When Multi-tasking Becomes Supertasking

Multi-tasking has become the subject of research of late.

There is an especially endowed breed of creature lurking among us, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Study digs into the minds of master multi-taskers.

While David Strayer measured how using a cell phone degrades people’s ability to drive safely, the University of Utah cognitive scientist occasionally tested a research subject who defied expectations. About one in 40 of his participants showed no impairment as he or she piloted a vehicle through simulated traffic, while the vast majority demonstrated a handicap on par with a blood-alcohol level at the legal limit.

If you have not heard the term ‘supertaskers’ before, well, now you have.

In findings accepted for publication in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, the two psychology professors describe “supertaskers,” the 2.5 percent of the population who challenge conventional cognitive theory that the human brain can focus well on just one task at a time.

97.5 % of the population are not particularly adept and adroit at multi-tasking.

These subjects, the rare ones able to drive well while engrossed in a phone conversation, were exposed to simultaneous series of audio and visual signals. The scientists measured their ability to memorize these competing streams. Watson and Strayer found their subjects handily outperformed the control groups.

“Our results suggest that there are supertaskers in our midst: rare but intriguing individuals with extraordinary multitasking ability,” the study reports. “Ultimately, we believe that supertaskers can be leveraged to provide theoretical insight into why cognition does (or doesn’t) break down for other dual-task combinations beyond just cell phones and driving.”

I think maybe somebody has been reading a few too many comic books.

I worry about this kind of focus. ‘Supertasking’ people must be better people, of course, and they should be ruling us. If we worked at it, we could increase the breeding opportunities for such ‘supertaskers’ while restricting the breeding opportunities of ordinary multi-taskers and single-taskers. Close your eyes, the music intones, and you can just imagine ‘the greatness’ of the future.

On Not Battling Windmills

I wouldn’t soil my hands by getting overly involved in any battle against the stigma of ‘mental illness’. Why?

1. The aim of mental health treatment should be the restoration of mental health, and I haven’t yet heard that there was any stigma associated with mental health.
2. The idea of stigma is a reinforcement of the biological medical model of psychiatry to which I don’t happen to subscribe.
3. It is my view that chronicity is acquired, and that it doesn’t have to apply to what are commonly referred to as ‘mental disorders’.

Negative outcomes are easy to come by if you want them. I just wonder. Why would you want them?

I tend to see what we call ‘mental illness’ as a failure track. Mental health, on the other hand, is a success track. If a person is on the track that leads to failure, why would that person not want to change to the track that leads to success?

Although success and failure are, of course, relative matters, the question has to be asked, which description is the most pervasive?

This makes treatment a matter of working on two aspects of the problem, the social realm and the personal realm. Social and personal successes do not need to be, by any means, synonymous.

No individual was ever ‘mentally ill’ so much as groups of individuals display harmful ways of interacting with other groups of individuals, and some of these interrelationships we might call ‘unhealthy’.

That’s the social realm. So often, as far as the personal realm goes, all it takes is a change of perspective to see a change in the world. Sometimes such changes in perspective are needed.

That’s stigma, that’s one thing. Civil and human rights are another. Psychiatric oppression occurs even after the person in crisis has gotten over whatever crisis he or she had, assuming that the person was in crisis in the first place.

Society still has a long way to go when it comes to assimilating, reintegrating and utilizing those of its members who are looked upon as ‘different’.

The Genie Sleeps Soundly In His Bottle By The Sea

There are two types of stress: DISTRESS, the regular stress that plagues us, and EUSTRESS, a positive form that improves productivity and performance.
THE WORD “STRESS” has been used for hundreds of years — it has roots in the Old French/Middle English word DESTRESSE, meaning “distress,” but it wasn’t used in the psychological sense until the 20th century.
~National Stress Awareness Month, By the Numbers

I went on a google quest for the positives of the ‘mental illness’ label, and found, frankly, that it wasn’t a thing researchers tended to pursue. You get instead this rather polarizing division between the positives of ‘mental health’ and the negatives of ‘mental illness’.

God, the therapist, just doesn’t completely jive with my world view right now. But that’s okay, Roberta, there are other views.

It has been argued that Jesus of Nazareth was widely considered a dangerous madman, due partly to antisocial and disruptive outbursts including physical aggression, grandiose and nonsensical claims, and terse responses to official questioning – and may have been mocked as a king and crucified for that reason.
~History of mental disorders

I did find myself amused, as is often the case, by one article on a research study I encountered recently, considering these good versus evil, positive versus negative values. This was Volunteering as a community mental health educator: Positives and negatives of recovery

An advocacy role that is highly visible within the community is that of a consumer educator, when people with lived experience of mental illness use their personal experience to educate others in the community.

I always had problems with the ‘consumer’ tag in the sense that it is being used here. You have a person who has done a term in a mental hospital. This person calls him or herself a ‘consumer’ because he or she has become convinced that he or she has a ‘mental illness’ for which he or she must ‘consume’ ‘mental health treatment’ in the hopes of eventual full ‘recovery’ of his or her ‘mental health’.

This ‘consumer’ grouping, a social category brought on by the practices of contemporary ‘mental health treatment’, is a rather insular grouping. ‘Educator’ need not be qualified by the word ‘consumer’, and vice versa.

Right, now let us get our terms straight. We have the community in general, and we have within this community in general a community of educators, and a community of ‘consumers’, specifically ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health treatment’. All circles are subsumed under the circle of community in general, but within this wider circle, the circle of educators and the circle of ‘consumers’ intersect. This intersection of circles creates a fourth circle, the circle of ‘consumer’ ‘educators’.

Most community members are not ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health’ services. Most community members are not educators. Most ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health’ services are not ‘educators’. Most educators are not ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health treatment’. All consumers’ of ‘mental health services’ and educators are members of the larger community. Do these ‘consumer’ ‘educators’ educate other ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health services’, or the community of educators, or the community at large, or all three?

This is another one of those studies, conducted primarily in order to reinforce the conclusions that have already been drawn.

The benefits of being a consumer educator far outweighed the negatives and four main themes emerged for the benefits: the unique value of peer support; the personal meaning gained from educating others about mental illness; the benefits of validation and catharsis through telling their story; and the skills gained. Negatives included feeling vulnerable during or after presentations, being fearful of stigma, and dealing with occasional challenges with co-presenters.

Well, when life is a matter of co-presenting, I guess that’s how it goes.

Some among the ancients had a different and more positive view of madness. There was a type of madness that was considered to come through the intervention of a deity, and this was divine madness.

Socrates begins by discussing madness. If madness is all bad, then the preceding speeches would have been correct, but in actuality, madness given as a gift of the gods provides us with some of the best things we have.There are, in fact, four kinds of divine madness:
1. From Apollo, the gift of prophecy;
2. From Dionysus, the mystic rites and relief from present hardship;
3. From the Muses, poetry;
4. From Aphrodite, love.
As they must show that the madness of love is, indeed, sent by a god to benefit the lover and beloved in order to disprove the preceding speeches, Socrates embarks on a proof of the divine origin of this fourth sort of madness. It is a proof, he says, that will convince “the wise if not the clever”.
~ Phaedrus (dialogue)

This leads us back to the link between madness and genius, but then we can’t all be nameplates and stuffed shirts, can we?

Depression and Stigma in the Barrio

I’ve found a very amusing Health Behavior News Service article about a study of low income depressed Hispanics, Stigma Keeps Some Latinos From Depression Treatment.

In the new study, published in the March/April issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, researchers surveyed 200 poor, Spanish-speaking Latinos in Los Angeles. They all had visited local primary care centers; 83 percent were women. All had shown signs of depression in an initial screening.

Another screening found that all but 54 of the 200 individuals were mildly to severely depressed. Researchers deemed 51 percent as those who stigmatize mental illness, based on responses to questions about things like the trustworthiness of a depressed person.

Given a mental illness screening test then, a test that could have an extremely high false positive rate, 146 out of 200 individuals are labeled depressed as a result of this test. 102 or so of these 200 individuals would see ‘depression’ is a ‘weakness’. Here’s another reason for some among those 146 to give themselves another kick in the rear ends. She’s weak, and she doesn’t like weakness.

The researchers found that those who stigmatized mental illness were 22 percent less apt to be taking depression medication, 21 percent less likely to be able to control their depression and about 44 percent more likely to have missed scheduled mental-health appointments.

Uh, and a little “lighten up” wouldn’t work?

If a placebo works as well as a drug, what’s the problem here? Recovery rates with or without treatment, what are they?

You take your pills, senora. Me, I will get by on my strict regimen of sunshine, siesta, and fiesta. Muchas gracias.

Working For Change Within The Mental Health System

The mental health system needs changing. Although I choose to work outside of that system to effect those changes, I have immense respect and admiration for those people who continue to work within that system for change. This same pride and admiration, let me make plain, I don’t hold for those mental health workers who would treat people as they have traditionally been treated in the conventional mental health system, which is to say, poorly.

Psychiatric drugs have done a great deal of harm to a great many people. Long term institutionalization has also wreaked its own share of havoc. Negativistic and pessimistic views have tended to produce negativistic and pessimistic results. There are other ways of doing business, effective ways. When the courageous mental health worker comes forward to suggest changes, and to take the leap into difference, I must applaud the efforts that person is making.

The rate of serious mental illness has gone up with the passage of time. This rate could easily go down. Where mental health workers are working to get people out of treatment, and back on their feet, I applaud them. Where mental health workers are working to increase the percentage of people in treatment, I cannot offer my support. Where mental health workers are working to make chronic invalids out of the people in their care, I must shake my head with disbelieving disapproval.

Employees can get fired for doing the right thing. I understand this. Still there are those brave few who are willing to speak out, and to take the necessary steps towards change that need to be taken. Steps that, when taken, may save a few more people from the damage that can be caused by a cruel and unthinking system. Such is the least that can be said for such people when such steps may actually save lives as well. I have to support those people, and the efforts they are making to bring this change about.

Expanding the mad lexicon

Peer Support Specialist Training–a pyramid scheme

State hospital–psychiatric prison

Treatment mall–brainwashing center


Cracking the mad dictionary

Self-Determination Starts At Home

I read recently on one website that to call a person ‘manic depressive’ was to ‘stigmatize’ that person. The implication was that to call a person ‘bipolar’ was not ‘stigmatizing’. ‘Manic depressive’ may be archaic, but I don’t think it is any more ‘stigmatizing’ to call a person ‘manic depressive’ than it is to call a person ‘bipolar’.

The way I see it, there’s little difference between calling a person ‘bipolar’ or ‘schizophrenic’, and calling that same person a jackass. I find myself offended when people refer to me by such offensive terms.

I also see where elsewhere a doctor from Australia wants to bring back the classification Melancholia to the next revision of the DSM. All I can say is, if I ever get melancholy, don’t lock me up for it.

A bunch of psychiatrists telling me who I am isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Even one psychiatrist telling me who he thinks I am, gets me steamed. I often feel I must answer insult with insult, but I’m learning that maybe that isn’t the best course of action to take either. Sometimes you just have to learn to walk on.

I support every individual’s right to define him or herself in any way that individual chooses. Three thousand million non-individuals be damned.

Fuel For The ‘Mental Illness’ Generator

To maintain that a social institution suffers from certain ‘abuses’ is to imply that it has certain other desirable or good uses…. My thesis is quite different: Simply put, it is that there are, and can be, no abuses of Institutional Psychiatry, because Institutional Psychiatry is, itself, an abuse.
~Thomas Szasz

Excuse my lax PC, if that’s what it is, but I see no ends to the fun that can be had in playing with the notion of ‘a stigma’ attached to the likewise foolish notion of ‘having a mental illness’. Take an article from the Mayo Clinic entitled Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness, for instance. We have a confusion of terms that grows even more confusing with the subtitle: Progress is being made to remove the stigma of mental illness and mental health disorders. You can take positive steps to combat stigma. Mental health, mental illness, mental health disorders and the Pacific Ocean between, just what the bleep do the authors of this article think they are talking about!? Then the authors start going all military on us, take positive steps, no problem, to combat, problem. If this means that the drug industry has a great deal of stock in the military industrial complex of super power imperialism, no doubt, but still such a thought is conducive to paranoia. The unasked question then becomes is the notion of ‘paranoia’ stigmatizing.

After a regurgitation of some of the presumptions of the bio-medical school of psychiatry, the way these presumptions are being regurgitated in so many places these days, we get the following bulleted list on what are seen as the harmful effects of stigma.

 Trying to pretend nothing is wrong

Good one! Now try pretending something is right.

 Refusal to seek treatment

This is particularly annoying, especially when the treatment you would be seeking, as so often is the case in the mental health field, turns out to be mistreatment in reality. The right of people to refuse unwanted psychiatric treatment is something these folk haven’t gotten around to considering.

 Rejection by family and friends

This is where the idea of extended families and new friends comes up. Who, after all, needs to be stuck with such shallow relatives and acquaintances as those that would reject a person because that person has had a difficult time? The Mad Movement itself is not nearly such an exclusive club.

