Saturday, December 10, 2005

Should Bias be a Mental Illness?

Two words--Hell, No! Mental health professionals are discussing making bias a DSM diagnosis (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual--the bible of the mental health world for diagnosing mental illnesses). See more on this at Shrinkwrapped and Dr. Sanity.

Update: One of the problems with my profession is that it swings to the extremes--on one hand, no one can get treatment even if they are suicidal or homicidal and then you have idiots like the following who give people treatment because "doctors" don't like what they think. It is no wonder that no one takes mental health seriously:

Doctors who treat inmates at the California State Prison outside Sacramento concur: They have diagnosed some forms of racist hatred among inmates and administered antipsychotic drugs.

"We treat racism and homophobia as delusional disorders," said Shama Chaiken, who later became a divisional chief psychologist for the California Department of Corrections, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. "Treatment with antipsychotics does work to reduce these prejudices."

This is the biggest liberal hypocrisy of them all. After media reports that mental health professionals might have played a role at Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay detention center, The APA (American Psychological Association) decided to implement ethical guidelines for psychologists working in national security-related settings. APA's own 1986 Resolution against Torture states that psychologists do not direct, support, facilitate or offer training in torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Apparently, this guideline only holds true for Arab Detainees. Can you imagine the uproar if the US government had shot Muslim prisoners full of antipsychotic drugs to treat their extreme hatred of Jews? Since when is it okay to do the same to American prisoners just because you don't like their thoughts?

The psychiatrists and psychologists who have appointed themselves as thought police and advocate "bias" as a possible diagnostic category should be publicly humiliated and rejected by all others in the field. This is more than absurd--it is totalitarianism at its worst.

Update: Evilpundit has some thoughts on other biases to add to the DSM.

The Killing is the Same-the Methods are Just Different

The rate of violent crime--especially against children--is growing in Japan. Just like US parents, Japanese parents are now having to worry about the safety of their children in going to school. In the Japanese crimes, strangulation and stabbing is the common method of killing. Here are some thoughts from Japan Today.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Prevention is not an Excuse

Many people believe that advocating for prevention for the mentally ill who potentially may harm others is just an excuse for letting them off the hook. I do not agree. Prevention is trying to keep a menally ill person from committing the act in the first place. Once a mentally ill person has committed a crime, it is up to the justice system to decide what is to become of them. As a forensic psychologist, it makes more sense to me to try and stop the person from harming others or themselves. I am not talking about rehabilitation for those who have already killed or hurt someone--but prevention that could save some innocent person's life.

Here is an example of email I get on a regular basis from those who call for punishment and see no place for preventative measures:

I just saw the the City Confidential special on the the so called "kids" who killed the Lillelids. They should all be dead right now - no sympathy for them - this is a clear case where old fashioned justice should have prevailed and all six should have been hung from the nearest tree. I will not spend a fucking dime on your dvd nor should anyone else. The only blame should go on the six twisted punks who did this and they should be glad that the case was not heard in my state of NC - or they would all be on death row right now - except for the youngest one maybe - hope he spends the rest of his life getting b--- fu---- in prison. Get a real job and stop wasting your time.

I can understand this view, but I have to ask the writer, wouldn't it have been better if this murder never happened? Do you really take such pleasure in the idea of six punks being b---fu---in prison that you would rather no effort have been made to keep them from committing the crime in the first place?

Perhaps this writer believes that no one can be stopped from engaging in a crime--that some killers are pre-programmed to kill at some point in their lives. But most killers do not just "snap." Gavin DeBecker, a leading expert on predicting violence, makes an important point about our denial of the warning signs of violence in his book, The Gift of Fear : "We want to believe that human violence is somehow beyond our understanding, because as long as it remains a mystery, we have no duty to avoid it, explore it, or anticipate it. We can tell ourselves that human violence is something that just happens without warning..."

