Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Depression: An Equal Opportunity Destroyer

Depression: An Equal Opportunity Destroyer

October 31, 2011 by vtmawhinney
Depression: An Equal Opportunity: How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Depression
V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., Indiana University Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Behavioral Psychological Family Services

Why ProfessionalEvaluation and Treatment is Essential
There are many reasons why people suffering from depression need a professional evaluation and treatment. As we will discuss, the depressed person will be incapacitated in ways that impair their ability to maintain social, love, family, and vocational
relationships. It can also destroy their health. What is less obvious, however, is that depression is highly contagious. It negatively affects others who are in contact with the depressed person in many complex ways.

From a Pavlovian perspective, the damaging symptoms of depression are repeatedly associated with the depressed person’s image, voice, mannerisms and other actions. Depression is aversive (unpleasant) to others associated with the depressed person. So, over time, the presence of the depressed person causes negative feelings in those exposed to him or her; toward him or her…even if the depressed person is trying to change their ways. This is a big and dangerous disadvantage to try to overcome without help.

Depression can cause people to be intensely drawn to things that make them feel better. These are often the behaviors that lead to intense feelings (drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, sexual and vicarious activities such as sports and pornography). Depression normally kills sexual desire for one’s partner. With major depression the sex drive is often one of the first things to go and it is one of the last to come back, but with proper treatment it can come back.

Depression affects family members because, while the depressed person is coping with depression and doing things that make them feel better, they often spend less and less time giving loving and caring support and involvement to their families. This not only affects the spouse, but the children feel it too, and they can all reflect this influence in bad ways. Spouses move away emotionally and children begin to do whatever it takes to gain the attention and support that they need from their unavailable and/or depressed parents. Often times children fail to gain attention using positive methods, so they begin to misbehave. Bad behavior in children usually will cause the depressed parent to “come out of their shell” with anger and punishment, often lashing out, out-of-proportion to the problem. Children would rather be abused than ignored, so they behave badly more and the depressed parent abuses more and this becomes a vicious destructive downward cycle (declining grades, dropping-out of school and sports, drugs, delinquent behavior, and alienation from parents). Many of these problems relate to operant conditioning. For example, depressed parents may spend a lot of time criticizing and yelling at their children’s bad behavior. They often think they are “punishing” the behavior when they are actually positively reinforcing it. In this way, parents often teach their children to do the bad behaviors they wish to diminish.

Parents are strong models for children to imitate. All of the depressed symptoms that a parent shows are in great danger of being imitated by them (anger, withdrawal, addictions, excitement craving, etc.)

The problems that are worsened in children as a result of parental depression then increase the level of stress on the marriage in the form of further arguments about child related problems. If the depressed person overreacts in discipline it is common for the other parent to become a protector rather than a partner in sensible discipline strategies. This resultsin more arguing/fighting between the parents. The children often then learn that when there is fighting between theparents, they are in charge and not the parents. It can become an unconscious, or a conscious, strategy that children can over-learn as a way to divide and neutralize parental authority and gain their own forms immature and destructive control in these situations. Kids are not evil. Even normal, formerly well-behaved children, can quickly learn to exploit the weaknesses cause by parental depression. All of this further poisons the marriage.

If untreated, this very complicated depression contagion can destroy relationships. Sadly, and
mistakenly, the people involved simply think they have “fallen out of love” with each other. Most often, they did not fall out of love! Depression destroyed the feelings of love that they once had for each other. It is a tragedy that, for some, this relationship damage can get to the point-of-no-return pretty quickly.

With the rapid detection of depression and effective treatment, the destruction of families can be avoided.
With hard work and dedication, even badly damaged families can recover.

Depression can destroy health

The corticosteroids associated with chronic stress (relationships, work or the lack of work, financial problems and the economy, etc.) eat up norepinephrine and serotonin which, when low, appear to lead to symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, corticosteroids, when present in increased amounts for long periods of time then also weaken the immune system. This lays the depressed individual open to nagging sickness and perhaps even the bigger health problems (heart disease and cancer, etc.). Also, the many bad feelings and bad social and vocational outcomes associated with depression can lead to suicidal thinking and actions. Depression which derives from chronic stress and resulting chemistry changes in one’s body qualifies as a disease. It is a host of fundamental biological changes that destroy the health and/or welfare of the person who has it, and through social interaction, these damaging influences are passed on to those around them. For this reason it is appropriate to call depression contagious, whether it is a learned behavior pattern or a biochemical disease.

