads to more TV viewing, but also results in less time spent with the family, less time exercising, lower fruit and vegetable intake, more sweetened beverage consumption, and in lower grades.

"The big take-home message from our study is that TVs should be removed from kids' bedrooms, and it could have a positive effect on kids' health," said the study's lead author, Daheia Barr-Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Adolescent Health Protection Research Training Program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.

Health professionals have been warning for years about too much television watching among young people, and especially about making the TV set so easily accessible. But past research suggests that many parents aren't heeding that advice. About 68 percent of American youngsters have televisions in their bedrooms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In my psychotherapy practice, I see the detrimental effects of TVs in children's bedrooms all the time, and when I mention to parents the recommendation of the American Pediatric Association that TVs not be in children's bedrooms the parents usually say that they know this, but they don't want to fight with their children about this.

Once again, I observe that information alone is not enough to change people's behavior. There has to be some incentive to motivate people to change and without the incentive people will continue to engage in destructive behavior for themselves and their children. Even the threat and experience of problems, sickness, and even death is not enough of an incentive for some people to change.

It seems that some people are better equipped to tolerate frustration, deprivation, and sacrifice in the service of longer term goals than others. Daniel Goleman and other psychologists call this emotional intellligence, and as Dan Goleman points out, E. Q. is much more important to later life success, satisfaction and fulfillment, than I.Q. Unfortunately, our nation and world, is full of what I call "educated idiots." They often, because of their intelligence, are promoted to high levels of power and authority and many, even become parents, many of whom allow their children to have TVs in their bedrooms. :-)

Watching Too Much TV Might Hurt Country's Intelligence - Video lasts 3 1/2 minutes Link: MedlinePlus: TV in the Bedroom Is Not a Teen's Best Friend.

Is excessive computer use a psychiatric disorder?

Computer_addiction On April 3, 2008, American Public Radio's Show, Future Tense, broadcast a 4 minute interview by Future Tense host Jon Gordon with Psychiatrist Jerald Block who believes that compulsive computer use should be classified as a psychiatric disorder. Here is the description of the segment from the Future Tense web site:

Psychiatrist Jerald Block believes heavy use of computers, video games and the Internet can either cause mental illness or, at the very least, be a destructive manifestation of pre-existing behavioral disorders. Writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Block argues there ought to be an entry in the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness called "pathological computer use."

You can go to the Future Tense web site for more information and to listen to the interview by clicking here.

Should the legal drinking age be lowered?

Since the drinking age was raised to 21 tens of thousands of lives have been saved not to mention injuries, rapes, property destruction. From a public health perspective, raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 has been a huge success. However, critics have been concerned about the amount of binge drinking that occurs especially in the first couple of years of college which has lead some opinion leaders to suggest that the drinking age should be lowered again to 18.

While this is a serious discussion, I think the arguments for lowering the drinking age are largely without merit. Here's a satirical piece from The Onion on Teenagers and Alcohol.

College students have more psychiatric problems than ever straining college counseling centers

College_mental_health According to an article in Inside Higher Ed on March 18, 2008 more students in college these days have psychiatric problems requiring treatment.

In last year’s annual survey of counseling center directors sponsored by the American College Counseling Association, fully 91.5 percent reported observing the “recent trend toward greater number of students with severe psychological problems” on their campuses, while 87.5 percent said they noticed a growing number of students arriving on campus already on medication. They reported that 23.3 percent of “clients” at counseling centers are on psychiatric medication, up from 20 percent in 2003 and 17 percent in 2000. In 1994, the number was even lower, at 9 percent.

Link: The Mental Health Squeeze :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, and Views and Jobs.

