Monday, January 31, 2011

A Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB)

A Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB)

I will soon present a Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB) as my humble attempt to identify useful old and new prescriptions for evolving sociocultures that wish to avoid the chaos of rising levels of bad behavior within their populations and therefore their collective decline.

I have partitioned this code in several ways. The first section is entitled, Love, Honor, and Do. This section is one in which prescriptions are stated in terms of behaviors to do. People of faith may wish to read many of these prescriptions (taken from religious materials) as Commandments to be obeyed for the love and/or fear of God.

Those with more secular belief systems may prefer to see the prescriptions as logical rule statements for seeking happiness and avoiding pain during life on this planet. In this case, they may wish to read each one of these prescriptions as though it stated, “You will be wise to”— in front of it.

Those with a scientific perspective should look upon the following prescriptions as rule statements to be validated through further investigation and analysis.

There is actually no reason why any one individual could not view various prescriptions within the UCMB from a singular or combined perspective of any of the three listed above: God’s Rules, wise rules, and/or rules to be tested.

The three remaining classes of prescriptions are designed to cover most human interactions within their social and physical environments. They are: Do Not Harm Others; Do Not Harm Yourself; and Never Harm Children. Some may not like that these sections are stated in the form of negative prescriptions ( i.e., Do Not) . However, in the UCMB, as in teaching children and adolescents what to do to achieve rewarding outcomes and avoid painful ones, positive prescriptions by themselves can sometimes lack important specificity.

For example, parents in Florida picnicking at an inland lake may tell their children to “only play on the beach”. But this prescription would be inadequate if they did not also add: “Don’t go in the water or an alligator might eat you”.

The parent of an adolescent might enjoin their adolescent to drive the speed limit, stop at stop streets and stop lights, to watch for pedestrians, etc. But they would best be admonished; “Do not ride with someone who has been drinking. There may be death or serious injury to yourselves or others”. In most cases similar admonishments the parent’s own teen about his or her drinking and driving would also be in order.

As an adult on my sail boat with a gasoline engine, the rule “turn on the blower before you start your engine” was made much stronger by a negative statement: “Don’t start your engine before your blower or you’ll blow yourself to smiterines”.

As a Navy diver, using an Aqualung, I was trained to “breath normally as you swim to the surface”. This rule was very importantly augmented by another: “Don’t hold your breath when you swim to the surface or you will blow your lungs up and die”.

I am certain that you can provide other examples of positive rule statements that are best augmented by negative statements. There are other times when a negative rule statement implying a very unpleasant natural consequence for breaking the rule will provide the shortest, most specific, most memorable, and most effective rule: I.e., “Don’t play with fire”.

The following UCMB prescriptions each imply their own positive and negative consequences. . Complex environments appear to require greater complexity to their moral codes. The UCMB is lengthy and including the all of the anticipated consequences for following or breaking a rule would make very long indeed. The teaching of this, or another moral code, would seem best to be approached in modules, with the various implied consequences depending upon the age and maturity of the learner fully discussed, illustrated, and referenced. Whenever possible moral prescriptions should be referenced to scientific support.

To increase the probability of moral behavior within a population, a code similar to the following UCMB should be taught and encouraged in all sociocultural venues possible.

The outcome would promise great goods. Great likely harms (concerns for unintended consequences noted) are seem doubtful.

Stay tuned for the UCMB.

Wake-Up America!

Dr. Tom      1/31/11

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Universal Code Of Moral Conduct?

The Rational For A Universal Code Of Moral Conduct

The reasons that I have assembled the Universal Code Of Moral Conduct (UCMC) are many. Foremost is the fact that everyone will benefit from having a practical code of moral values and conduct to teach their children and adolescents and to encourage among themselves. A socioculture that fails to acculturate its members in the ethics of morality will suffer increasing behavioral chaos and resulting economic and functional decline.

To the best of my imperfect ability, the inclusion of prescriptions in the UCMC has only been a result of my bias toward the scientific literature on the principles of human development and behavior and also elements from traditionally successful moral codes. In other words because they accord with the data of the physical and psychological sciences and because they have effectively supported some of the most successful sociocultures in history.

All great sociocultures have had religious belief systems and religiously derived codes of conduct which helped to organize and regulate their collective behavior. The more effective these moral codes of conduct, on balance, the better these sociocultures have faired in the world of other sociocultures that compete for survival.

But, the evolution of science and technology in the modern world has led to population mobility and unprecedented rates of migration between cultures. This amalgamation of many cultural beliefs and practices and the effects of science and technology upon these belief systems and behaviors have weakened the power of religious faith-based moral and ethical precepts which once helped to organize and sustain their sociocultures.

