Quotulatiousness

May 19, 2017

QotD: Outpatient psychiatry

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Now I am halfway done with my residency. I will be switching to outpatient work. Everyone who sees me will be there because they want to see me, or at worst because their parents/spouses/children/friends/voices are pressuring them into it. I will be able to continue seeing people for an amount of time long enough that the medications might, in principle, work. It sounds a lot more pleasant.

I have two equal and opposite concerns about outpatient psychiatry. The first is that I might be useless. Like, if someone comes in complaining of depression, then to a first approximation, after a few basic tests and questions to rule out some rarer causes, you give them an SSRI [Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors]. I have a lot of libertarian friends who think psychiatrists are just a made-up guild who survive because it’s legally impossible for depressed people to give themselves SSRIs without paying them money. There’s some truth to that and I’ve previously joked that some doctors could profitably be replaced by SSRI vending machines.

The second concern is that everybody still screws it up. There’s an old saying: “Doctors bury their mistakes, architects cover theirs with vines, teachers send theirs into politics.” Well, outpatient psychiatrists send their mistakes to inpatient psychiatrists, so as an inpatient psychiatrist I’ve gotten to see a lot of them. Yes, to a first approximation when a person comes in saying they’re depressed you can just do a few basic tests and questions and then give them an SSRI. But the number of cases I’ve seen that end in disaster because their outpatient psychiatrist forgot to do the basic tests and questions, or decided that Adderall was the first-line medication of choice for depression – continues to boggle my mind. So either it’s harder than I think, or I’m surrounded by idiots, or I’m an idiot and don’t know it yet. In which case I’m about to learn.

Still, if it’s a disaster, it will be a different type of disaster.

Scott Alexander, “Reflections From The Halfway Point”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-06-29.

May 11, 2017

The transactional nature of “identity”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Eric S. Raymond on the rising chatter about “identity”:

These criticisms imply a theory of “identity” that is actually coherent and useful. Here it is:

Your “identity” is a set of predictive claims you assert about yourself, mostly (though not entirely) about what kinds of transactions other people can expect to engage in with you.

As an example of an exception to “mostly”, the claim “I am white” implies that I sunburn easily. But usually, an “identity” claim implies the ability and willingness to meet behavioral expectations held by other people. For example, if I describe my “identity” as “male, American, computer programmer, libertarian” I am in effect making an offer that others can expect me to need to shave daily, salute the Stars and Stripes, sling code, and argue for the Non-Aggression Principle as an ethical fundamental.

Thus, identity claims can be false (not cashed out in observed behavior) or fraudulent (intended to deceive). You don’t get to choose your identity; you get to make an offer and it’s up to others whether or not to accept.

[…]

I can anticipate several objections to this transactional account of identity. One is that is cruel and illiberal to reject an offer of “I claim identity X” if the person claiming feels that identity strongly enough. This is essentially the position of those journalists from The Hill.

To which I can only reply: you can feel an identity as a programmer as strongly as you want, but if you can’t either already sling code or are visibly working hard on repairing that deficiency, you simply don’t make the nut. Cruelty doesn’t enter into this; if I assent to your claim I assist your self-deceit, and if I repeat it I assist you in misleading or defrauding others.

It is pretty easy to see how this same analysis applies to “misgendering” people with the “wrong” pronouns. People who use the term “misgender” generally follow up with claims about the subject’s autonomy and feelings. Which is well enough, but such considerations do not justify being complicit in the deceit of others any more than they do with respect to “I am a programmer”.

A related objection is that I have stolen the concept of “identity” by transactionalizing it. That is, true “identity” is necessarily grounded not in public performance but private feelings – you are what you feel, and it’s somehow the responsibility of the rest of the world to keep up.

But…if I’m a delusional psychotic who feels I’m Napoleon, is it the world’s responsibility to keep up? If I, an overweight clumsy shortish white guy, feel that I’m a tall agile black guy under the skin, are you obligated to choose me to play basketball? Or, instead, are you justified in predicting that I can’t jump?

You can’t base “identity” on a person’s private self-beliefs and expect sane behavior to emerge any more than you can invite everyone to speak private languages and expect communication to happen.

April 26, 2017

The End of Play: Why Kids Need Unstructured Time

Filed under: Education, Health, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Apr 2017

“School has become an abnormal setting for children,” says Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College. “Instead of admitting that, we say the children are abnormal.”