Fortunately, Depression is a Very Treatable Disease.
The facts are that there are several things that people can do to help themselves with mild to moderate depression (exercise, eating right, reducing stress, avoiding drugs and alcohol, relaxation/meditation, and thinking positive, etc), but with major depression medication is a very important ingredient to success. Try as they may most people in a deep clinical depression simply cannot pull themselves out of it. They may come-out of it naturally after an extended
time, but by then they often have done great damage to their family, friends, and vocations because of their failure to attack and manage their depression. No matter how strong the depressed person is, their spouse, children and others may not be able to “ride out the storm”.

For those who will make war on their depression and attack it with all of their might, and with medical technology if necessary, there is reason to hope for a good outcome.

There are several kinds of depression but they have many symptoms in common. It is very important that you learn to recognize what depression looks like in yourself and others and to understand how it feels to be depressed. The benefits of this knowledge to you and your loved ones will be many:

You can identify basic early warning signs in yourself and loved ones and catch depression before it damages
precious relationships.

You can be more understanding and supportive of those who suffer from depression.
You will know the reasons why it is important to get professional assistance early when depression

You will know some of the things to say to help people overcome their reluctance to get professional help for
their depression.

You may be able to prevent educational failure, job loss, or the destruction of a marriage or other loving
relationships caused by depression.

You may be able to prevent the problems of drug or alcohol abuse (or other addictions) that are often
associated with depression.

You may be able to prevent the child and adolescent problems associated with parental depression such as
oppositional/ defiant behavior, school under-achievement and discipline problems, dropping out, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual acting out, juvenile delinquency, child/adolescent depression, and suicidal thinking or actions.

You may be able to prevent a suicide and the damage that it can cause within families, through

Depression is highly contagious. You may be able to prevent the spread of the negative effects of
your depression to family members and other loved ones.

Sooner or later, you will need this information for yourself, a loved one or a friend. This knowledge is an essential tool for success in modern life.

It is a fact that around the world, in all developing societies, depression and anxiety disorders are increasing in rate of occurrence. Researchers speculate that causes may be increasing population density, mobility, the complex demands of living with technology, the splitting up of families, and more. Whatever the factors are, increasing rates of depression in our lives is a fact of life and to know its signs and what to do about it is a modern-life survival tool that we all need to have.

The Symptoms of Depression in Adults

There are many symptoms of depression and an individual may not show all of the symptoms at any one time. Furthermore, the symptoms among adults can be different from those of adolescents. To complicate things further, the symptoms of adolescents can differ from those of younger children.
It is important to understand that while the symptoms that follow may indicate depression, other physical and psychological disorders can produce some of these symptoms. Therefore, when any of the following symptoms occur with a significant duration or magnitude to cause problems in coping and living, it is essential to obtain a medical examination. If there are no medical problems, or if medical problems are treated but the symptoms of depression persist, I recommend that a Ph.D. level psychologist skilled in Behavior Therapy be consulted for an assessment and possible treatment.  Significantly diminished energy, low motivation. feeling weak and tired
  • Changed sleep patterns: trouble going to sleep, frequent awakening, waking-up in the early morning hours
  • Poor memory, concentration problems
  • Slow, fuzzy or confused thinking
  • Compulsive over-eating with significant weight gain or loss of appetite and significant weight loss
  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness
  • Loss of ability to feel pleasure
  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Defensive, peevish, irritable, argumentative
  • Increased temper displays, emotional blow-ups or outbursts
  • Increased anxiety
  • Excessive worry
  • Feelings of guilt, feelings of worthlessness
  • Blaming othersIncreased physical ills (Ill feelings, head aches, back aches, other pains or physical problems)
  • Loss of patience
  • Hopelessness
  • Tearfulness
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide plans or attempts
  • Marital problems
The bright side!

