Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

– If, like I was, you’ve been wondering what Herman Cain’s been doing with his time since his presidential campaign was abandoned, well, here’s your answer. Avant-garde performance art. Inspiring. (h/t Ed Brayton)

Minimalist poster designs representing mental disorders. Nifty.

Science is broken. It’s still the best we have, but our current practice of peer review and replicating blinded studies leaves a lot to be desired, in terms of its capacity to filter out biases and errors. More at Heterodoxology.

– Conservatives have often complained about being put in the incredibly awkward and uncomfortable situation of having to explain homosexuality to their children, because of how those gays keep adamantly existing with no regard for anyone else’s feelings. Truly, this is a nightmare scenario.


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Continued from yesterday’s Part 1, here.

The issue becomes even stickier when you consider mental health issues, and the “insanity defense”. When is it unreasonable to hold someone accountable for their actions if they are not mentally stable?

A recent edition of stats-nerdery programme More Or Less on Radio 4 talked about a man who began making sexual advances to his eleven-year-old stepdaughter. The man was later discovered to be suffering from a brain tumour. He’d never displayed any such behaviour previously, and it stopped immediately after the tumour was surgically removed. Both the tumour and the inappropriate behaviour began to return over time, and it was clear that his personality and identity were being profoundly affected by this unnatural growth intruding on his grey matter.

For someone with a severe medical condition, it seems that the most important treatment offered or imposed may also be medical, rather than simply punitive. But we don’t even need to delve particularly far into the complex science of mind and consciousness to question whether any kind of punishment or criminal justice is warranted in a case like this.

We are our brains, after all, and so there can be no obvious cut-off point at which we’re no longer personally responsible for our actions. If a brain tumour can put sufficient distance between our actions and our “selves” that we can be absolved of guilt, then what about a minor head injury or birth defect? What about mental trauma from childhood abuse, or any other psychological troubles that might induce you to behave irrationally? There’s no easy answer as to when it becomes somebody’s “fault”, even (I suspect) in principle.

But we can still come to useful conclusions about criminal justice without getting bogged down in these difficulties. While we might find child abuse unambiguously unacceptable, can it possibly help anyone, in any way, to lock the perpetrator up in jail, in the brain tumour scenario described above?

It’s not like he needs to be deterred from doing anything terrible ever again. When he doesn’t have an abnormal brain condition, he’s shown no inclination for such acts, and when he does, his inhibitions are so biologically affected that any psychological deterrent will be worthless. And it can hardly be said that we’re “sending a message” that other potential child abusers don’t need to worry about being caught; a brain tumour is something we can check, after all, and there are still systems of punishment in place for those whose behaviours can’t be so easily corrected.

The possibility of the tumour recurring is of concern. The extent to which we’d be justified in detaining someone who might someday develop a medical condition that could lead them to unacceptable behaviour is an important question, and one largely informed by the current state of our medical science.

But this is a real scenario, and it really shakes the foundation of any punitive deterrent-based system of justice. It’s entirely possible that somebody could commit a horrible crime, and yet the response that would accomplish the most good – fewest children molested in future, smallest reduction in individual freedoms, etc. – is not to punish them at all.

If that’s the case, there are staggering numbers of non-violent and casual drug offenders whose prison sentences may urgently merit reconsideration. And that’s just a start.

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– For pretty much the same reasons as Hemant, I have significant reservations about the idea of a “National Atheist Party“. As in a political group, not, like, a godless shin-dig. I’d be more into the latter, though I’d probably still rather stay home.

– Hayley Stevens has launched a new podcast – or relaunched an old one with a makeover, kinda. Worth a look if you’re interested in paranormal research by someone competent and well informed.

– A 37-year-old woman in the States has been in jail for eight years. She’s charged with the murder of her daughter, but hasn’t had a trial, and apparently isn’t likely to. She’s suffering from mental health problems, and isn’t getting the help she needs, and nobody wants to just let her out of jail for fear of… something. Jesus. (via @radleybalko)

– And for all their faults, The Sun newspaper aren’t quite the lecherous filth that some recent assertions had suggested.

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…and it doesn’t even help.

It turns out that suffering from a mental illness doesn’t make someone more likely to commit violent crime. What does have a good chance of turning you into a danger to society, mental illness or no, is getting boozed up and stoned.

So now you know.