Boston College Psychology Professor Peter Gray says that a cultural shift towards a more interventionist approach to child rearing is having dire consequences for the well-being of kids. “Over the same period of time that there has been a gradual decline in play,” he told Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, “there are well documented, gradual, but ultimately huge increases in a variety of mental disorders in childhood — especially depression and anxiety.”

Gray believes that social media is one saving grace. “[Kids] can’t get together in the real world…[without] adult supervisors,” he says, “but they can online.”

For more on Gray’s work, follow his blog at Psychology Today.

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Jim Epstein. Music by Broke for Free.

April 23, 2017

The “transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory”

Filed under: Health, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on the mainstreaming of mental illness as a status marker for “respectable society”:

One of the great media myths of the 21st century is that there’s a taboo against talking about mental illness. Please. Then how come I can’t open a newspaper or flick through my TV channels or browse social media without seeing someone go into grisly depth, often replete with sad selfies, about his latest bout of mental darkness? Far from taboo, having a mental illness, and talking about your mental illness, is all the rage. It’s the latest must-have. You’re no one unless you’ve had a mental episode. And I find this transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory far worse than the old treatment of it as a taboo (which was very bad).

[…]

It’s dangerous firstly because it springs from and reinforces the weird 21st-century trend for actively inviting people to define themselves as mentally ill. Everything from exam stress to general anxiety to feeling up one day and down the next – which used to be called ‘moods’ but is now called ‘bipolar disorder’ – is being recategorised as a mental illness or disorder. Everyday emotions and experiences have been co-opted into the field of mental health. You think you’re shy? Nope, you have social anxiety disorder. Do you have an awkward friend? Maybe he has Asperger’s. Finding it hard to cope with your workload? Check out this Workplace Stress and Anxiety Disorder Survey to find out if really you are mentally ill.

Virtually all of life’s struggles and people’s personality quirks are being medicalised. And in some cases treated: Britain is said to be in the grip of a ‘psychiatric drug epidemic’, as the number of prescriptions for mental-health drugs rose by an astonishing 500 percent between 1992 and 2014. It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World, in which people are given a mind drug that suppresses their ‘malice and bad tempers’. And people actively seek a diagnosis. A few years ago, a psychiatrist told the BBC that patients come to her saying, ‘I want to be bipolar’. She said the desire for a mental-illness diagnosis often reflects ‘a person’s aspiration for higher social status’. Yes, you can now boost your standing in respectable society by having a mental illness. This is how cool it has become to be mentally ill.

The dire impact of the must-have mental illness is most clear among the young. I can’t remember the last time I met a student who didn’t claim to have a mental illness of some kind. A few weeks of stress over their exams and they think they’re Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They post long social-media confessions of mental ill-health and everyone says ‘How brave’, overlooking that it’s really not brave to do something everyone else is doing; to say ‘I am mentally ill’ in a world in which you can’t swing a tote bag in Waterstone’s without hitting 20 books about being mentally ill. Everyone’s mentally ill; you aren’t special – you’re boring.

April 7, 2017

QotD: You may not have to be crazy to be President, but it helps

Filed under: Health, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Does Mr. Trump really have serious psychiatric problems as increasing numbers of shrinks are suggesting?

Since in their DSM-5 [PDF] (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), the Mental Health Guild has classified just about every possible combination of human emotion and behavior as a psychiatric disorder, they can certainly find Mr. Trump — along with the rest of us — has conditions they would gladly treat but not necessarily cure. For a nice fee, of course.

They suggest he’s grandiose, antisocial, narcissistic, and paranoid etc. And, since an Australian study found that 1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths, we can probably add that and/or “sociopath” to the list.

And they say he’s deceitful and tells lies, so far, at least 129 of ’em. And counting. Well, DUH! That IS how politicians get elected after all. And most of the folks who manage to get a shot at the position are quite accomplished at it.

Bill Clinton was notable, and his wife is no slouch. Obama was quite slick at it and Dubya & Company told 935 thoroughly documented whoppers to get “us” to attack, kill, maim, and displace hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Etc.

So, since as POTUS (President Of The United States), Mr. Trump will almost certainly be responsible for killing, etc. large numbers of innocent folks, being a bit of a sociopath — maybe even a psychopath — will help. And to feel better about it — and possibly avoid PTSD — he can follow previous Presidents and call most of those innocent victims “collateral damage” instead of “murder victims.”

