Saturday, December 20, 2008

72-Hour Observations

Weekend Psych News

Milgram revisited
Researchers working on two separate studies have replicated the infamous 1963 Stanley Milgram experiments with equally unnerving results. You probably recall that in Milgram's original work, volunteers were instructed to deliver electrical shocks to a subject, an actor in reality, each time he answered a question incorrectly. Even when the actor cried out in pain, or became unresponsive, volunteers continued to shock them with increasing voltage.
Things haven't changed much since 1963. One of the current studies, found that 70% of the volunteers were willing to inflict up to 450-volt shocks to their unlucky victims.
Read more about the research on the BBC.

Narcissistic kids react aggressively to shame
New research found that kids who score high on narcissistic traits can become aggressive when faced with shaming experiences. Read more about this at the University of Michigan website.

Trouble in Tampa Bay
The children's mental health center at Tampa Bay Academy was stripped of its license and shut down last week by Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration. According to Tampa Bay Online, the state made their move after finding "gross mimanagement" and "substandard conditions" at the 20-year-old facility.Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 19, 2008

Love and death on Long Island

By all accounts, Natalie Ciappa was bright, talented, and gregarious. At seven years old, Natalie was pushing a pink stroller through her Massapequa, New York, neighborhood and easily befriended another young girl, Katie. She was quick to share her dolls and her companionship with Katie, beginning a friendship that would continue until one sickening morning in June 2007.
That’s when Natalie laid unconscious on a couch in the home of 19-year-old Seewoo Sung. Her father worked frantically to revive his daughter while Mr. Sung feverishly tried to purge his home of any evidence of the previous night’s party . The efforts of both men proved futile: Mr. Sung would be arrested for tampering with physical evidence, a felony, and Mr. Ciappa could not breathe life into his daughter.
Natalie, the girl with the voice of an angel, the mind of scholar, and a heart of gold, was dead at 18 years old from a heroin overdose. Sadness turned to outrage in her native Nassau County. How could this happen to such a good girl, the one who was to begin studying criminal psychology at the State University of New York in the fall? The one who once snuck through a window to deliver birthday cake to a friend trapped in bed with mono? Once again, the bad guys had won.
In the weeks and months that followed, it seemed that a dam had ruptured. Grieving, tormented parents came forward to tell heartbreaking stories of their own children dying at the end of a needle in the neighborhoods of Long Island. The story had become all too familiar.
On Monday, December 16, Nassau County passed Natalie’s Law and on Tuesday, neighboring Suffolk County did the same. Under the legislation, a web site will be established showing the locations of all heroin arrests, similar to those mapping the whereabouts of registered sex offenders. Additionally, community members can reciprocate with law enforcement, providing information about “heroin hotspots” readily available online.
A start, yes, but little consolation for Natalie’s family and friends . Her mother, Doreen Ciappa, said this week, “Natalie was everybody’s dream child. She was in the honor society, a cheerleader and sang the national anthem at school events. We knew that she went to parties, and I was concerned that she was experimenting with pills or cocaine, but I never once considered heroin. If I had known, I believe that things would have been different.”
On the web site dedicated to Natalie’s memory, her lifelong friend Katie wrote,”I have no pictures to share or notes that you have written me in the past because I put them in the casket with you, I had wanted you to always have the memories we have shared because I know I will… If only you saw what a beautiful, intelligent, fun loving girl you were, maybe you would still be alive today.”
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A beautiful mind in Bakersfield

Finding good news about mental health can be positively daunting these days, so thank goodness for Ashley Nommensen, a Bakersfield, California high school senior who is making an impact beyond her years.
According to a December 12 post from columnist Marylee Shrider on, this brave young woman helped create a first-of-its-kind peer support group for teens and young adults experiencing mental illness. It is labor of love, borne of her own psychological struggles dating back to a bipolar-induced psychotic break at the age of 13.
Her group's moniker, Outspoken Young Minds, is certainly appropriate for Ashley, who has been traveling to tell her own story to gatherings of school counselors and community organizations. In July, she'll say even more at the 2009 NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) National Convention when she appears there with her mother and Russ Sempell, president of the Kern County NAMI chapter, which has partnered with Ashley on this project.
Ashley's commitment to spreading the word that "normal is just a cycle on the washing machine" is a commendable breath of fresh air.
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Books: A gift for all of us

The tome Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process edited by poet and psychiatrist Richard Berlin is a fascinating read for all of us in the human sciences. This collection of 16 essays is no mere academic re-exposition of the belabored connection between Psyche and Apollo. Rather, its authors bleed any romance from the sexy madman/woman-as-creative-genius archetype while infusing us with the hope that good therapy begets great art.Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Men, Children and Suicide Assessment

We in the US have vigorously moved toward screening a wide range of patients for suicidal risk, but researchers say we have far to go, especially where men and children are concerned.
Asking men during routine medical consults about suicidal thoughts can be uncomfortable for both physician and patient, leading to an abbreviated conversation along the lines of, "Are you depressed? No? So you don't think about suicide." This apprehensive sort of assessment may miss the real issue, though.
Researchers at the University of Western Sydney are encouraging us to remember that suicide is not necessarily connected with depression, especially in men.
In a fascinating study earlier this month, Professor John Macdonald, Co-director of the UWS Men's Health Information and Resource Centre, and his investigative team studied cases of attempted and completed suicides in Australian men ages 25 to 44. They concluded that there are social “pathways” to suicide for men. These include job pressures, (over- or under- or unemployed), separation from children or partners through divorce or other family ruptures, certain adverse childhood events and abuse of alcohol or drugs.
For more information, contact Mr. Macdonald directly via email.
Meanwhile, children's mental health concerns appear to be overlooked by many primary care providers. Perhaps these physicians, too, are reticent to imply that someone's child is struggling by merely asking the question. The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health issued distressing results on Monday that found 56% of primary care providers are not asking parents about mental health issues their children may be facing.
“We found that more than one-half of parents report that their primary care physician never asks about whether they have mental health concerns for their child,” says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health. “We’re concerned that some PCPs may not ask about mental health problems because of not being able to address the issues themselves or because of the lack of specialty mental health services available to which they could refer kids if problems come up.”
In fact, according to 25% of the parents surveyed, found it difficult to get their children the services they need, although 62% did get them eventually.

Photo: Daniel Diaz

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