Depression is one of the most common and easily treated problems. It normally takes several weeks to feel the good effects. Sometimes people begin to feel better right away. This can occur when the depressed person defines their problem clearly, develops a plan to attack it, and then enacts the plan. When the good effects come they normally are:
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Better memory and concentration
  • Clearer thinking
  • Reduction in over-eating (if that is the problem) or an increase in appetite if that is the problem.
  • More smiles and laughter
  • Less temper displays- fewer blow-ups or outbursts
  • Less anxiety
  • More confidence, relief from feelings of worthlessness
  • Fewer feelings of guilt
  • Less blaming others
  • Fewer bodily ills (head
    aches, other pains)
  • Greater patience
  • Less petty bickering, less blaming others
  • Thoughts of suicide diminish, or disappear (if they were there)
  • More comfortable with self-inspection and self-correction
  • If marriage counseling is needed to recover from the effects of one or two parents in a family becoming depressed, medication normally significantly increases the probability of success.
  • More feelings of affection and understanding towards others
Close to 70% of those who take medication report significant improvement in their symptoms. For those that do not, a different medication (there are many) will normally be helpful.
Individuals usually benefit from 6 mo. to one-year of medication assistance, after which (if they are fortunate) they may never need the medication again. A small percent of depressed individuals may need to be on medication for the rest of
their lives.

When Medication Is Needed, It Should Be Combined With Therapy
Medication alone can be helpful. But, medication plus counseling by a good therapist
increases the odds of a good outcome even more substantially
Counseling in the form of Cognitive Therapy is very effective. It is focused upon how to behave and think in ways that diminish depression, how to repair damages cause by depression, how to avoid future depressions, how to see them coming, and how to respond correctly if and
when depression ever threatens again.

Get help with your depression or that of your loved ones.

For Those With Depression, There Are Good Reasons To Hope That The Best Is Yet To Come!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Narcissism Epidemic in America?

A Narcissism Epidemic in America?

A friend recently loaned me the book “The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement”, By Jean M Twenge, Ph.D. and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D. This 2009 book was published by the Free Press, New York, NY.

As a practicing psychologist, I was interested in this book, the title of which fits with my experience as an observer of American Culture and as a behavior therapist. I know, all too intimately, the havoc wreaked in society and its families by the human behavior patterns called Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

I also recall my last fifteen years as a professor dealing with the deteriorating quality of student academic performance and behavior. Increasingly, I felt like I was teaching high school classes. Discipline problems in the form of students flirting and talking with each other; disruptive late arrivals and early departures; cell phone shenanigans; students not studying and then being sullen or angry about poor grades. It became necessary to develop a course point bonus and loss system in order to manage my larger classes. With rare exception, smaller and more advanced classes remained a joy to teach. I truly miss the challenge and excitement of these advanced classes. I am delighted to no longer have to deal with the increasing proportions of the disrespectful, self-centered, irresponsible narcissistic-like ”riff-raff” in my larger service classes.

It is critical to understand the definition Narcissism. If you think that what follows is an “academic” exercise, you are wrong. You really need to be able to identify these behaviors patterns. If you are unlucky enough to get involved with a narcissistic personality disordered individual in business or your personal life, you will suffer in ways that most non-professionals are unable to imagine. When it comes to human relationships: Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware).

There is no better source for the definition than the following:

Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need
for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in
a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g.,
exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior
without commensurate achievements)

(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be
understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or

(4) requires excessive admiration

(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable
expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his
or her expectations

(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage
of others to achieve his or her own ends

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify
with the feelings and needs of others

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are
envious of him or her

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth Edition. Copyright 1994, American Psychiatric Association.

The book, Narcissism Epidemic, provides credible research evidence that narcissistic personality patterns have increased within America’s population at an accelerating rate.

From my own perspective, this book provides a ton of anecdotal evidence in its attempt to illustrate the rise of narcissism in America. If this was the only support for their argument, its believability would suffer. However, the authors also provide a sufficient amount of research evidence to make their case and the abundance of anecdotes simply underscore the validity of their own and other’s research findings.