The bottom line is that to serve as president, sociopathy etc. has become helpful and lying is necessary. As Historian Zinn put it, “If governments told the truth, they wouldn’t last very long.”

L. Reichard White, “Is Trump Nuts? Does it Matter?”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2017-03-26.

March 9, 2017

“… we’re psychologically training an entire swath of the population to be crazy”

Filed under: Health, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:12

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Ace talks about the huge rise in reported personality disorders among Millennials:

Therapeutic behavioral conditioning trains people how to de-trigger themselves from triggers that cause panic, anxiety, depression, or bad behavior (drinking, etc.) That sort of behavioral conditioning teaches people to be mindful of their triggers, to understand that the trigger is just a tic with no real world purpose, and to train themselves to associate the trigger not with an adverse behavioral pattern (being in crowd triggers claustrophobia-like panic) but to train the trigger to lead to some other more benign consequence (being in crowd triggers recitation of the Ode to Joy).

The idea is that your brain has miswired itself to connect an input (too many people close to me) to an undesirable psycho-somatic reaction (heart racing, extreme anxiety), and that it takes a determined attempt to reprogram the brain and untangle those wires so that the triggering input leads first to a benign output and, ultimately, no particular output at all.

This works. Allen Carr’s How to Quit Smoking the Easy Way taught me how to re-wire the trigger (the anxiety/stress one feels when one’s 45 minute nicotine clock runs down to 0) into a different behavioral pattern (go outside, gulp in some fresh air, pace around a little bit like I used to do when smoking). It also taught me that the stress of not smoking was irrational, and that it would be helpful to view the addiction as a malignant parasite inside of me trying to manipulate my brain into keeping it fed while it ruined my body.

Works.

[…]

He realized that the process could be reversed. As brains with bad triggers could be un-triggered to be healthy, so too could completely healthy brains be deliberately taught to be triggered by harmless things and bring about various mental ailments, panic, anxiety, irrational emotional outbursts, a compulsion to violence, tantrums, etc.

And he brought this theory to a social psychologist named Haidt and asked him “Is this possible?” And Haidt said, “Damn it, not only is that possible, I think you’ve hit upon a very real malapplication of psychological techniques — we’re psychologically training an entire swath of the population to be crazy.”

Okay, he didn’t really say that. But that’s kind of the gist.

Definitely read it.

There’s no great mystery to what’s going on. People who train themselves to be cool and clear of mind will find themselves becoming more cool and clear of mind.

People who train themselves to go to pieces over every damn thing will find themselves getting better and better at going to pieces over every damn thing.

When you valorize a mental disorder and turn it into a virtue to be cultivated, guess what you’re gonna get? More mental disorders.

February 19, 2017

French Railway Guns – Physical Requirements For WW1 Pilots I OUT OF THE ETHER

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Railways — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 18 Feb 2017

It’s time for another episode of Out Of The Ether – Indy reads the best and most insightful comments of recent weeks. This week we talk about French railway guns and the physical and mental requirements of World War 1 pilots.

January 13, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on the rise of the “microaggression” concept

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

He is commenting on an article in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF):

The microaggression program teaches students the exact opposite of ancient wisdom. Microaggression training is — by definition — instruction in how to detect ever-smaller specks in your neighbor’s eye. Microaggression training tells students that “life itself is exactly what you think it is — you have a direct pipeline to reality, and the person who offended you does not, so go with your feelings.” Of course, the ancients could be wrong on these points, but the empirical evidence for the importance of appraisal and the ubiquity of bias and hypocrisy is overwhelming (I review it in chapters 2 and 4 of The Happiness Hypothesis). As Lilienfeld shows, the empirical evidence supporting the utility and validity of the microaggression concept is minimal at best.

I think the section of Lilienfeld’s article that should most make us recoil from the microaggression program is the section on personality traits, particularly negative emotionality and the tendency to perceive oneself as a victim. These are traits — correlated with depression and anxiety disorders — that some students bring with them from high school to college. Students who score high on these traits perceive more microaggressions in ambiguous circumstances. These traits therefore bring misery and anger to the students themselves, and these negative emotions and the conflicts they engender are likely to radiate outward through the students’ social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). How should colleges (and other institutions) respond to the presence of high scorers in their midst? Should they offer them cognitive behavioral therapy or moral validation? Should they hand them a copy of The Dhammapada or a microaggression training manual?