In deference to its increasing religious and philosophical diversity, the United States has seen fit to remove its traditional Judeo-Christian rules for conduct (The Ten Commandments and Golden Rule), as well as most references to these faiths and moral precepts from its public land, courts, most media and our public schools. As a result it has increasingly failed to teach moral behavior to its children for several generations with the predictable result of increasing behavioral chaos and a general decline in America’s adaptability and functioning. It has been left to parents to teach their children morality. But, parents cannot teach what they have not learned. It has been left to the churches to teach morality. But, in the face of the church’s weakening hold on its parishioners, they have reduced their advocacy for moral restraint and sacrifice in order to sustain themselves.

America is reaching a point of no return. Any society that wishes to survive long and well, must settle upon an effective code of moral conduct to teach to its children. They must then effectively organize themselves to powerfully do exactly that. Simultaneously, they must motivate conformity to this moral code in their adult population. What better moral code could there be for an increasingly diverse socioculture than one distilled from the most successful ones in the history of our planet that are also consistent with important principles of science, religion, and philosophy.

While there are numerous religions and moral prescriptions, the most successful ones have many themes in common. These common themes provide for an integrated face-valid, time-tested and successful moral code of conduct for modern diverse liberal democracies similar to the United States of America.

Regarding the validity of the prescriptions of the UCMC, each by itself should accord with a history of success and predictions from scientific principles, theory to improve the primary mechanisms and measures thought to mediate our sociocultural health and viability.

Accordingly, conformity to each UCMC prescription should lead to the reduction of bad behavioral contagion (the spread of maladaptive behavior within a population), the improvement of metabehavioral measures (critical social indicators), the reduction of social entropy (that proportion of a population unavailable to build and maintain the socioculture, but functions as a drain upon it), and a commensurate reduction in the probability of sociocultural decline or decompensation (the loss of ability to maintain viability due to catastrophic events and/or increasing rates of physical or social entropy).

All that is needed is a faith in the value of the moral code itself. The basis for such a faith is easily documented when viewed against the success of those historically valid moral systems from which it is derived. Because the UCMC is ecumenical and science-based in its origins it should be acceptable to those of many faiths, agnostics, atheists, as well as scientists and those with faith in secular humanism.

Whether the prescriptions of the UCMC have been sent by God, or by a history of trial and error and intelligent human analysis, is a private matter for each individual to decide. But the value of such a moral code for collective life and sociocultural success is beyond question.

The Uniform Code of Moral Conduct should therefore be widely promulgated, taught, and encouraged at all levels of private and public life.

Dr. Tom             1/25/11

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our Fallen Heros

Our Fallen Heros

A friend sent this video to me. It left tears in my eyes and a renewed deep gratitude for those who serve our country under hazardous circumstances.

Please view the following and pass it on to your friends.

VTM, 1/17/11

P.S. Thanks to Joe Grunert for sending me this video.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mental Illness, Civil Commitments and Gun Laws

Mental Illness, Civil Commitments and Gun Laws

Many years ago, in Michigan, a social worker went to visit a man who he had reportedly known for a long time. The social worker had a very good relationship with this man.

So why, on the day of this visit, did this man step out the front door and kill the socialworker on his porch with a point-blank shotgun blast to the chest? Think of all the reasons that you can identify. What could possibly explain this horrific and totally unpredicted event?

It should not come as a surprise that the killer was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.

It is true that Schizophrenia, of any kind, infrequently leads to violence. It is also true that when such violence ocurrs, it is over- represented in the news.

However, it is essential that anyone who is thought to be mentally ill and behaving in menacing ways be provisionally committed to a secure mental health facility for evaluation. Furthermore, the standards of proof leading to such an initial civil commitment must be lowered. This has to be done for the protection of both the patient and the public at large.

As a practicing psychologist, I am legally responsible to report any indications of child abuse to the regional Department of Family and Children. I can assure you that when I must do so, this organization makes an evaluation of my report, an investigation normally ensues, and if it is deemed necessary children are placed in protective custody. I am saddened that this system sometimes fails, but it more frequently does not.

The same needs to be done in the case of apparently dangerous individuals suffering from mental disorders. Currently, the burden of proof for temporary hospitalization and evaluation is so great as to be unworkable. If a law was enforced, mandating such reports from physicians and mental health professionals to an appropriate agency for investigation and possible action, many tragedies-in-the-making could be prevented.

Please take time to review the following article about mental illness and violence. It is a well-balanced report serious and emotion-laden problem. 

On a related matter, I am in full support of the 2nd amendment (Law abiding citizens may purchase and possess firearms). However, those suffering from severe mental disorders must be restricted from the ability to purchase and possess firearms.