However, I have one area of respectful disagreement with authors Twenge and Campbell. They explain that insecurity, low-self-esteem, or a “deep-seated sense of shame”, as a cause for what has traditionally been called narcissistic Personality Disorder is wrong. Instead, they argue that such behavior patterns are taught through over-indulgent, worshipful, and effusively non-contingently praising parenting styles. In my professional experience, both of these general avenues can lead to the formation of narcissistic behavior patterns. I have seen strong narcissism in too many neglected, abandoned and abused individuals to reject these experiences as contributing causes.

The following is a very good summary of the main points of the book, “The Narcissism Epidemic”.

Please take the time to learn about this reflection of, and contribution to, America’s decline. Learn what the contributing factors appear to be and then, behave accordingly!


Dr. Tom

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day 1911: God Bless The USA!

Independence Day 1911: God Bless The USA!

I admit that I am a patriot. And I remember the dawning days of political correctness when it first caused me emotional discomfort to make that statement. As I now watch those forces that first made it difficult for me to confess my patriotism destroy my culture I will no longer be silent.

It is now a matter of the survival of our way of life. Our liberty is in its greatest peril since WWII. The forces of our defeat and decline are gathering strength within our own borders, within our own government, and from many Radical Islamic enclaves around the world. It is now us, or it is them who will be defeated; and we had better damn-well make sure that it is them!

I hope you will view this 4th of July as a time to rise up and arm yourselves with the most powerful weapon at your disposal: Your vote. Attack the forces of our undoing with your vote!

Vote for traditional Judeo/Christian and other compatible religious values. Vote-out the lying,cheating, reprobate politicians. Vote for term limits to help protect against future waves of corruption. Do it in 2012, it is likely to be your last chance.

Now see and enjoy these two powerful patriotic videos. The forces of our undoing have been using bad propaganda to damage us since the 1960′s. Lets enjoy some good propaganda as we strengthen ourselves for the political fight of our lives!

“God Bless The USA”, a moving musical tribute.


Astonishing 9 year-old sings our National Anthem


Dr. Tom,    July 4, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father’s Day: But Don’t Forget!
Happy Father’s Day: But don’t forget your wonderful ladies. We couldn’t have done it without them!
God’s Blessings to America’s loving and dedicated fathers.

Dr. Tom

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day: USA

Memorial Day: USA

My friend, John R. Hundley III, sent me the following letter about this Nation’s yearly Memorial Day. I found his family tradition and the sad story of his younger sister’s fallen son-at-arms to be highly compelling. It is also a very inspirational story at many levels.
I hope you will appreciate this true story and also, please do not fail to watch the video at the end.
V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 5/27/11

P.S. I cannot correct the spacing problems in the first paragraph. This is a problem with Word Press, or maybe my lack of skill with this medium, not the original letter.
The following is the letter and the video.

Tom: I read your latest e-mail message about the upcoming Memorial Day with
interest. My younger sister, Nancy Hecker, edited and published a book
entitled, “Lost Hero’s Art Quilt”, to accompany this work of art. Her son,
Major William F. Hecker III, was killed in action in Iraq by a road side bomb in
January 5, 2006. He is one of the fifty fallen soldiers depicted in the Lost
Hero’s Art Quilt – one from each state. Over the past two years, the Lost Hero’s
Art Quilt has been displayed in a number of state capitols throughout the United
States. My sister said that involvement in this project has provided healing
and comfort to many of those involved.

My nephew, Major William F. Hecker, III, was a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He later received a graduate degree in English and taught English composition at West Point for three years before being assigned to Iraq. Before leaving for Iraq, he wrote a book on the military’s influence on Edgar Allen Poe and was on his way toward a goal of becoming a permanent member of the West Point faculty.
He left behind a widow and four children. In accordance with his last wishes,
he is buried at West Point.