 Work or school problems or discrimination

I think we have a civil rights struggle on our hands here. I don’t think you can just tell people to be kind to your nutty buddy, and expect it to happen. With your slutty buddy, well, that’s a different matter.

 Difficulty finding housing

Homelessness, and let me stress this point, could be considered a step up from ‘having a mental illness’.

 Being subjected to physical violence or harassment

I couldn’t agree with this point more. Those people, who are statistically most apt to be victimized by a violent criminal, are now being suspected of being the population most apt to perpetrate a violent crime. You can’t have it both ways.

 Inadequate health insurance coverage of mental illnesses

As has been pointed out before, where the mental illness ends at the running out of the health insurance coverage, maybe more health insurance isn’t such a great idea.

Then there are the steps suggested to cope with stigma.

Get treatment.

One could get treatment, yes, or one could get a second, a third, or a hundredth opinion questioning the need for any such treatment in the first place. If this treatment is going to mean mistreatment, maybe you don’t want to receive it?

Don’t let stigma create self-doubt or shame.

I don’t know. I don’t think there is a mental illness pride movement in this country. Maybe you need to revise your terms and redefine the problem.

Seek support.

Confess your mental illness? Here again I wonder. Why not confess your mental health? Oh, right, because you need the support of a crutch of one kind or another. Why didn’t you just say so? We can’t just throw off a crutch because we don’t need one. No, never. Besides, if it doesn’t makes it easier to panhandle then maybe it makes it easier to defraud the government.

Don’t equate yourself with your illness.

Personally, I don’t think ‘having a mentally illness’ is such a big improvement over Mr or Mrs Bipolar Disorder, Mr. or Mrs. Schizophrenic, and Major or Majorette Depressive Disorder. On the other hand, if you could lose your mental illness, then you might be getting somewhere. I just don’t think mental illness is such a good imaginary friend to keep around the house as some people seem to think he or she is.

Use your resources.

Call the disability squad. Sure, that might work, but then you may have other resources at hand you haven’t even considered trying. Ingenuity humankind is credited with having in no short supply. You don’t, and this is a point I must make, have to be disabled to be resourceful. (I know. Some of you out there are saying, “But it helps”.)

Get help at school.

It beats getting bullied at school. Of course, sometimes help is harm, and so you have to be very careful.

Join an advocacy group.

Sure, you could advocate for your own oppression. This article, for instance, suggests joining NAMI. NAMI is an organization composed primarily of family members of psychiatric inmates and ex-inmates. Family members are often responsible for having other family members locked up, forcibly drugged, physically restrained, and electrically shocked. NAMI also receives the majority of its funding from the psychiatric drug industry.

There are other groups that don’t advocate for oppression. You might look into joining one of those groups instead.

Speak out.

Did somebody say, “Squeak out!”?

This line of questioning naturally enough could lead to a discussion of human rights as opposed to mental patient rights, or mental health consumer rights, or mouse rights.

Choice And Neuroleptic Drugs

Iatrogenic, or physician caused, disease is epidemic in the mental health care field. In my opinion this is one of the most under covered, or covered up, news stories of our time.

Neuroleptic drugs, the most common form of treatment for the label of ‘schizophrenia’, cause Tardive Dyskinesia, a severe movement disorder. Neuroleptic drugs don’t cure ‘schizophrenia’; at best they could be described as a means of managing ‘the symptoms’ of ‘schizophrenia’. Neuroleptic drugs are more pro-Tardive Dyskinesia than they ever were anti-‘psychotic’.

People in treatment for ‘serious mental illness’ develop Tardive Dyskinesia at a rate averaging 5-8% a year. This means a rate of 15-20% of the people on these drugs will develop this crippling neurological condition in 3 years time.

Neuroleptic drugs in animal studies involving Macaque Monkeys have shown brain tissue loss paralleling that damage found in the cadavers and MRI scans of people labeled ‘seriously mentally ill’. This would indicate that any damage observed was the result of the drug rather than any ‘mental illness’.

The newer atypical neuroleptic drugs, developed to have less severe effects than the original phenothiazines, have been found to cause metabolic changes associated with a number of serious health conditions. These metabolic changes are the major reason why people in mental health care are reported to be dying at an age on average 25 years younger than the general population.

Long term neuroleptic drug use shrinks the size of the frontal lobes, associated with higher brain function, and expands the size of the basal ganglia, an area of the brain associated with ‘psychosis’. Long term use of these drugs causes hypersensitivity to dopamine, the neurotransmitter their usage suppresses.

In the short term neuroleptic drug use may help calm the agitation associated with serious emotional disturbance. Used long term the effects of neuroleptic drugs are always detrimental.

It would be wrong for a drug dealer to force a drug on a person. It is equally wrong for prison wardens, psychiatrists, and mental health workers to force neuroleptic drugs on people in their care.

Nobody should ever, under any circumstances, be forced to take neuroleptic drugs against their expressed wishes.

Detour Shutter Island If You Can

I was warned about Shutter Island. I should have heeded the warnings. I didn’t listen. It is a really horrible, from many standpoints, movie. The movie diverges from reality from the start, and it never manages to pick it up again. Scorsese and company may have studied asylums and mental hospitals, but if they did, their studies were seriously lacking in substance.

This is the kind of story I have to contrast with a truly revolutionary perspective such as that which is presented in a story such as One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest. Shutter Island, needless to say, is no One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest. Shutter Island is a movie for people who have no sympathy for people who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of being imprisoned in a mental hospital, much less those who find themselves confined to a facility for the criminally insane. The de-humanized individual would be stripped of his or her humanity forever if Scorsese, lights cameras action speaking louder than words, had his way.

We get here a would-be psychoanalysis movie, only the movie is supposed to represent a failure of psychoanalysis. Psychiatry and its boot lickers have never in history been more ass kissed than they are in this Martin Scorsese film. Fiction that is not based on so much as a shred of reality is not good fiction, and Shutter Island is not good fiction. It preys on people’s worst fears about the labeled ‘mentally ill’, and it caters to the worst remedies ever developed for people who are somehow perceived as being somehow different from everybody else.

The protagonist in this movie is suffering from much guilt. Let me give it away. He killed his wife after she killed their children. Get it. The protagonist doesn’t get it. He would prefer to the end of the movie to evade his guilt by continuing to live in the world of his fantasies. He therefore must be the most dangerous man in the institution. Whoa! Right there, I’m going, “wait a minute”. You’re walking down a hallway in an ex-civil war era fort, past cells containing naked human beings, and they think this character is going to escape from one of those cells? He was a U.S. Marshal. Right and Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Whatever he was doesn’t matter when he is a ‘patient’ in a facility for the criminally insane.

Did he escape from a cell? The illusion at the beginning of the movie is that he was sent in to investigate the escape of a female patient. This kind of mystery is the mystery of an illusionist. You’re going to fuck somebody, you hold all the cards, and therefore somebody is fucked. He certainly didn’t make it off the island, and if one cell couldn’t do it, another would. He wasn’t the person holding all the cards; he was the person who was fucked. Raped is the more appropriate term to use in this instance. Franz Kafka did it better, and Franz Kafka had some sympathy for the under dog.

Nothing about the use of psychiatric drugs in this movie rang true. Leo DiCaprio’s hands shook, and this was supposed to be an effect of withdrawal from Thorazine. The shakes don’t begin with the cessation of drug use, says someone who has been on these drugs, the shakes begin with the introduction of the drug. None of the actors playing patients looked like they were under the influence of any of these powerful psychiatric drugs. This is barely scratching the surface when it comes to penetrating all the lies, the misconceptions, the myths, and the half-truths about mental hospitals and institutional treatment that abound in this movie. The setting was real, sure, but everything else was baloney.

At the end of the movie the protagonist, pegged so dangerous, is being led off to receive a trans-orbital lobotomy, and he asks, “Is it better to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?” I automatically thought of all the people who had received lobotomies who had never killed anybody! I imagine it’s better to be in a great movie rather than one that should have died on the drawing boards. How this kind of statement reflects upon the attending physician you tell me? I would think poorly of him, too, but hey, we’re not in the real world, remember. We’re in the NAMI world of improving family members by damaging their brains. I felt the movie was an insult everybody who had ever done real time in a mental hospital, and not only that, it was also an insult to the intelligence of its viewers.

My suspicions have been aroused. If this kind of thing is the best we are to expect from Scorcese in the future then he is on my hit list. I’m watching everything he does from here on out with an eye to dissecting the kind of vulgar group think he betrays in this one. Scenes from WWII are thrown into this movie rather gratuitously, and I’m wondering how much of a fascist sympathizer he really is. We can certainly do better than to prey to worst aspects of a herd mentality, and in this instance anyway, Martin Scorcese hasn’t done any better than to do just that.