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Janet Street-Porter is an astonishing human being who has achieved something truly unprecedented and marvellous.

Because of her, all the most recent comments currently visible below her latest Daily Mail article are sensible, compassionate, and heartening.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before on a Mail article, about anything.

In all other regards, however, she seems to be a contemptible failure of an effort at a human being.

She recently took up far too much room on the internet to tell us all that depression is a “new trendy illness” – in all fairness probably the headline-writer’s phrase, rather than hers, but it sums up her approach well. All these people suffering from stress and depression are apparently just trying to be fashionable, and just need some good old “self-empowerment”.

There’s a cursory mention of the fact that it’s recognised as a legitimate condition by medical professionals, i.e. people whose opinions actually fucking matter. But most of this tirade is just about how life is tough, we’re all going through things that are jolly hard, but most people “don’t get depressed about it, don’t take special medication and don’t whinge about ‘black holes'”.

Well la-di-da for you and your high horse, but sometimes we mere mortals get ill. And sometimes trained medical professionals will tell us that taking some of the “special medication” that you regard with such contempt will do us good and assist with our well-being, since that’s what the stuff’s fucking made for. Not everything can be sorted out by just bucking up and getting on with things, and that doesn’t make us weak.

This kind of haughty bullshit makes me want to push her down the stairs, then smugly point out that some of us don’t feel the need to whinge about “broken legs”. (In the context of the recent #twitterjoketrial, I should point out that this is an obvious joke, and should not be taken as a sincere threat. I do, however, plan to stab Richard Littlejohn in the face with a pair of scissors.)

“There’s virtually no stigma at all attached to saying you’re suffering from stress these days,” Janet continues, in the middle of an article telling sufferers of stress and depression to just get over it and pull themselves together.

Mental illness of all kinds comes with a serious stigma. Just today, in an unrelated context, mental health charity Rethink linked me to this article, which uses phrases like “stabby schizophrenics running about the place” with absolutely no concern for anyone’s feelings, and no visible interest in the evidence behind community-based mental health treatment.

And then Janet gets even more obnoxious, and I get even more sweary:

The idea of feeling sorry for a bloke with low self-esteem is, frankly, risible. Let’s just call it karmic revenge for all those years men have been in charge of everything.

Oh, fuck you.

There was plenty of room for a valid point in the context she brought up. Author Tim Lott apparently claims that, because men are no longer the sole or primary breadwinners in many households, their egos and feelings of self-worth are being damaged by how much their partners are earning.

This has some potentially very interesting implications about men’s perceptions of gender roles, and someone cleverer than me could probably write something fascinating about that. (Maybe Dr Petra already has.)

But no. Simply the “idea of feeling sorry for a bloke with low self-esteem” – the very notion that someone with a penis might have psychological problems, or feel insecure and upset about something and want to turn to others to help – makes Janet Street-Porter laugh.

I’m running out of words for quite how unkind, unsympathetic, and hateful this is. The implication that every eight-year-old boy getting bullied in the playground deserves what he gets because men have tended to oppress women in the past is beneath contempt.

This kind of careless, heartless attitude is only serving to exacerbate a general culture in which people don’t feel that they can ask for help. People with serious problems, who are suffering needlessly, and who could find necessary and important help if they knew how to ask for it, from doctors and from the community in general, are being told that the way they feel isn’t interesting, their misery isn’t important, and that they don’t deserve to have anyone care that what they’re going through.

Well, Janet Street-Porter might not care about other humans in pain, but a lot of people do, and that’s a far more important message which deserves wider distribution.

Time To Change, a mental health advocacy programme in the UK, have posted an open letter to the Daily Mail about this, and the reply on the me plus bipolar blog is well worth reading too.

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I need to stop being unemployed. Why am I still doing that? It’s a bad habit, and one I should really make more effect to kick. I’ll work on it tomorrow.

So, just a quick link to something totally insane for you today. “Truthism” is a new one on me. I have no particular problem with -isms on the whole, but I think I preferred truthiness. It just seemed less… what’s the word… completely fucking batshit crazy. Truthiness didn’t have reptilians. Or global alien conspiracies. Or faces on Mars, or Freemasons, or a hollow Earth, or… pink elephants? Oh, that one’s just a metaphor. But still, I’m pretty sure a good clinical neurologist could make a diagnosis based on a set of rantings like this.

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