My brother-in-law, William F. Hecker, Jr. is also a West Point graduate. His second son, Marine Captain John Hecker, is currently one of the Blue Angels. My nephew’s cousin, Adam Hecker, producted a video about the Lost Hero’s Art Quilt which can be found on YouTube:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memorial Day/ Holy Day

Memorial Day/ Holy Day
I am a veteran, but I have failed to do something that is very important.
On Memorial Day I often have failed to meditated upon the true meaning of that sacred and solemn occasion. I intend to do so this coming weekend–and will try to do so on the number of Memorial Days that I have left. I hope you will too.
But also, let’s have a great Holiday (Holy Day) weekend! So many of our fellow Americans have been maimed, or have perished, so that we can safely and happily enjoy our leisure times and our many freedoms.
Sadly, gratefully, and happily,
Tom Mawhinney, 5/25/11
P.S. Thanks Debby and Tom for forwarding this to me.

Keep it
moving, please,
even if you’ve seen it before.

It is

not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of
It is
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom
of the press.
It is
not the poet,
who has
given us freedom of speech.

It is
not the campus organizer,
who has given us
freedom to assemble.

It is
not the lawyer,
who has given us the
right to a fair trial.

It is
not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the

salutes the Flag,

It is
who serves
under the Flag,



I’d be
EXTREMELY proud if this e-mail
reached as many as possible. We can be very
proud of our young men and women in the service no matter where they serve.


Bless them all!!!


Friday, April 29, 2011

Primacy To Virtue!

Primacy To Virtue!

I could not agree more.

What about you?

Dr. Tom, 4/29/11

“The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.” –Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788

Provided by Founder's Quote Daily

Sunday, April 24, 2011

God’s Blessings To You on Easter: 2011

God’s Blessings To You on Easter: 2011

Watch this for a spiritual lift on Easter.

The power and the glory is simply stunning.

Dr. Tom,  4/24/11


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Letting Go of Upsetting Thoughts and Memories

Teaching Your Brain To “Let-Go” of Upsetting Thoughts and Memories: YOU CAN DO IT!

How can you teach your brain to let-go of upsetting thoughts and memories? You can do it through repeatedly practicing a simple meditation exercise. I will tell you about this method later in this document.

But first, it is important to understand how your emotional memory system works and why the meditation method can help you.

Modern neuroscience suggests that our brain has a bias toward remembering negative things and remaining alert, constantly scanning our surroundings for more (different or similar) negative things to come. This basic tendency is one of the causes of our anxiety, depression and angry or fearful behavior.

Our brains evolved in a dangerous and hostile environment and therefore it is likely to be “Velcro for threatening events” and “Teflon for positive events”. In other words, negative events stick and positive ones are more likely to be overlooked.

Our brains’ limbic system has recorded our emotional events, even during the first months of life. The limbic system (more specifically the amygdala within the limbic system) acts as the watch-dog, smoke detector, panic button, and alarm system, for our brain. It constantly scans our environment for more such emotion-packed events. It is also the main location of rage, anger and fear responses.

We can recall very few memories earlier than our first three years of our life. However, a great number of memories exist in the form of neurological circuits that were associated with the many stimuli that we have encountered in association with emotion evoking events. The lack of memory previous to three years of age is called infantile amnesia, but the non-verbal emotional memories of these many events are still with us all and they still influence our current emotions, perceptions and behaviors.

The neurological circuits laid down throughout our lives are “fired-up” when we perceive mental or external stimuli similar to those associated with the original events and emotions. These physiological reactions stimulate our autonomic nervous system and our endocrine system. This results in strong emotional impulses (fight, freeze or runaway). These emotions and impulses are also communicated to our higher brain centers (the neo-cortex and pre-frontal cortex). These thinking portions of our brain then interpret these bodily changes and they direct our interpretations of what is happening and how we behave under the circumstances. The frontal cortex reads these emotional impulses and our resulting felt physiological changes and attempts to understand and cope with them.

Many of our most disturbing memories come from traumas occurring early in our lives and we may not have clear memories of them (infantile amnesia). These are called implicit memories because, even though they are firing within our brain we cannot consciously remember them (they are unconscious). Worse yet, we actually don’t know that we are having a memory! We simply experience the emotions associated with the original traumatic events that we experienced in our past. To make matters worse, these experiences are often not associated with identifiable external or internal stimuli; they may be triggered random thoughts. We then have the feeling that we are losing control of our mental processes and our emotions and this feeling alone can be very upsetting for most people.