I can see the warning signs coming with those I have worked with and try to get them help before their thoughts become reality. Working with violent people to provide therapy and make sure they take their medication is hard and at times, unrewarding. I do it because it can save innocent people and their families from the wrath of the mentally ill individual. I think this is a real job and an important one--it is too bad that some people would rather see others punished for doing wrong than from the wrongdoing being prevented in the first place.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Robert Kennedy's Legacy

Today is the 25th anniversary of the day that John Lenon was killed by mentally ill Mark David Chapman. And then I heard the news yesterday that a man by the name of Rigoberto Alpizar had been shot and killed by air marshals at a Miami airport; it did not suprise me to hear that he was also mentally ill. The wife of the man shot said that he was Bipolar and not on his medication. This refusal to take medication is typical for those who have Bipolar Disorder, in my experience.

There are a number of reasons for this refusal, but my guess is that the mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants used (Lithium, Topamax etc.) take away the high manic feeling the person gets from the illness and they need it like a drug at times and go off their medication. The patient may also mistakenly feel that there is nothing wrong with them that warrants medication. The families of these patients suffer greatly. I have seen patients in the throes of mania commit some really screwed-up crimes. (Sorry for the lack of psychobabble here but if that is what you want--please consult one of the many Journals of Psychology where one can be bedazzled by the credentials/brillance of the authors while still having no freaking clue as to what the point of the study is).

Mentally ill people like Rigoberto Alpizar are four times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than the general public. Violent episodes of those with schizophrenia and manic depression account for 1000 homicides in the US each year despite what some psychologists and advocates tell us about the mentally ill not being dangerous. My question when I see violent episodes like the Miami one is to ask, "Why was this mentally ill man taking a plane without medication?" The answer, I am sure, is complex. We have 4.5 million people in the US with schizophrenia or manic depression (now called Bipolar Diorder). An estimated 40% of these are not receiving any treatment on any given day. This results in acts of violence, incarceration and homelessness.

The failure of deinstutionalization, civil liberty issues and economic factors have lead to a number of the mentally ill being out in our communities with little or no intervention. When Robert Kennedy called the state mental hospitals "snakepits," he must never have imagined the problems he would unleash into our communities. The community help that was to come from deinstitutionalization never materialized and hundreds of thousands of mentally ill have been left to fend for themselves. Now, instead of being in a hospital or a supervised setting, the severely mentally ill are in jails, nursing homes and homeless shelters -- often receiving services that are more expensive than the state hospitals that should have been equipped to provide them with psychiatric care in the first place.

Ever since Kennedy threw the baby out with the bath water, we have had more incidents of school shootings, mass shootings and just plain bizzare behavior like Alpizar's. No doubt we will see more of this in the future.

Update: Here is more information on the legislation that John Kennedy signed into law before he was assassinated:

The 1963 Community Mental Health Centers Act was the last major piece of legislation signed by President Kennedy prior to his assassination. It has become a symbol for how a well-meaning action can become a total and complete disaster.

The Act’s failure can be attributed to four flaws in its design and implementation. First, it was based on a number of failed assumptions about what was wrong with the severely mentally ill. Those responsible for the legislation did not fully understand brain diseases; assumed that if released from state institutions, the mentally ill could live happily ever after; and neglected to investigate a condition known as anosognosia. Anosognosia is an integral part of severe mental illness. As many as 50 percent of those with schizophrenia and 40 percent of those with bipolar are impaired to such an extent that they cannot recognize what is wrong with them. (See the fact sheet on anosognosia on page 11 of this issue.) So a significant portion of the severely mentally ill cannot live “happily ever after” without direct treatment and supervision.

Secondly, the Act suffered from flawed planning. It bypassed the states entirely and placed the burden of funding community mental health centers on the federal government. The National Institute of Mental Health failed to provide essential oversight of the centers. The community mental health centers were failed by a total unwillingness to take responsibility for center management at both the state and federal levels.

Thirdly, before the movement toward deinstitutionalization, the states covered 95 percent of the financing for care of the severely mentally ill. In the hopes of moving patients out of the state hospitals and into the community, the federal government made patients in state hospitals ineligible for aid while hospitalized, but eligible when discharged from the hospitals, thus providing the states with enormous incentive to empty out the hospitals. Deinstitutionalization quickly became the priority for state mental health agencies and there was no incentive to ask what happened to patients once they left the hospital.

Read the whole thing.

Psychology Grad Student Fights Political Correctness--and Wins

A psychology graduate student, Andrew Geier, took on the administration at the University of Pennsylvania in a stand for free speech. A student Mr. Geier was advising took pictures of two students having sex in a public place and put it up on his personal website through the University's servers. Penn says that the student is guilty of sexual harrassment:

The University has alleged that by featuring the photo on his personal Penn Web site, the photographer violated the school's code of student conduct, sexual harassment policy and policy on acceptable uses of electronic resources.

Psychology graduate student Andrew Geier is serving as the photographer's advisor throughout the disciplinary process. He maintains that because the pair was visible in the window, the photos were taken in public and are completely legal.

"The worst [he] is guilty of is poor taste," Geier said.

"If somebody chooses to make a public spectacle of themselves then they get what goes with that."

His representative received a letter last month from the Office of Student Conduct notifying Geier of a complaint filed against the Engineering junior.

Geier says he was disgusted with the the treatment of Penn students by the Office of Student Conduct--students are often intimidated into signing unfair agreements. But that practice may stop with the help of the media and with brave men like Mr. Geier.

If you would like to see the shocking naked photos that caused this flurry of political correcteness at Penn see this pic at . It ain't much.

Thanks to the reader who pointed out this interesting story.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Winner (s) of the Liberal Hypocrisy Contest

There were a total of 45 comments and entries for the liberal hypocrisy contest in honor of Peter Schweizer's book, Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy. I enjoyed reading them all but I chose the first place winner based on my being the angriest. It is from Donna B:

An ex-boss, the CEO of a local non-profit. She talks feminism, hires almost exclusively females (except for those jobs she considers "male only" that have anything to do with construction or repair), but pays meager salaries (except to those males and herself).

Most infuriating is the way she demoralizes the few females she's "grooming" in high visibility positions. Whenever they try to spread their wings and fly, she shoots them down with a "my (male) lawyer, accountant, doctor, etc., says that's not wise." The board of this non-profit is hand-picked by her and dominated by male professionals. The female members fill demographic slots she's required by some funding regulators to have and they are actively discouraged from taking part.

I'm proud to have been fired by her for not being a "team player". (I defended Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice during a staff meeting, though the official reason for my "dismissal" was that my position was being eliminated. True to form, she contracted what I'd been doing to an all male accounting firm at triple the cost.) Sorry there's absolutely nothing funny about this "liberal feminist" nutjob.

....I failed to mention the way this ex-boss treated the few male social workers she hired - they were not allowed to work with children and their every word and action was minutely scrutinized for signs of sexual harassment. They were also held to a higher performance threshold, justified by the higher salary she said she had to pay to hire them!

This boss from hell seems to have broken every politically correct rule in the book --she treats females like crap, pays men higher wages (but still treats them like pedophiles), and touts empowerment for women while firing or getting rid of anyone who stands up for themselves. Bravo to Donna B. for having the wherewithal to put up with this woman and keep her sanity.

The entry that made me laugh the hardest came from Addison (runner-up):

Addison said...
Admit it, you're trying to get enough material to fill your own book.

Let's see.

Guy in CA I know:

Screams about "tax cuts for the rich". Insisting bigger government is ALWAYS better.
Makes his living on ebay sales, cash transactions, and brags about not sending money to the IRS for 10 years.