It’s bad enough to make the most fragile and anxious students quicker to take offense and more self-certain and self-righteous. But what would happen if you took a whole campus of diverse students, who arrive from all over the world with very different values and habits, and you train all of them to react with pain and anger to ever-smaller specks that they learn to see in each other’s eyes?

And what would happen if the rise of the microaggression concept coincided with the rise of social media, so that students can file charges against each other — and against their professors — within minutes of any perceived offense? The predictable result of welcoming the microaggression program to campus is turmoil, distrust, and anger. It is the end of the open environment we prize in the academy, where students feel free to speak up and challenge each other, their professors, and orthodox ideas. On a campus that polices microaggressions, everyone walks on eggshells.

H/T to David Thompson for the link.

December 20, 2016

Ghostly apparitions terrorize elderly businessman at Christmas

Filed under: Books, Britain, Economics, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Tom Mullen discusses the leftist apparitions who tormented poor Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, leaving him permanently damaged financially and intellectually:

[Scrooge’s] only weakness seems to be sentimentality towards the whiny, presumably mediocre-at-best Bob Cratchett. We know Scrooge was paying Cratchett more than anyone else was willing to or Cratchett would surely have accepted a higher-paying job to put additional funds towards curing Tiny Tim. But we really don’t have any evidence anyone else was willing to employ Cratchett at all, at any salary level. Still, we must defer to Scrooge’s judgment on this and perhaps even laud him for finding a way to employ a substandard employee without jeopardizing the firm as a whole.

Thus, all was as well as it could have been on December 23. Scrooge’s customers were happy, Bob Cratchett was at least employed, thanks to Scrooge, and Scrooge himself was as happy as he could be, considering the ingratitude with which his genius had been rewarded and all the panhandlers constantly shaking him down.

Everything changed on Christmas Eve, when Scrooge was terrorized – there really is no other word for it – by three time-traveling, left-wing apparitions. It wasn’t enough to frighten an elderly man with the mere appearance of ghosts. They took him on a trip through time, scolding him for supposed mistakes made in the past and blaming him for the misfortunes of others in the present and future. And let’s not forget the purpose of this psychological waterboarding. They are not, as Shaffer observes, pursuing Scrooge’s happiness, but his money. They are William Graham Sumner’s A & B conspiring to force C to relieve the suffering of X. Politicians A & B use the polite coercion of legislation; the spirits make use of more direct and honest threats of violence.

Their plot was successful. Scrooge awoke from his night of terror obviously out of his senses and began making one poor financial decision after another. Perhaps buying the largest turkey in the local shop could be excused on Christmas Day. But then, without any evidence of improvement in performance, he raised Bob Cratchett’s salary and promised to take on the Cratchett family’s medical expenses.

After that, we are told Scrooge was “transformed” completely, which we can only interpret to mean he no longer made the kind of decisions that had previously benefited so many. We are told Scrooge’s subsequent behavior was so foolhardy that some people laughed at him. But even this wasn’t enough to snap him out of the permanent delirium with which the spirits had inflicted him.

December 17, 2016

QotD: Otherkin, headmates, and multiple systems

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Turns out, crazy sex maniacs have cooked up new ways to be crazy sex maniacs.

“Come on,” you’re thinking, “sex is sex and crazy is crazy. There’s nothing new under the Krafft-Ebing sun. I saw that CSI episode about furries and read that article about bronies that made me want to kill myself (after I killed my wife and kids to spare them the horrors of living in America another second.)”

Fine. Meet the “otherkin.” Unlike cosplayers, these dudes genuinely think they are animals trapped in human form. Literally. They’re serious.

How’s about “headmates?” We used to call these “imaginary friends,” but they’re not just for kids anymore. (Cuz that would be age-ist!)

Next? “Multiple systems”:

    [A] person who describes themselves as a multiple system will likely refer to themselves as ‘they’ because they believe they are multiple people….

    And, because that isn’t already batshit insane enough, some multiple systems will have headmates who are animals, otherkin people, and, of course, fictional characters….I’ve not even got to the people who believe they have galaxies, nebulae, universes, and other space shit, either in their ‘headspace’ or as an otherkin. So some people will believe they are actually galaxies.