“Neurons that fire together are wired together” (D.O. Hebb). A traumatic event creates a neurological circuit that represents that event in our brain, as a memory. Any external or internal stimulus that is similar to that older memory can cause those neurological-circuits to fire and you will remember stimuli and/or feelings and emotions associated with that event (explicit memory), or you will experience only the emotions associated with the event and not even know that you are having a memory (implicit memory).

The brain is an association machine and it is an anticipation machine. It anticipates painful or distressing stimuli of the past, and it scans the environment for these events , or similar stimuli, and it expects them to reoccur. The brain then identifies anything similar (even remotely similar) and further reinforces the original memory and associated emotions. This is why the brain is also called a recursive system.

Both explicit and implicit memories can cause anxiety, Fight or Flight autonomic nervous system arousal, as well as the release of stress hormones in our body. Both explicit and implicit memories can also cause us to feel anxious, paranoid, depressed and/or angry. These memories can also take the form of scripts (like lines and actions to be performed in a play) that we may feel compelled to reenact or undo is some way. These scripts can involve seeking to isolate ourselves, thinking bad thoughts about ourselves, consuming inebriates, escaping through play and fantasy, or attacking others (or ourselves), verbally or physically.

When emotions “steal” or “hijack” the thinking part of our brain, these are some of the irrational ways our “automatic pilot can cause us to go into a tail-spin and crash,” so to speak. If we allow your emotions to climb too high, our thinking brain goes “off-line” and we are functionally “brain impaired”. Then, any of the previously mentioned self-defeating reactions, and more, are more likely to occur. Sadly, these actions are normally damaging to your goals and aspirations. For example, when we lose the ability to be rational because we allow our emotions to paralyze the thinking part of our brain we are prone to attack others with sarcasm, contempt, personal criticism and shaming. Such irrational, unthinking-“brainless” attacks can even become violent. When we attack others in these ways something very bad will happen almost 100% of the time. It is common for marriages and other precious relationships to be destroyed in this way.

The problem to be solved is that once our stressful explicit or implicit memories are fired-up in our Limbic system (with autonomic nervous system and endocrine system activation), the thinking and coping sections of our brain are short-circuited, switched off, or Hijacked. We then automatically act in irrational and self-defeating ways by panicking, freezing, physically attacking, raging, verbally attacking, running away, eating, drinking, spending, gambling, or sexually acting-out, etc.).

Learning To Let-Go: Developing A Psychological Immunity To Upsetting Memories

Mindfulness is a practice and strategy for achieving moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness and calmness. It involves taking a calm second look” at our first impulses, thoughts, or reactions and then dismissing them and relaxing.

By learning to meditate, and focus upon our stream of consciousness, we are learning to manage memories that threaten to emotionally hijack our thinking, analyzing, coping, and self-controlling brain. When we avoid doing such exercises, our traumatic memories can “incubate”, or grow in their power to upset us. Totally avoiding previously upsetting memories is a natural thing to do because in the short-run we are more comfortable. But in the long-run, these memories persist in intruding and upsetting our comfort. Dealing with upsetting memories through meditation is a natural and powerful way to inoculate your mind against upsetting intrusions.

The Meditation Exercise

• Find a comfortable position

• If you are sitting, place your feet flat on the floor

• Place one hand over your heart (both hands, if you like)

• Take a deep breath and hold for a few seconds

• Resume breathing in a relaxed and calm way. Be sure to breath through your nostrils if you can (slightly pursed lips, if you must). Do not pant or short breath. Nicely satisfy your brain with oxygen.

• Try to breath low with your stomach rather than by expanding your chest

• Notice the cool-dry sensation around your nostrils/lips as you breath in

• Notice the warm-moist sensation as you breath out

• Repeat at every few seconds a calming and relaxing word. Select one that you like and one that works for you (be calm, relax, let go, etc.)

• Focus your mind’s eye upon your muscles and will them to relax. Move from the top of your head to neck, shoulders, back, chest, arms, hands stomach, hips, buttocks, legs and feet.

