Archive for the ‘evidence based policy’ Category

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gun

I have no real aversion to firearms.  I might be getting more libertarian in my old age, where privacy and individual rights are taking on a position of more and more importance. What bothers me about the gun debate is how passionate and emotional people get about guns, on both sides of the issues, without truly emphasizing the facts we know.

It has been said that statistics can lie, be cherrypicked to support whatever position you’re going to stand behind.  I have researched guns and gun violence extensively, and while there are many pro-gun websites and information hubs full of useful and appropriate positions, I double-checked sources and had difficulty verifying many claims.  Below are  studies and statistics verified through multiple sources.

While I don’t have an aversion to guns, I believe all of us need a good understanding of how guns are more than just tools.  Because they are more that just tools.  It is objectively true that a gun has a different effect on our thoughts and behavior than a hammer, or a screwdriver, or a stapler.  Whether or not you believe you should have an unadulterated right to own a gun, you must acknowledge facts and reality.  So here are some facts!  Read them and make your own decisions.

 

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Can a get a quick heck yeah!?

 

Like almost 12% of teenagers in the United States, I suffered from depression when I was younger.  (and still, but that’s another story).

Depression is insidious, partly because we overuse the term, but also because we have a lingering belief that folks should just “snap out of” whatever is bothering them, totally discounting that this is an illness that needs to be dealt with.

Building positive coping skills is an important part of treatment for people struggling with depression.  Coping skills (the fancy psychological term for how we make ourselves feel better) can be anything, from listening to music, to running, to petting a dog, to painting, to talking on the phone.  The possibilities are endless, and it’s important to have a large list, because each coping skill is not going to work in every situation (i.e. I might not always be able to go for a run, or some days my favorite movie doesn’t help, etc).

One of the most prevalent coping skills suggested to me, and that’s often suggested for folks through the popular media, is that things will improve in the future.  It was a movement of support for LGBTQIA youth a couple years ago.  It’s still something I tell myself.

It’s not the most effective thing to tell someone struggling with depression.

Part of being depressed is the loss of hope, of optimism, and of future orientation.  When you’re depressed, you’re not too interested in tomorrow, because things are awful today, right now.   Depression saps your motivation and energy.  “It gets better” might be true, and it’s a great message, but it’s not enough on its own, because depression works against that.

I truly believe that often things do get better, if only because feelings of intense sadness are just that – feelings, and feelings pass.  What we must be careful to avoid is invalidating people’s depression and sadness now, in service of a misty, hopeful future.

 

Since this isn’t a blog based on diagnosis, but more commentary and information, we won’t spend too much time talking about the validity of psychological diagnoses as a whole (though there are some incredible debates and thinkers who are great folks to follow).  However, I want to briefly touch on Delusional Disorder, the erotomanic type.

Delusions are thought processes and beliefs that do not fit with reality, and persist despite evidence that they’re untrue.  In the erotomanic type, (cribbed from the DSM-V), “the central theme of the delusion is that another person is in love with the individual.”

This is a terrifying concept, and one I think we often see represented in popular media.  One of my favorite bands, and one of the most problematic punk bands around, is Masked Intruder.  Many of their songs concern stalking and threats of bodily harm, and serve as great examples of how delusions form and have negative effects on the object of the delusion.  Imagine telling someone to get lost, and they don’t leave you alone. 

(There is also a terrific cultural argument to be made here, that men often disregard the rejection of women and continue to believe a woman is interested, despite clear evidence to the contrary, and get angry when the rejection continues.  Often, women are killed after rejecting men’s advances.  Coincidentally (surely), this is part of the criteria for Delusional Disorder.)

The song I’ve chosen, from the rich field of possibilities, is “Almost Like We’re Already in Love” (lyrics here).

Scary, right?!

One of the most important concepts, and one of the easiest to grasp, is how substance abuse (particularly, for our purposes today, alcohol use) impacts our ability to plan and organize our thoughts and behaviors.

Executive functions, including impulse control, planning, organization, moral judgments, and consequential thinking, are focused mainly in our brain’s frontal lobe.  Frequent readers will remember how this brain development isn’t finished until the early 20s (a great argument for juvenile justice reform).  This is the first part of our brain to really get drunk.

Because the frontal lobe is affected by alcohol so quickly, we lose our ability to properly plan and appreciate consequences of our behavior.  It’s the reason driving after a couple beers makes so much sense to the one drinking.  It’s the reason we have unprotected sex with people we don’t know after closing down the bar.  It’s the reason all those plans for calling our ride, or walking home, go out the window because it’s 1am and it’s cold and we’re tired and we could surely drive just this once, right?

Having a bit of alcohol in our system also impairs our ability to stop drinking.  It’s easy, when sober, to think that two beers will be where we’ll stop; it’s a lot harder after those beers to say no to the next drink.  (This is also due to alcohol’s biphasic effect – we’re feeling good, happy, relaxed after a few, but the depressant effect kicks in more strongly the more we drink.)

