Monday, August 11, 2014

The cure for depression

 The Cure for Depression

(or: “Can’t you just. . . ?”)

NOTE. Whenever mental illness pushes its way to the public forefront, a thing we all seem to want to shove back as hard as possible, for one brief shining moment people have all sorts of good intentions about being sensitive, being compassionate, listening, etc. I am here to tell you that it is ALL BULLSHIT and that practically NO ONE practices any of it. Instead, the depressed person is bossed around, due to the non-depressed person's primal terror of their friend's perceived weakness and loss of control. When Robin Williams destroyed himself, I saw things on Facebook that made me want to howl: "Oh well, he was just a whack job anyway. It was only a matter of time." Our free use of terms like "nut job" and "whacko" reveal the horror and contempt we feel for anyone suffering from ANY form of mental illness.(At the same time, we mouth certain pre-recorded words such as, "We need to reduce the stigma around mental illness.") As with the Black Plague, we fear contagion. We'd rather put these people in the stocks in the public square and throw rotten apples at them. But since that is "uncivilized", instead we tell them "helpful" things like the following - and it is, of course, all for their own good.

“It’s all in your mind.”

“You just need to give yourself a good swift kick in the rear.”

“No one ever said life was fair.”

“I think you enjoy wallowing in it."

"Depression is a choice, you know."

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

"There are a lot of people worse off than you.”

“But it’s a beautiful day!”

“You have so many things to be thankful for!”

“You just want attention.”

“Happiness is a choice, you know.”

"Just read this book. It'll fix you right up."

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“There is always somebody worse off than you are.”

“You should get off all those pills.”

“You are what you think you are.”

“Cheer up!”

“Have you been praying/reading your Bible?”

"People who meditate don't get depressed."

“You need to get out more.”

"Don't you have a sense of humour?"

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

“Get a job!”

“Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”

"Just read this book. It'll fix you right up."

“But you don’t look depressed. You seem fine to me.”

“You can do anything you want if you just set your mind to it.”

“Snap out of it, will you? You  have no reason to feel this way.”

“I wish I had the luxury of being depressed.”

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

"Just read this book. It'll fix you right up."

"Do you want your family to suffer along with you?"

“Can't you at least make an effort?"

“Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. I was depressed once for several 


“Turn it over to your Higher Power.”

“I think your depression is a way of punishing us.”

“So, you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?”

“You’re always so negative! Look on the bright side.”

“What you need is some real tragedy in your life to give you perspective.”

“You’re a writer, aren’t you? Just think of all the good material you’re getting 

out of this.”

“Have you tried camomile tea?”

"I TOLD you to read that book."

“Go out and help someone who is worse off than you and you won’t have time

 to brood.”

“You have to take up your bed and carry on.”

“Well, we all have our crosses to bear.”

"I was depressed until I tried yoga."

“You don’t like feeling that way? Change it!"

