Sunday, January 30, 2011

Can't argue with results or: We're doing something wrong

I've been awfully disturbed about violent and overt racism flaring up in my region lately, but have only gone beyond "horror and embarrassment" to "So what now?"   If this is the place where someone's planting their MLK Day bomb, we're doing something wrong.  It's tempting to just say, "Hey, they gotta be somewhere," and rhetorically if not physically distance yourself from our crop of white supremacists, but while the normal public (I'm guilty too) has been throwing up their hands, the white supremacists have been regrouping.  Everyone else seems to be able to avoid this, and we should take a lesson.  My slacktivism hasn't helped me intuit what exactly it is, but I've seen little in the way of ideas for aggressively facing the problem.  In fact, there's the expected pants-wetting occurring when the appropriate word "racist" is applied to the social climate.  I think the individualistic bent of the area is keeping people thinking too small.  Okay, okay, I get it: you're not racist.  That's nice for you.  But it's obviously not enough.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reducing suicide or reducing murder. Six of one...

There's been a lot of weird, ablist stuff in the media about how more access to mental health care may have helped prevent Gabrielle Giffords' shooting.  It's ablist because it concentrates on how to empower the already in-control "us" versus the mentally-ill and disempowered "them." Vaughan Bell addressed the assumptions about mental-illness-influenced-violence in Slate pretty well, but some are reacting extremely poorly, calling for it to be easier to involuntarily commit individuals, and not worry too much about individual rights.

A lot of this is couched in terms of how the availability of mental health care could reduce murder rates (It probably wouldn't by any significant measure).  I think we could safely predict that a reduction in death by suicide would occur with widespread access to mental health care.  And honestly, I think that's just as good. Interpersonal violence is terrifying, but so is mental illness.  It's not something you can avoid by keeping your nose clean and keeping to your gated communities, so I think it's really strange that people are drawing clear lines between the nutters and the regular people.  The wealthy white people who control the media narrative have a lot more to personally gain by destigmatizing and treating mental illness than they do by writing it off as a problem for the little people.  But then again, one of their own was suddenly horribly affected by a crazy plebe, so that's where the fear is currently focused.  

The other disability-related issue that I think will be interesting is how the brain-injured Giffords will be received by the general public and her colleagues once she recovers.  I predict that she won't be able to serve out the rest of her term, since there will be a lot of recovery to do.  But that doesn't mean she's out of the game forever.  Some are already preparing to write her off, but from my layperson's knowledge of brain injury (and optimistic medical predictions in the media), I doubt that's necessary.  She will have some effects to deal with, but who knows how severe they will be.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Take two martinis and call me in the morning

Talking about the social costs and benefits of drug use at Ta-Nehisi Coates' place got me thinking about self-medication and how weird it is that substances that don't come from a pharmacy are basically considered bad habits by mental health professionals.  If you use alcohol to self-medicate for social anxiety, why shouldn't a therapist advise you in how to do this safely?  They'll do it with Xanax, which has its own dangers and potential for addiction.  

Now, the obvious answer is corruption (kickbacks from pharma?), as well as American Puritainism, but I think the idea is really promising, since swallowing a glass of wine before diving into the conversation at the office party doesn't really come across as something a crazy person would do.  Taking a pill kind of does.  Embracing traditional treatments like these could really reduce the impression of the overmedicalization of normal human behavior in psychiatry, and obviate some of the stigma of mental illness.

The same idea could apply to the use of (somehow decriminalized) marijuana.