Or “demisexuals”? They’re “only sexually attracted to people” they have “an emotional connection to.” (We used to call them “normal” and “women.”)

Now meet the “transethnic” and “transabled”: paralyzed black women trapped inside functional white-male bodies.

Naturally, “the favorite pastime for SJAs [social justice activists] is to pretend they’re oppressed, and they are all professional victims. You may very well see otherkin telling people to “check their human privilege” while they talk about how oppressed they are because no one believes they’re really a cat…”

All very weird indeed, but so what?

Well, within living memory, gay “marriage” was unthinkable, transsexuals stuck to the stage, and a “bathroom bill” letting “transgendered” boys use the girls’ washrooms in elementary schools would be one of John Irving‘s forgotten subplots, not something that is about to become law.

Brace yourself for “otherkin-phobia” and the fines and firings that will come with it.

Kathy Shaidle, “My Otherkin Headmate is a Two-Spirited Starseed!”, Taki’s Magazine, 2013-03-05.

December 16, 2016

QotD: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… it might have been worth mentioning that, whatever the validity of PTSD as a diagnosis, most people who experience a traumatic event in life do not suffer from it. As is to be expected of a creature as protean as Man, people respond differently to their experiences. They do not forget the trauma, but its memory does not affect their subsequent lives in any pathological way. I once met an American psychiatrist, John E. Nardini, who had been a prisoner of the Japanese for more than three years, who had seen half his fellow prisoners die of hunger and disease, and who had himself suffered from beriberi, but who felt that the appalling experience, which of course he would have wished on no one, had actually strengthened him. The development of PTSD does not follow from trauma as the night does the day, but depends on many things — no doubt the culture of the traumatized among them.

In any case, PTSD is largely irrelevant to what Heer is writing about. He isn’t writing about post-traumatic stress disorder at all, but rather, a new diagnosis of pre-traumatic stress disorder. I can’t help but recall the case of Mr. Podsnap, in Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend:

    A certain institution in Mr. Podsnap’s mind which he called “the young person” may be considered to have been embodied in Miss Podsnap, his daughter. It was an inconvenient and exacting institution, as requiring everything in the universe to be filed down and fitted to it. The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young person? And the inconvenience of the young person was, that, according to Mr. Podsnap, she seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person’s excessive innocence, and another person’s guiltiest knowledge.

What is most interesting from the cultural point of view about the preposterous nonsense of trigger warnings for Victorian books is the obvious thirst or desire for victimization that they express. Victims are the heroes of the politically correct; their victimhood confers unique moral authority upon them ex officio. And since many would like to be a unique moral authority, it follows that they would like to be a victim. The fact soon follows the wish, at least in their own estimation; and this, of course, provides much work and justifies much power for the self-proclaimed protectors of victims. University teachers become the curators of figurines of the finest porcelain, which only they are allowed to touch.

This is a case in which caricature is the best way of capturing truth.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder: On the phenomenon of campus ‘trigger” warnings’, City Journal, 2015-05-27.

December 3, 2016

QotD: Gender and transgender

Filed under: Health, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Oxford English Dictionary defines transgender as ‘[d]enoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex’. It is a relatively new term. According to equality-law professor and trans activist Stephen Whittle, the term ‘transvestite’ was first used in 1910 by the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, who would later found the Berlin Institute where the very first sex-change operations took place. ‘Transsexual’ was not coined until 1949; ‘transgender’ not until 1971; and ‘trans’, which is a very British term, not until 1996.

The first reported sex-change operation may have taken place at Hirschfeld’s Berlin Institute in 1931, but the procedure only became widely known after American Christine (George) Jorgensen travelled to Denmark in 1952 to undergo sex-change surgery. In 1954, following Jorgensen’s transition, US endocrinologist Harry Benjamin began using the term ‘transsexualism’ to describe a unique condition of sex and gender role disorientation.

Throughout the 1960s, transsexualism, and the clinical response to it, remained a contentious issue. Medical professionals in the US were largely opposed to the idea of offering sex-change surgery. A 1965 survey showed that just three per cent of US surgeons would take seriously a request for a sex-change operation. And yet, by the early 1980s, thousands of sex-change operations had taken place.