Life on the Mental Health Front lines

Rounds This fall, 2008, I will have been in the Mental Health field for 40 years. In addition I have raised 9 children of my own with my wife, and now I have 10 grandchildren.
I feel over the hill in some ways working in my private practice, being an agency executive, and teaching undergraduate social workers. Recently though, for the first time in a long time, I agreed to accompany a 16 year old client and his mother to an IEP meeting at his high school. The meeting was called to discuss his returning from a special ed 12:1:1 classroom to normal programming. I was appalled at the arrogance of the Principal who lectured the mother and the student about his zero tolerance policy for misbehavior and seriously questioned whether the student was prepared to function in this "higher expectation" environment. The mother started crying and said to him, "It seems that you are expecting and waiting for my son to fail!" at which point he demurred saying that he was not making a judgment only issuing a warning of what was expected. I thought to myself, "What an asshole!"
After he left the meeting the chairperson of the meeting, the Director of Pupil Personnel Services, tried to minimize his behavior saying that they like to play "good cop", "bad cop."
My wife and I wound up homeschooling our kids and most of my grandchildren are now homeschooled by their parents thank god. I am reminded of Pink Floyd's song, "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control! Teachers!!!!!! Leave those kids alone!!
Schools blame parents all the time in the U.S. as well as policy makers for their children's poor functioning and misbehavior. It's outrageous really. In the U.S. there is very little parental support of any kind unlike in U.K. and Europe. Parents are left to struggle and when they lack the resources to respond to their children's problems there is an intimation that they are bad parents.
Today, I came from a meeting with a psychiatrist and a family intervention team trying to keep a 16 year old young female out of placement. The Psychiatrist kept saying every time concerns were raised about her behavior, "You have to understand, she's very sick. Her brain is not working right." She was trying to refer the father to NAMI support groups so he could learn more about mental illness. Under my breath, I am whistling, "I can't believe this shit!"
It's been a long time since I was on the front lines in this way, and it is appalling at the lack of compassion and inability of the systems we have created to respond in my human, respectful, and dignified ways. Now days it seems to be all about the money and the regulations requiring compliance with certain standards. Service providers are no longer working with clients and families but for some invisible agenda setters whom the service recipients never see and probably are not even aware of who are calling the shots.
In case you're wondering about the High School Principal, he said was an interim principal whom the school board had brought in from retirement to "clean things up", and the Psychiatrist is the director of a clinical research program hired to run drug trials. So the hidden agendas are veiled, but lurking behind the scenes, and students, patients, and their families are mystified as to why they are reduced to tears and sent off to support groups to learn that "mental illness" is caused by bad chemicals which can be rectified with phamaceuticals from Big Pharma.

McCain's Idiotic Stance on America's Health Care Crisis

Mccain I can't decide if Presidential hopeful, Senator John McCain, is senile, psychotic, or disingenuous. According to an article in the January, 2008 issue of Clinical Psychiatry News, McCain is quoted as saying that buying health insurance is like buying a house and that it's a matter of choice whether Americans "want" to buy it or not. Apparently, he hasn't talked with the 47 million Americans without health insurance or the Americans who have been bankrupted by medical costs because they didn't "choose" to buy health insurance.

McCain's analysis of the health care crisis in the United States is scary in its simplistic naivete. It reminds me of Marie Antoinette's statement, when told that the peasants were starving to death because they had no bread, "Let them eat cake." I certainly hope McCain doesn't get elected.

“I don't think there should be a mandate for every American to have health insurance,” the Republican presidential hopeful said at a forum on health care policy sponsored by Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals.

“I think one of our goals should be that every American own their own home, but I'm not going to mandate that. … I feel the same way about health care. If it's affordable and available, then it seems to me it's a matter of choice amongst Americans,” he said.

As Sen. McCain sees it, health insurance is something many people decide they don't want. “The 47 million Americans that are without health insurance today, a very large portion of them are healthy young Americans who simply choose not to” sign up for it, he said at the forum, which was underwritten by the California Endowment and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Link: Clinical Psychiatry News.

Army suicides up as much as 20 percent

Soldiers_suicide The Associated Press reported today, 01/31/08, that the number of suicides in the military has continued to climb and is up 20% from last year.

As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday.

The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

Internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month show there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that are suspected suicides and still under investigation.

More than a quarter of those — about 34 — happened during deployments in Iraq, an increase from 27 in Iraq the previous year, according to the preliminary figures.

The report also shows an increase in the number of attempted suicides and self-injuries — some 2,100 in 2007 compared to less than 1,500 the previous year and less than 500 in 2002.

The total of 121 suicides last year, if all are confirmed, would be more than double the 52 reported in 2001, before the Sept. 11 attacks prompted the Bush administration to launch its counter-terror war. The toll was 87 by 2005 and 102 in 2006.

Officials said the rate of suicides per 100,000 active duty soldiers has not yet been calculated for 2007. But in a half million-person active duty Army, the 2006 toll of 102 translated to a rate of 17.5 per 100,000, the highest since the Army started counting in 1980, officials said. The rate has fluctuated over those years, with the low being 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.

I have my own hypothesis which is that Americans are not able, in good conscience, to kill in hand to hand combat as the military has demanded in Iraq and Afghanistan in an immoral war perpetrated under deceitful rationale by their commander in chief. Guilty consciences on top of other psychosocial stressors is a deadly combination.

I am distressed as I run into young people who are considering joining the military wondering if they understand how their moral conscience may be compromised when they are asked to kill for immoral reasons.

It is interesting how the moral conflicts engendered by the activities of killing fellow human beings is never mentioned in our national policy discussions, let alone the toll it takes on the mental health of the people who are asked to kill for us in our name.

As Americans we are not only responsible for the killing done in our name, but for the mental health of the killers who kill at our behest. Apparently, an increasing number of them cannot live with themselves and hate their lives enough to end them, and not only is the blood of those they have killed for us on our hands, but now their blood is on our hands as well.

What America needs is a period of repentence as we atone for what we have done to our brothers and sisters in other countries, and what we have done to our own.

Link: Army suicides up as much as 20 percent - Yahoo! News.