There are a million songs about bad decisions under the influence, but I think the most illustrative tune is this Flogging Molly classic, Drunken Lullabies (lyrics here).

The chorus – and we find ourselves in the same old mess, singing drunken lullabies.  We can’t learn when we’re drunk, and we can’t plan properly when we’re drunk, and when we’re drunk, we just want to keep drinking!

Voting

Posted: March 8, 2016 in evidence based policy, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

tagsgf-election-sticker-i-voted-stocksdale2

Every time I vote in my town, I am humbled.

I live in a city with a huge immigrant population.  Every time there’s an election, I am surrounded by folks coming to vote, with their citizenship papers, or their voter registrations, or their passports and licenses.  Some speak broken English; some speak no English at all.  Our signs are in Bengali, Arabic, English, and Polish.

Every person in the hall is so excited to vote, the energy in the room is palpable.  These are folks who are working and living in this county, whose children attend our city’s schools, and are my neighbors and friends.  My community takes voting seriously.  Because it matters – because it still matters.

No matter how jaded or cynical I become, or how disillusioned with our political process (and I am), all I have to do is walk into my precinct on election day, and I am revitalized.

Citizenship matters, and voting is the most fundamental act we have as citizens.  I hope you take advantage of this beautiful gift.  I hope you fulfill your civic duty.  But most of all, I hope you are excited to be a citizen and to make your voice heard.

I voted.  Did you?

Prison Bars

Short one today, because Flint’s crisis has exhausted every last bit of my brainpower.

In general, prison should have five goals, as described by criminologist Bob Cameron: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation.

We look at prison as punishment here.  We treat this as revenge.

We just sentenced rapist Daniel Holtzclaw to 263 years in prison.  My first thought is “TAKE THAT, STUPID RAPIST.”

Who lives for 200 years?

Revenge is not an appropriate way to run a country.  Revenge is why we have more of our population incarcerated than any other nation.  Revenge is why we perpetuate racist, classist systems and wonder why we have a racist, classist society.  Revenge is why children become adults behind bars.  Revenge is why sexual assault is so prevalent in prison that it is treated as a joke and becomes part of the punishment.

Revenge is why people come out of prison traumatized; more trauma = less ability to cope with negative life events = recidivism.

And we wonder why our country is so messed up.  We’re destroying our mental health and our society in the process.

There’s got to be another way.

scale

The issues closest to our hearts are often the most difficult to discuss with our loved ones.  We don’t want to get up on the soapbox, or make people feel attacked.

I was thinking about dieting as I re-read a favorite article of mine from Dances With Fat, a great body-positive/fat-activism blog, about how to deal with family and friends who decide to act as the food police.

After I read the piece, I immediately thought of my aunt, someone I love dearly and who has been present at all big turning points in my life.  I don’t know if she had ever been on a diet before the beginning of November.  I heard about her diet at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, where she proudly discussed her 500 calorie a day diet “and if I get hungry, I just drink water!”

I was disturbed…worried, concerned.  500 calories is not enough for a grown woman (or man).  That’s less than many anorexic folks take in.

She was thrilled – she had lost 20 pounds in 28 days.

Again…I was legitimately concerned.  Most doctors agree a safe rate of weight loss is about 1-3 pounds a week (though most doctors don’t have enough training in nutrition or a good enough understanding of health at every size to talk diets with patients).

I was so proud, at the end of the night, when my mom talked about how she had ruined her metabolism by constant dieting since her teens, and how much space and energy dieting had taken up in her life.

But neither my mother or myself said anything to my aunt, and it wasn’t because we didn’t have the information; I’ve been looking at HAES literature for years and am in recovery from an eating disorder, so by default, my entire family is well versed in the harmful effects of dieting and image focus.

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Cat'S Eye Nebula, Ngc 6543, Cosmos, Space, Stars

Each 15 years, the United Nations sets sustainable development goals, priorities for development, to improve our world and human quality of life worldwide.

Until last year, no one looked at the actual effectiveness of the work being done.  A ROI analysis (that’s Return on Investment for those new to the idea) hadn’t been conducted.  Cost/Benefit analysis hadn’t been done, or if they had, it hadn’t been publicized or used to make smarter goals.

Nonprofits often suffer from their very idealism.  Working toward a good cause makes us feel warm and fuzzy.  Often, the causes we support are close to our hearts because of personal experiences.

I once heard nonprofits, and those who work in nonprofits, and those who support them, are terminally optimistic.  We think we can do a lot more than we actually can, make a bigger impact than we can, change more systems than we can.  And these are good causes we’re talking about; regardless of your personal cause, you can agree that having clean air and water, having healthy food, reducing rates of violence…these are good things, things we want.

The trouble is, without those cost/benefit analyses, we aren’t going to be able to do much.

To save the world, we need to prioritize.

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