A law mandating that health care providers in medicine and psychology, as well as various mental care facilities forward reports of seriously mentally ill patients to an appropriate federal agency that will prohibit their legal purchase and possession of firearms is essential. This can work because currently any individual seeking to legally purchase a fire arm must first be computer-checked by a federal agency. The main weakness in this system is apparently in the report mechanism to that agency.

Please review the Federal Laws on firearms purchases and possession. 

I urge you to speak-out and lobby your representatives for the passage of such legislation.

Wake-up America!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 1/16/11

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Revise Civil Commitment Laws II

Revise Civil Commitment Laws II

A few days ago I presented the educated assumption that the man who shot and killed six people and wounded Congresswoman Giffords along with 12 others, was suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia. I reviewed the deinstitutionalizing/community mental health initiative of the early 1960′s and also the change in our civil commitment laws that made it almost impossible to get psychiatric and psychological help to those who are in psychotic states and who refuse to seek or accept help for their condition.

Many facts are now available that were not then. Professionals interviewed on the media have tentatively diagnosed his condition as paranoid psychosis. Neighbors had seen symptoms of psychosis in this young man for a long time, high school classmates and friends reported his increasing symptoms of psychosis, college classmates and a math professor reported their fear of this man in their class. The students feared he would bring a gun to class and the professor was afraid to turn his back to do math problems on the blackboard for fear that the actively psychotic person might shoot him in the back. These fears were present despite the fact that no one reported ever seeing him bring a gun to class. Also, the man’s disturbed and and forboding ramblings were publicly posted on the internet.

This tragedy could have been, and should have been, avoided.

Once again, America has hog-tied itself with our laws and we see the inhumane outcomes of our attempts to be humane. It is a sad truth that mental patients were once locked away and many were never released. It is a happy truth that, with the discovery of antipsychotic medications, many were able to benefit and lead more normal lives. It is a sad truth that a large proportion of hundreds of thousands of mental patients who were once released from hospitals did not get medications, or refused to take them, or were ones for whom the medications did not work very well. A great many of these former mental patients joined the legions of our mentally ill homeless and those in our prisons.

So I ask, what is humane about this outcome for nonviolent psychotic? And what is humane about America allowing an obviously dangerous paranoid psychotic to wander freely amongst our citizens who were fearfully trying to get help for this individual, while our mental health systems and our legal systems were unable to provide the help and protection needed? So now a man is a mass murderer who likely never would have hurt anyone. All of thishappened because of his untreated paranoid psychosis. So now a congresswoman has been brain damaged, twelve more have been wounded and nine other citizens have been killed.

In response, our government predictably swings into frenetic and futile action. It proposes that we limit the capacity of firearm magazines (use two guns, or poison, or several knives and a sword). It proposes that we limit the zone around a public official in which citizens may possess a gun to 1000 feet. What does it matter? How would such a law be enforced and how likely is the law to control the behavior of a dedicated sane assassin or someone in a murderous psychotic rage? Finally, the grand absurdity emerges among these lesser ones: it was Sara Palin, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc., who need to be silenced!

No, dear friends, what really needs to happen is a revision of our civil commitment laws.

Although murderous attacks by paranoid psychotics can never be prevented 100% of the time, the probability of it happening again can be cut dramatically, if we will only behave rationally.

It is essential that our licensed doctoral level mental health care providers (psychiatrists and Ph.D. clinical psychologists) once again be given the authority to commit actively psychotic citizens, who refuse help, to mental health care facilities. This new commitment procedure can be much more humane than the previous ones. The new commitment procedure would be for evaluation and medication assistance (remember medication for psychosis was once unavailable). The first goals of this intervention would be to quell the ongoing psychotic episode, educate the patient as to their particular mental disease, and teach them how to effectively cope with it through medication and stress management. The final goal of this commitment would be discharge the patient as soon as possible with mandatory supportive follow-up.

It should be understood that such a treatment approach would need to be refined through outcome analyses and further revisions, to the point that it reflects our best efforts to protect the rights of all citizens concerned, including the patient under treatment.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 1/13/11

P.S. You will note that I have omitted the paranoid psychotic murderer’s name. I did so because that person did not do the killing. Rather, it was a dangerous mental disease (paranoid schizophrenia) that America allowed to wander freely amongst its citizens that did the killing.

To those who ask: What about individual freedom? I will ask: What about the individual freedoms of those students and the professor terrified in the classroom? What about the freedoms of the professionals who were called to help, but who were restricted from providing help? What about the individual freedoms of those killed and injured by a paranoid schizophrenic’s murderous attack? What about the individual freedoms of all of the victims?

The list of victims includes the paranoid schizophrenic who did the shooting, those who were killed and injured, and all of their friends and relatives and the rest of us who have been traumatized by this and similar tragedies.