Robin, we hardly knew you

Suicide a risk even for beloved characters like Williams

That a "universally beloved" entertainer like Robin WIlliams could commit suicide "speaks to the power of psychiatric illness," mental health experts say.
Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63, had some of the risk factors for suicide: He was known to have bipolar disorder, depression and drug abuse problems, said Julie Cerel, a psychologist and board chair of American Association of Suicidology.
People who are severely depressed can't see past their failures, even if they've been as successful as Williams.
"With depression, people just forget," said Cerel, also an associate professor at the University of Kentucky. "They get so consumed by the depression and by the feelings of not being worthy that they forget all the wonderful things in their lives."
They feel like a burden on their family and that the world would be better off without them.
"Having depression and being in a suicidal state twists reality. It doesn't matter if someone has a wife or is well loved," Cerel said.
Williams was certainly beloved, as shown by the outpouring of grief and sympathy on social media outlets last night.
Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, agrees the impact is "shocking" when it involves a "universally loved character" like WIlliams.
He caught the news while watching TV with his children. "They all said, 'Nooo, not Robin Williams.'" It's hard to hear that successful people like Williams, who was a genius of comedy, could also have this vulnerability, Duckworth said. "You'd like to think they're immune from the heartache and suffering of mental illness and that isn't true."
"It speaks to the need for better treatments and the need for society to be more welcoming to people who have these conditions," he said.
About 90% of people who commit suicide have some kind of psychiatric illness that's typically untreated or "undertreated," he said.
Cerel said the impact of suicide ripples far beyond immediate family members.
"Friends, people in our social network, even when it's people on TV, it really affects us all," she said. "Even though most of us don't know him directly, he's someone who's entertained us, and (his death) will have an effect on us and will make us think of others who've died."
The fact that someone as successful as Williams could kill himself shows that suicide is "not about objective markers of happiness and success," said Dost Ongur, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the psychotic disorders division at McLean Hospital outside of Boston.
The deep psychic pain that drove Williams to suicide, "must have been part of his experience all along," Ongur said. "It was part and parcel of his gregarious, funny, so intelligent, so special outward persona – but on the inside it seems like it wasn't always happiness."
In addition to previous problems with mental illness, Williams was also in a demographic that is particularly vulnerable to suicide, Ongur said.
White, middle-aged men with medical problems are at the highest risk for suicide, he said. It's not entirely clear why that is, but Ongur said "this idea of control and virility and being able to deal with the world in a certain way – as that starts to slip away, there's often a sense of loss of control and threat to one's manhood, and that seems to be associated with higher rates of suicide."
Although depression can last for years, suicidal thinking is "a temporary state of mind and it will pass," Ongur said. If someone is deterred from a suicide attempt, they are likely to get over their urge to kill themselves, he said, so it is crucial that people who are suicidal get help.
Advocates for people with mental illness say they hope Williams' death will motivate more people to get help for depression, and spur the USA to treat suicide as a public health crisis. Suicide claims more than 38,000 American lives each year -- more than the number killed by car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and the rate hasn't budged in decades, says Jeffrey Lieberman, professor and chairman of psychiatry at New York's Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
"We know what to do to prevent suicide," Liebeman says. "We just don't do it."
Williams could put a human face on a problem that often gets little attention, Lieberman says.
"He was such a charismatic and beloved figure, that if his death can galvanize our society to act instead of just grieve, it will be a fitting memorial to him."

Surprising lies: who buys them?


Surprising Reading Facts (Infographic)

by Robb Brewer, pastor, Gateway Churh


An infographic I posted a several months ago has produced much interest. Several websites used the graphic on their own pages which has caused large numbers of people to blow up my email wondering about my statistical sources.

First, I created the graphic because I’m a book lover and wanted to express my passion for reading through a different method. While I’m well-versed in research methodologies, my goal wasn’t–and still isn’t–to produce a quantitative, peer-reviewed product. I simply wanted to illustrate reading importance.
Second, I was curious to know if I could create an interesting graphic. I’ll just assume I found the answer to that one.

  Rev. Robb Brewer

Here’s what I’ve discovered about the source on the original graphic:

According to a Jenkins Group Facebook post in 2011, the reading statistics are incorrectly attributed to the Jenkins Group. Apparently Jerrold Jenkins, owner and founder of the Jenkins Group, presented the observations to a group of small publishers using data from the Book Industry Study Group, American Book Sellers Institute, and US News and World

A New York fundraiser who hosts a reading blog contacted the Jenkins Group to ask about their study. She discovered the company distances itself from the statistics; while they admit their owner, Jerrold Jenkins, presented the material, they never actually published the report.

I think it’s safe to say the stats from the original graphic are questionable, and I am therefore recanting any and all connection to them.

At the same time, I still believe in the absolute viability of reading and it’s ability to radically impact a person’s life. In an age where our smartphones will read aloud to us, we risk watering down this life-changing skill. So here’s a new graphic. The stats aren’t as juicy, but it still supports my original point: reading is important.

   Rev. Robb Brewer's new, "less juicy" graphic

By the way, I'm not changing the last box from the original graphic. I like Earl Nightingale's thought. It's not research-based, but it makes me feel good--just like reading.

                         Elmer Gantry, con-man, seducer, and salesman for the Lord

Read this carefully, and you'll discover how total crap can be presented - nay, ACCEPTED - as fact.

I've seen and heard people quote these "statistics" (from the original, non-backpedalling/shit-eating version) many times, and not one person questioned their veracity. Mostly they seem to feel outrage, blaming internet culture and the school system. But could there be more to this thing? How could there NOT be, when the so-called stats are so ridiculous?

Then I noticed the tiny lettering at the bottom of the graphic:  Robert Brewer, a name that immediately made me wonder: who is this guy, and could these unbelievable statistics be true?

The answer is no.

In a blog post (see link, above), Pastor Brewer admits that he "created" this graphic to impress people about the problem of illiteracy. He admits he did not concern himself with accuracy: "While I’m well-versed in research methodologies, my goal wasn’t–and still isn’t–to produce a quantitative, peer-reviewed product. I simply wanted to illustrate reading importance." But not only are the stats completely bogus, and not only did he KNOW they were bogus, he would not admit to being the source, nor would he take responsibility for passing on known distortions and lies. In fact, he quickly passes the blame to someone else. 

Perhaps feeling the heat from a few nitpicking killjoys, Brewer begins to buck-pass to a mysterious association called the Jenkins Group, who also quickly deny they knew anything about the "statistics". It all started with one guy, apparently, and they sure aren't going to support HIM any more (even though his name is Jenkins and he owns the group). It finally ends with this astonishing statement: "I think it’s safe to say the stats from the original graphic are questionable, and I am therefore recanting any and all connection to them."  Like Pontius Pilate, when the heat is on, Reverend Brewer very hastily washes his hands. 


Meanwhile, his Surprising Book Facts (a. k. a. Surprising Reading Facts - how come they changed the title, anyway?) is now world-famous, still widely quoted in schools, and discussed over coffee in offices everywhere, often with gasps and groans: "oh, look at THIS," "I can't believe this," "what has our school system come to?" etc. etc., while not ONE person takes the time to see if any of it is valid. The final conclusion about "becoming an international expert in seven years" is an especial favorite, a real crowd-pleaser with its inspirational message of hope. ("Gee, do you think it's really true?" "Well, I guess it MUST be.")

Why are people buying this? Why is ANYBODY buying it? It's written down, that's why. It's on the internet. It's in a neat-looking graphic with nice colors, eye-catching. In some cases people are actually quite offended if you try to debunk it, maybe out of pride: they can't or won't acknowledge they fell for this swill. What's the matter with you, are you cynical about everything now? Don't be so negative!

Brewer seems to think it's all to the good, justifying his deception by claiming it gets the discussion going about the general illiteracy of our culture. My favorite line is the little kicker at the end: "By the way, I'm not changing the last box from the original graphic. I like Earl Nightingale's thought. It's not research-based, but it makes me feel good--just like reading." Note how it's suddenly "Earl Nightingale's thought", not his. Brewer must have gone to the Jim Bakker School of Evasive Whitewashing, like all these assholes do.  But is making yourself feel good sufficient grounds for pushing fabricated "statistics" on an absurdly gullible public?

You decide.

A few late-blooming thoughts:

I just saw another blog where a young woman claimed to have "cracked" this complex mystery with some "hard-hitting investigative journalism". I'm not sure what she meant by that, because this thing is so transparent that all you have to do is read the guy's name at the bottom of the original infographic and google it. The info I needed came up in seconds. Not so hard-hitting, not so investigative, unless that's what passes for investigation now. By the way, Rev. Brewer's name was never mentioned in her post. She had, at best, a very superficial knowledge of the Jenkins Group and their association with the "infographic". She also claimed that, while the statistics may have been valid ten years ago when the graphic was originally designed, it was probably somewhat out of date now. What can I say - she's too nice to investigate anything.

Kicker to the kicker: spot the sloppy writing!:

"At the same time, I still believe in the absolute viability of reading and it’s ability to radically impact a person’s life."

This is all about literacy, is it not? Is it not about taking care with language and learning to write with a modicum of proficiency, especially when (literally) PREACHING to us all about literacy, presuming you are here to straighten us all out? This is making me so angry I have to get away from it before I kill someone. To the world, I want to say, WISE UP. IT AIN'T THAT HARD.

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Thistledown Press