The Hopkins Hospital, affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, became the most prominent institution to offer transsexual surgery during the 1970s. Under the guidance of psychologist John Money, psychiatrist Eugene Meyer and plastic surgeon Milton Edgerton, the Hopkins Hospital utilised the ‘single theme’ method for diagnosing transsexuals. This involved determining whether or not the patient had an intense conviction to be the other sex.

But, as the rate of referrals increased, by the late-1970s, some of the negative after-effects of sex-change surgery became apparent. These included: medical complications, demands for reverse surgery and suicide attempts. Moreover, it was discovered that, due to the self-diagnostic nature of the ‘single theme’ method for determining treatment, some patients had learned what kinds of things they needed to say in order to receive surgery.

Hopkins Hospital eventually stopped performing the operations in 1979, after Jon Meyer, the chair of the sexual behaviours unit, conducted a study comparing 29 patients who had the surgery and 21 who didn’t, and concluded that those who had the surgery were no more adjusted to society than those who did not have the surgery. As Meyer told the New York Times in 1979: ‘My personal feeling is that surgery is not proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me that these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.’

While physicians and commentators argued over whether or not medical intervention benefited the patient, for some of those who chose to undergo treatment, it was a lifeline.

Naomi Firsht, “The Rise of Transgender: In the space of a century, transgenderism has become a mainstream concern”, Spiked, 2016-10-28.

November 26, 2016

Using anecdata to paint a picture of PTSD-plagued veterans

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh on the way Canadian Forces veterans have been portrayed in the media:

Yesterday the Surgeon General of Canada issued the latest in a series of annual technical reports on Canada’s great soldier suicide crisis. If you occasionally read the newspapers, and particularly if you ever pick up the Globe and Mail, you have probably been left with the impression that it is astonishing anyone who fought in Afghanistan in a Canadian uniform is still alive and sane. There is a tradition in newspapering, admittedly a recent one, of being very cautious and elliptical in reporting on suicides for fear of encouraging imitators. The Globe observed the run-up to Remembrance Day this year by blowing out the sphincter of that tradition, offering intimate details of suicides by a sequence of Canadian Armed Forces veterans left to struggle with the psychic aftereffects of witnessing combat.

The idea was to point an accusing finger at an unfeeling, ignorant state and to awaken the consciences of those who elect representatives to it. We are all to blame, you see: Canadian soldiers come home with nerves shattered by conflicts to which we have dispatched them, and yet at election time we overlook a lengthening trail of dead and a choir of the emotionally tormented. Veterans scarcely ever turn up in the newspaper, as veterans, without the words “suicide” or “PTSD” nipping at their heels. They are stalked by drink, painkillers, nightmares, uncontrollable outbursts of violence, homelessness. Only by the wildest of chances will one turn up in the news as a successful, well-adjusted individual.

So it is with trepidation and nausea that one turns to the Surgeon General’s report, hoping for a careful epidemiological documentation of the crisis. What one quickly finds is that when the overwhelmingly male Canadian Forces are compared to the ordinary male population… there is no crisis. Until very recently, CAF members have had significantly lower rates of suicide than male civilians in the same age brackets. The rates are statistically indistinguishable for the most recent time period in the table, 2010-12, owing to a transitory spike in CAF suicides in 2011.

Soldiers are, by this measure, healthier if anything than the average chap. This is not really surprising if you do not read the newspaper, and you merely hold to the old-fashioned idea that the military is pretty good at taking man-children and giving them purpose, abilities, structure, and a social network.

October 16, 2016

Soldiers With Glasses – Industrial Centres – Frontline Generals I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Oct 2016

Indy is answering your questions about the First World War again. This time we talk about:
– soldiers wearing glasses
– the different industrial centres of the major nations
– generals leading from the frontline and from the rear

October 8, 2016

QotD: Depression

Filed under: Books, Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The book [In the Jaws of the Black Dogs, (1999)] is a compelling, unpleasant read, valuable because it tells us three things. First, that such depressions do not yield to shrink fixes, and will not otherwise “go away.” Second, that there is no “template,” for each sufferer is his own constellation of symptoms which no outsider is privileged to explore. And thus, third, the depression can be controlled and mastered, only if one grasps these things. One must, as it were, leash one’s own black dogs, and it will be neither easy nor painless. While perhaps overwritten, the book is admirable for containing no victim’s plaint, no false appeal for applause, and absolutely no pop psychology.

David Warren, “Unfinished conversations”, Essays in Idleness, 2016-09-19.

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