• Notice an increasingly relaxed feeling throughout your body

• Concentrate and focus your mind upon these things only

In spite or your best efforts, during meditation, thoughts will come and go. This is normal and you will not be able to stop this from happening. Do not be frustrated with yourself. This is normal, so be very kind and accepting of the way your mind works.

The task to practice is focusing upon your calm and relaxed breathing, calm and relaxed body muscles, and also upon calming self-statements. As new thoughts intrude, your job is to notice them, objectively and calmly consider them for a few seconds, and then dismiss the thought and return to your meditation upon your breathing, muscle relaxation and calming self-statements.

Do this exercise repeatedly for whatever time that you can (five, ten, or perhaps fifteen minutes) at a session. The more you practice this letting-go exercise, the better at it you will become and the more mental/emotional relief you will feel.

The Core Skills Of Mindfulness: In A Nutshell

1. Clarifying, Setting and Reaffirming Intention

    Practice your intention to control thoughts and maintain calmness

2. Cultivating a Witnessing Awareness

   Developing an awareness of the state of your awareness (metacognition)

   Witnessing your inner mental-emotional landscape without autopilot reactions

3. Stabilizing Attention (harmony of intention and attention)

    Strengthening your ability to hold your mental focus

    I.e., “This is what I want to remember this moment”

4. Strengthening Self-Regulation

    Settling and calming negative emotions intentionally

    Shortening the time that difficult emotions keep you “hooked”

    Avoiding, or recovering from, emotional hijackings

    Bringing your whole brain back on line

5. Practicing Loving Kindness

   Calming the inner critic and negative self-judgments

   Practicing non-judgmental awareness leading to kindness and compassion for

   yourself and for others

“Do, Do, Do; Don’t Stew, Stew, Stew” (Albert Ellis)

To recap, both emotionally loaded explicit and implicit memories can cause anxiety through Fight or Flight autonomic nervous system arousal, as well as the release of stress hormones in our body. Both explicit and implicit memories can also cause us to feel anxious, paranoid, depressed and/or angry. These memories can also take the form of scripts (like in a play) that we may feel compelled to reenact or undo is some way.

Practicing meditation using the principles of mindfulness can help to gain control of your thoughts and memories of upsetting events and the ways they influence how you feel and act in the present and future. It is critically important that you practice the meditation methods taught you in therapy sessions and/or the guidelines listed above, daily for five to fifteen minutes per session. Do this several times each day. Through practice, you can gain a significant measure of psychological immunity from your irrational emotions, perceptions and behaviors.

Learning this skill is like learning any other skill (golf, tennis, playing an instrument, or using a computer, etc.), the more you practice the more skilled you will become at managing your emotions. Be gentle and kind to yourself, practice does not make perfect, it simply makes you more skilled. It is good to practice multiple times a day. The more you practice, the more skilled you will become.

“Do Your Work and You Shall Reinforce Yourself” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Materials That You Can Study To Improve Your Emotional Self-Control

The following web site is a good source for audio CD’s and books that relate to meditation and mood/emotional self-control.


*The contents of this document have been heavily influenced by the work-shop teachings of Terry Fralich, LCPC*

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., HSPP 20090171A

President, Behavioral Psychological Family Services


Friday, March 11, 2011

Teens Having Less Sex?

Teens Having Less Sex?

I doubt that very much. Compared to when?

Tell that to the greying graduated highschool classes of 1960!

Whether teen sex has gone up or down a few percentage points over the past few decades does not obscure the fact that our socioculture is in deep trouble because of our pornographic, soft-pornographic, and sexually suggestive portrayals that exist in almost all venues attractive to children and teens.

Has our educated public ever heard of Social Learning Theory: The research on human Modeling and Imitation?! They certainly have, but have chosen to ignore the findings that children, and adults imitate those with power, celebrity, attractiveness, and those that most resemble themselves. Watch the media models that your children are watching and don’t be blinded by the changing norms of our so called “Post Modern Age”.

You will see just one of many examples of technology, fame and fortune trumping “old-fashioned” Judeo/Christian ethics. The costs in damaged lives is incalculable and just one of many of our own self-managment problems that is bringing America down.