Some say that this suffering is “the cost of freedom”. I say it is the cost of our own cultural design mistake, and a loss of freedom which must now be repaired.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Revise Civil Committment Laws!

Revise Civil Committment Laws!

It is true, as I taught for 36 years as a professor of psychology, that people with mental illnesses are generally no more dangerous than people without them. However, there are some exceptions. Those who are depressed are prone to suicide. Those who suffer from Bi-Polar disorder can be prone to suicide while depressed, or other dangerous behaviors when in high manic phases.

But, in instances of bizarre and senseless violence, such as the recent case of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the others who were gunned down with her, a severe mental illness (probably Paranoid Schizophrenia) was the cause. A particularly dangerous form of mental illness was allowed to wander free among us, and it was this (or another psychotic mental illness) that repeatedly pulled the trigger on our innocent and precious citizens.

Paranoid Schizophrenia is a specific and sometimes dangerous form of mental illness, especially when delusions of persecution are prominent. This should make sense to anyone. Delusions of persecution are false beliefs, often bizarre in nature, that others are “out to get me”, ”spying on me”, “taking my property”, or “trying to harm or kill me”. Of course, many normally functioning people would become very angry and tempted to “defend” themselves by attacking the “perpetrators” if they really believed that someone, or some people (perhaps the government, the next door neighbor, etc.), were trying to harm them or destroy their lives. People with this psychotic mind-set can be very dangerous and no amount of security will protect the innocent from their unpredictable psychotic behavior.

The deinstitutionalization movement culminated in 1963 when the Federal Government ordered that mental patients be freed from mental hospitals and be treated in their communities. Congress passed the Community Mental Health Act which provided funding for the construction of community-based facilities to treat mental patients on an outpatient basis. All of this happened shortly after the discovery of antipsychotic medications. In 1955 there were around 600,000 mental patients in state institutions. By the year 2001, there were only about 60,000 in state institutions. Where did the rest of the 500,400 mental patients go? These individuals with severe mental problems went back to living among us.

Following 1963, if hospitalization was necessary, patients were to be admitted on a short-term basis, medicated, stabilized and then released. This led to a “revolving door policy”, in which patients frequently were admitted, medicated, stabilized, and released, but, many then stopped taking their medication, again became actively psychotic and were rehospitalized.

Also, in the name of civil rights and humane treatment, the criteria for “civil committment” (committment to mental hospitals against one’s will) were narrowed to the point that only those who were a clear danger to themselves or the public, could be committed without their permission. This meant that even those who were actively hallucinating, ranting and raving, homeless, filthy, or in some cases starving could not be hospitalized against their will. In my view, these criteria are far too restrictive and great suffering among the mentally ill, as well as the rest of us, continues as a result.

Once again an over-reaction in the name of personal freedom and humane treatment has gone too far, predictably resulting in social chaos and tragedy, with a net loss of personal freedoms for all. Once again, I judge the true governmental motivation for a provision of more “personal freedom” ( in this case for mental patients) was largely revenue savings.

It is true that those patients who seek help at Community Mental Health Centers tend to benefit. But on a yearly basis, 40 to 60 percent of all people suffering from schizophrenia “and other severe mental disorders receive no treatment at all”. While poor coordination or shortage of services are frequently named as the cause for this shortfall, no one is willing to face the other obvious fact. Giving an active psychotic the right to refuse treatment is an absurdly self-destructive big part of our problem!

While institutions may become more effective in their treatment, there is no happy feel-good remedy for psychotics who are unable to make rational decisions in their own best interests, who do not seek treatment, or who refuse treatment when it is offered.

New Laws with more nuanced civil commitment capabilities, intensive medication and psychological treatment strategies, and mandatory close follow-up with recommittment capabilities are essential.

Wake-up America! Advocate for a Revision of our Civil Committment Rules!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 1/9/11

P.S. (I) The history and statistics of the Community Mental Health Movement and its failings is based upon the college textbook Abnormal psychology, by Ronald J. Comer.

P.S. (II) Schizophrenia is a life-long mental disease with strong heritability. There is not cure for schizophrenia, though medication can imperfectly help to control its most bizarre symptoms. Since deinstitutionalization, the reproductive rates of people with schizophrenia have naturally risen and is thought to now approximate that of the normal population. The implications for the growth of the genetic basis or schizophrenic spectrum problems in our population should be clear. But, this is a topic for another time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

For All Of Our Years

For All Of Our Years

It is six days past the start of the New Year. But, some dear friends sent me an inspirational and heart-warming video wish for the New Year and I must share it with you.

You will be happy that you took the time to view it.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom