Stroke of Genius

March 10, 2010

This is a fairly long video, but well worth watching. When I first saw this, I was so moved by her talk, I cried. You might be saying, “What does this have to do with social or community psychology?” For me, it is all about perception and how our brains process information about our world. When Jill Bolte-Taylor says that she imagines that if the entire world could have an experience like hers (without the stroke) that we would see how we are all connected to each other, the world around us, and the universe. I believe that a fundamental problem that results in the very existence of community and social psychology is our perception of ourselves as individuals, and a lack of connection to our environment and others. What would the world be like if we felt a profound connection to everything and everyone around us?
Perhaps like the Findhorn community founded in 1962 in Scotland:
Findhorn Foundation and Community

Just something to think about……

P.S.- If you get a chance, go to Ted.com and browse the talks. They are fascinating and entertaining talks by some of the most brilliant minds of our time.

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My choice of topic for this week was prompted by an experience I had recently at work.  I received a call from an agency regarding a young person who had gotten into a domestic situation at home and was detained by police.  This child was diagnosed at some point with Bipolar Disorder.  After quite a bit of discussion (2 hours of phone calls) it came to light that the child’s family had no insurance because a parent had lost their job, and they could not afford to COBRA their insurance coverage.  (COBRA is a program which allows a person who has left their job for whatever reason to continue their existing medical coverage but they must pay for it out of pocket.)  As a result, the parents could not afford to take their child in to the doctor they were seeing for the disorder and was having very serious difficulty.

The facility I work for could not take the child because we do not offer the services they needed.  For various reasons, the child could not stay in the law enforcement facility they were in and the juvenile facility would not take them.  I gave the parent(s) the best advice I could since they did not have the availability to take them to a private treatment facility due to lack of insurance.  Needless to say, they were very distraught because they had only one option,  SEABHS (Southeastern Arizona Behavioral Health Services).  SEABHS has developed a reputation for serious problems:

SEABHS Embezzlement

SEABHS scrutiny by CPSA

In addition to their financial mismanagement, they received a letter of cure from Community Partnership of Southeast Arizona (CPSA) stating that they were also not meeting community expectations in delivery of services. Across the country, community mental health services are being cut, particularly facilities that provide services to the people in need of in-patient treatment. Unfortunately, the consequences can be devastating to the individual and the community:

Accused Shooter Could Not Afford Mental Health Treatment

Colorado Closure of Mental Health Facilities

Those who have no insurance have fewer and fewer options available to them, and they are becoming more inadequate in regard to the quality of treatment provided.  This is why I am am working toward my Psychology degree. I would hope that I can make a difference and help fix our terribly broken system. This is also why I absolutely support the idea of universal health care to include mental health care. Pay for it now, or really pay for it later.

From Scientific Blogging:  Abstinence-Only Intervention May Reduce Sexual Activity Among Teenagers.

These people MUST be kidding!  I read this on another site a few days ago and read the abstract.  It would take me forever to dissect this and point out all the shortcomings of this study (that the news outlets have jumped all over, by the way).  However, this person did a really good job if you are inclined to read it:

http://www.teachthefacts.org/archives/2010_02_01_vigilance-archive.html

In my job as a Behavioral Health Tech, I have encountered numerous kids who had abstinence only education.  Both of my sons had abstinence only education, both taught by local organizations with a religious affiliation.  I was appalled by their reports of what they were being taught at the time.  Fortunately for them, I have always had honest discussions with them about sex and the responsibilities and consequences that go along with it.  My sons have often ended up educating their peers after being told “Just don’t do it!”, along with the requisite hideous descriptions of STI’s and abortion horror stories.  It has been my experience that when you attempt the “shock and awe” method of deterrence, teens and pre-teens pretty much look at you and think ” Oh, right! Fail!”

This study particularly jumped out at me because of a conversation I had over the weekend at work with some 14 year olds that are sexually active, use recreational drugs, drink alcohol, and had abstinence only education.  We were watching an “after school special” type movie on Lifetime about a group of kids who were all participating in some type of sexual activity with each other.  Someone ended up with the Syph (syphilis) and they all gave it to each other.  The kids I was watching this with all claimed they had never heard of syphilis!  Holy Crap!  I then explained to them what it was, and that if untreated it will literally eat your brain until you either lose some brain function, or go insane (in the legal sense) and die a horrible death.  I also informed them that quite often, a person who has it does not show symptoms, and it is sometimes mistaken for the flu.  We proceeded to have a nice long conversation about the dangers of having sex while high or drunk, the myth that birth control always works, and the other STI’s out there.  I didn’t preach or lecture them, and they were full of questions, which I answered honestly.  I don’t know if it will make them stop and think before their hormones kick in the next time, but it did make them stop and think about it for an hour or so.

At this point, it is pretty clear that I believe in fully informed, medically accurate sex education.  (I would note here that the teen pregnancy rate has jumped quite a bit since 2006, possibly an effect of the abstinence only campaign of the Bush years.)  It is unreasonable to expect kids who do not have fully developed frontal lobes (which significantly contributes to impulse control) and raging hormones to abstain from all forms of sex.  Unless you lock them in an escape proof room, or watch them 24/7, they are going to eventually end up experimenting with some sort of sexual activity.  It just seems more reasonable to me to tell them the truth.

The problem is, a lot of adults don’t even know.