A recent government study showed that fewer teens and young adults are having sex (discussed in the South Bend Tribune on March 4, 2011). Do you trust a government study, or a government report of any kind any more?

The study was based upon interviews with approximately 5,300 young people (15 yrs. to 25 yrs.). Do you wonder if 15 yr olds are likely to tell the truth about such matters in an interview? Do you think that sex between 15 year olds might be a greater concern that sex between 25 yr olds?

The study reported that those who said they never had oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse rose in the past decade from 22% to 28%. Do you wonder what the other 82% said? Again, can you imagine what a similar group would have said 50 years ago?

The article went on to say “The findings are sure to surprise some parents who see skin and lust in the media and worry that sex is rampant”. Well, Moms and Dads (Grandparents too) there is no reason for you to worry. The Government (that legalized Pornography [Miller v. California, 1973] and taxes its revenues, as well as condoms, birth control pills, and other sex problem related services) says that our bad sexual behavior is getting better.

Read more on this important topic by clicking on the following URL.


Also, for an in-depth analysis of the evolution of this problem, read my publication on Sexual Maladaption Contagion in Behavior and Social Issues, Volume 8, No. 2, Fall 1998.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 3/11/11

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Virtue is Own Reward?

Virtue is Own Reward?

Virtue really can be its own reward, as it is trite to say. But for this to happen would require that virtuous behavior be repeatedly, and in many ways, reinforced by a surrounding social group. With such a history, the individual’s own actions, that the social group calls virtuous, can become learned generalized reinforcers to the behaving individual. Under these conditions the behavior of the individual actually does become self-reinforcing (its own reward). However other good outcomes caused by this behavior are likely to be delayed and unknown to the virtuous individual. This is the main reason that it is important to identify good and effective moral codes and to powerfully teach their behaviors within all sociocultures that wish to survive.

George Washington knew this and so should we all.

There exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness … we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” –George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789

End of quote.

Dr. Tom

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB)

Love, Honor, and Obey

Love, Honor, and Obey Your God or Your Benevolent Source of Faith

Love, Honor and Take Care of Your Parents, Family, Spouse and Children

Treat Others The Way You Want Them To Treat You

Be Kind To Living Things

Treat The Environment With Care, Respect, and Conservation

Obey The Just and Moral Laws of Your Society That Conform To The UCMB

Be Kind To Strangers

Be Generous

Be Honest and Fair

Help Those Who Cannot Help Themselves

Learn, Love and Live In Accordance With The Scientific Laws of

The Physical and Behavioral World

Do Not Harm Others

Do Not Do Harmful Things To Others

Do Not Use Violence Except In Dire and Unavoidable Defense of The Innocent, Helpless, or Yourself and Loved Ones

Do Not Kill Humans Except In Dire and Unavoidable Defense of The Innocent Others, Yourself and Loved Ones

Do Not Kill Animals Except Only As Necessary For Food and Survival

Do Not Steal

Do Not Lie

Do Not Cheat

Do Not Steal The Love of Another Person’s Spouse or Mate

Do Not Harm Yourself

Do Not Damage Yourself or Your Family Through Inebriation With Drugs or other Harmful Substances

Do Not Damage Yourself and Your Family By Betting or Wagering In Games of Chance

Do Not Be Sexually Promiscuous or Trade Sexuality For Material Gain

Do Not Be Jealous of The Material Possessions of Others

Do Not Seek Vengeance: Learn To Forgive While Protecting Yourself and Your Family From The Harm That Others Can Do To You and Them

Do Not Commit Suicide or Purposefully Do Harm To Yourself Physically or Emotionally

Never Harm The Children

Do Not Create A Human Life That You Are Unable To Sustain By Providing ForTheir Physical, Psychological, and Spiritual Needs

Do Not Abuse (Physically or Verbally), Neglect, or Abandon Your Children. If You Are Unable To Care For Them, Provide For Loving and Competent Others Who Can

Do Not Procreate Outside Of Marriage or A Relationship Committed To Raising Your Children To Adulthood

Do Not Divorce or Abandon Your Family With Dependent Children Except For Chronic Infidelity, Violence, or Drug/Alcohol Abuse or Addiction.

Dr. Tom.


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