Also, talks about the anger inherent in the "religious right" , then in the next breath, talks about keying SUVs in his parking garage. (Because they were big, SUVs, and probably Republicans).

As a psychologist who works with angry clients, I have to say that Addison's entry was priceless in terms of imagery for me. It reminds me of the logic of past antisocial patients who tell me that they are angry that ordinary citizens can own guns because now they have to carry one too, in case they get "jumped" while robbing a house.

Donna B and Addison, please email me at so I can get your prizes to you.

Thanks to everyone for participating!

Is Barbara Streisand on Crack?

As the Magic 8 Ballwould say, "Signs point to yes." Elitist Barbara Streisand is upset that Jonah Goldberg has "replaced" Robert Scheer at the LA Times. Here is Mr. Goldberg's reply.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Love Art--It's the Artists I can't Stand

An insightful reader sent me a link to this cover story in Entertainment Weekly about George Clooney entitled, "The New Politics of Hollywood." Sorry Entertainment Weekly, but your lame title should have been "Politics as Usual in Hollywood." George Clooney was interviewed for the article about his new movie, Syriana, a movie that (you'll never guess) exposes the lies behind the War on Terror. And of course, you'll be shocked to learn that there is a CIA agent in Syriana who thwarts deomocracy in an Arab country in order to keep petroleum flowing, along with some sympathetically portrayed suicide bombers just to give the audience a sense of the filmmaker's sympathy for Arab murderers. Clooney pats himself on the back for his bravery in bringing this charmer to Warner Bros.:

People were afraid to say things. Big stars would come up to me and whisper that they supported me — I thought it was strange that they felt they had to whisper. But people seem to be less afraid now. They're calming down. Lots of people are starting to ask questions. It's becoming hard to avoid the questions. When we started [Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana], nobody was encouraging us, says Clooney. We jumped in on our own. And there was no reason to think it was going to get any easier. But people in Hollywood do seem to be getting more comfortable with making these sorts of movies now. People are becoming braver.

Sorry George, but preaching to the choir that is Hollywood is not bravery. I didn't hear Michael Moore whispering at the Oscars when he gave his rant about President Bush. Bravery is Mel Gibson shelling out millions and risking his own reputation in the movie business by making Passion of the Christ.

Do you ever wonder how these Hollywood stars such as Clooney can be so clueless about their behavior? I know I do. Clooney and his cronies see themselves as mavericks, even though they live in a world that caters to their every whim. How is it that George can have such sympathy for suicide bombers and terrorists on one hand and so little sympathy for his fellow Americans or even his Italian neighbors while he is filming?

This clueless self-centered behavior is not just an aberration of high level artist-types like Clooney--it trickles down to the masses of artists who seem to believe that their talent (whether good, bad or indifferent) gives them free license to selfish acts of self-expression. How do I know this? Unfortunately, I have lived with a number of these expressive types on an upclose and personal basis.

At the age of 21, I moved to Manhattan to go to graduate school. I lived with a wonderful roommate who was initially an NYU student and then an editor at a big publishing firm. After a few years, she moved in with her boyfriend and left me to the scary task of finding a normal roommate in Manhattan (remember Chandler in Friends with the psychotic roommate--that guy would have been a prize for me!) After meeting with a number of prospects, I finally settled on Dave, a musician and artist at NYU. He was a bit pasty and didn't talk much but I thought that would be a plus. It wasn't. He found girlfriends who talked for him. They talked to me all the time.

I was in graduate school in clinical psych and used all of my time to study and wanted to be left alone. He had two girlfriends who were actually both very competent and cheerful--almost the direct opposite of Dave. Neither woman knew about the other and when not out with them, he was out with numerous other women. It was none of my business except that both of his girlfriends (at different times) were constantly interrupting my work to ask me why I wasn't out partying. Maybe if I was, they concluded, I would meet a great, loyal guy like Dave. I never said anything but would listen and just nod until they left me alone. I never much said anything to Dave and vice versa--until one day, he left his diary out on the kitchen table open to a page of his writing. I figured it was private but he left it out day after day. I figured that maybe this was his way of communicating something to me so eventually I picked up the diary to read the following:

"I know my roommate is in love with me. I already have two of the women of my dreams. I cannot take on another one. I don't know how to break the news to her that I am not in love with her. And maybe I should break up with Kate and Kathleen too. My talent in music and the arts is my first perrogative."

At first I thought I should be angry that he had made such a big assumption--but given his bizzare way of connecting with me, I felt more bemused than anything. A few weeks later he moved out to live with his band. I breathed a sigh of relief but the roommate search continued.

To make a long story short, I next lived with a female photographer who would parade models in and out of the living room (the whole New York apartment was the size of a dollhouse so there was no escape) while I was preparing for exams, even when I asked her not to. Okay, if I were a guy or interested in women, this could have been exciting but I was neither. Next came Alex, a painter who asked if her cousin could stay overnight -- but then she stayed for two months without paying rent. Finally, my old roommate moved back in but we ended up taking in Wendy, a spoiled dancer who was the sister of a friend. She needed a place to stay and had no money for rent. One morning, I woke to a horrible cat fight going on between my kind roommate and Wendy who was fighting her for the bathroom. That was the last straw. I vowed not to take in any more artist types. It was a good move.

I often feel sorry for others who are dealing with some of these artist types who think their purpose in life is to "stand up to the man." I have a friend whose son is an artist and filmmaker. He once showed me some abstract art his son had made of 9/11. It showed men in suits with brief cases falling from the twin towers or running away. My friend told me his son had made it because he "did not feel sorry for capitalistic Americans and they got what they deserved on 9/11." My friend looked at me sadly and asked, "I wonder if his mother and I imparted any of our values on him at all or if he just rejected everything we stood for?" Sometimes I wonder the same thing about the Hollywood crowd.

Update: Here are some related thoughts from Ed Driscoll at TechCentral Station.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Interesting "Psychological" Tests

The Bem Sex Role Inventory is a psychological inventory that assesses how high one is on masculine or feminine traits. It's been around forever--since the 1970's. I remember taking the test as an undergrad and being more in the androgynous zone--but now I just have full-fledged masculine traits (maybe that's why my family says I act like a "grumpy old man"). I wonder if this test is just out of date now? Perhaps today's women are scoring higher on so-called "masculine" traits such as self-reliance and independence and men are scoring higher on "feminine" characteristics of gentleness or a tendency to yield one's position. I always thought these traits a bit sterotypical.

Try the test and let me know what you think. Thanks to Inside Larry's Head Blog for pointing this test out. Take it here.
Please post in the comments to let me know how you did!

Update: I will take a stab at an updated version of a few of the traits mentioned in this out-of-date test. For those readers of a sensitive nature, this is only a parody. I imagine it would look something like this:

Answer never or almost never, sometimes, often, or always or almost always to the following:

Self Reliant-You live alone and don't want anyone bothering you (male or female).

Yielding-(For men only) Women tell you what to do and you go along to keep the peace. For women--you don't tell a man off for offering to open the door for you.

Helpful-if male, you assist in all politically correct endeavors such as moving your seat on an airline if an unaccompanied minor shows up--bonus points if you do so in a chivalrous manner without making waves. If female--take over the airline seat to make sure the child is protected. No bonus points if you are a female pedophile.

Assertive--you say "yes, dear" to your wife if she asks you to do something if you are male and knock your husband's two front teeth out if you are female.

Defends own beliefs--for men, you reluctantly make a remark at work that it seems slightly unfair that a sexual harrassment charge has been filed against you for looking a woman in the eye. For women, you slap a man with a sexual harrassment charge because he made eye contact with you.

Well--you get the idea.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Carnival of the Insanities

Dr. Sanity has her Carnival of the Insanities up. Go take a look.