Friday, December 23, 2016

Even Ronald Reagan was depressed after he saw this movie.


Even Ronald Reagan was depressed after he saw the television movie, The Day After, which terrified Americans when it was show in November 1983.

More than 100 million people watched the program during its initial broadcast. It is currently the highest-rated television film in history. Now Putin and Trump want to increase nuclear arsenals.

From Wikipedia: The Trauma

The film postulates a fictional war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalates into a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, the action itself focuses on the residents of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, as well as several family farms situated near nuclear missile silos.

On its original broadcast (Sunday, November 20, 1983), John Cullum warned viewers before the film was premiered that the film contains graphic and disturbing scenes, and encourages parents who have young children watching, to watch together and discuss the issues of nuclear warfare.[9] ABC and local TV affiliates opened 1-800 hotlines with counselors standing by. There weren't any commercial breaks after the nuclear attack. ABC then aired a live debate, hosted by Nightline's Ted Koppel, featuring scientist Carl Sagan, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Elie Wiesel, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, General Brent Scowcroft and conservative commentator William F. Buckley, Jr.. Sagan argued against nuclear proliferation, while Buckley promoted the concept of nuclear deterrence. Sagan described the arms race in the following terms: "Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has nine thousand matches, the other seven thousand matches. Each of them is concerned about who's ahead, who's stronger."

One psychotherapist counseled viewers at Shawnee Mission East High School in the Kansas City suburbs, and 1,000 others held candles at a peace vigil in Penn Valley Park. A discussion group called Let Lawrence Live was formed by the English Department at the university and dozens from the Humanities Department gathered on the campus in front of the Memorial Campanile and lit candles in a peace vigil. At Baker University, a private school in Baldwin City, Kansas, roughly 10 miles south of Lawrence, a number of students drove around the city, looking at sites depicted in the film as having been destroyed


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trump Trauma and Despair Is Real

I've written a book on Stress, Trauma and the Brain. If you want to learn about how stress can compromise your health, get the book. 5 star ratings on Amazon.

Meanwhile, take a look at this eye-popping essay.

From the LA Times:

I have never seen anything quite like the grief being felt by the majority of American voters who did not vote for Donald Trump.

Back in 1980, there was disappointment among Democrats when Ronald Reagan won. In 2000, after the long Florida recount and the intrusion of the Supreme Court into the decision, there were plenty of upset people who thought Al Gore, not George W. Bush, deserved to be president. But the losing voters in those elections were not despondent. They were not breaking out in tears weeks later. They were not waking up each morning with feelings of dread about what was to come.

This time it is different and, in my experience, unique. This is not simply a case of Hillary Clinton supporters being bad losers. For most of those who feel traumatized by what happened on Nov. 8, this is not about the candidate who won the popular vote, yet lost the election. It is about the candidate who was picked as president by the electoral college on Monday. People are mourning because the fate of their country will now be in the hands of an intellectually disinterested, reckless, mendacious narcissist.
It is not just Democrats. There are plenty of conservatives and Republicans among those feeling depressed. Their party has been captured by a man who has no bedrock belief in any principle; a man whose only allegiance appears to be to himself.

David Frum, conservative Republican and ex-Bush speechwriter, has been very explicit about what he expects from the Trump White House: corruption and authoritarianism. In a series of tweets the day after the election, Frum predicted that Trump will engage in “massive self-enrichment” and, once the media and Democrats begin investigating and criticizing his actions, he will retaliate “by means fair or foul,” utilizing the powers of the presidency and aided and abetted by a compliant Republican Congress.

And get the book: 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Michelle Obama: End of Hope?

Michelle Obama fed her husband's feud with Donald Trump on Friday as she gave a gloomy description of the hopeless climate his election win has created.

The First Lady used her final interview in the White House to tell Oprah Winfrey that a 'grown up' should be in charge of the country. 

Looking forward to president-elect Trump's looming inauguration, she said even though hope was lost, it was necessary to move on. 

'Now we're feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary,' she said in her first direct response to the November 9 election result.

Mrs Obama's remarks come within hours of her husband's announcement Russian hackers interfered with the election to help his successor. 

Trump, who is yet to accept the DNC hack was orchestrated by one of Putin's agencies, undermined the announcement on Twitter. 
Michelle Obama gave her final interview as First Lady on Friday, telling Oprah Winfrey that the country had lost hope since Trump's election win.

In her interview with Oprah, the First Lady said the president needs to be someone 'who can say to you in times of crisis and turmoil: "hey, it's gonna be ok"'. 

She said she was assured her husband had achieved his goal of setting a hope-fueled agenda because of the contrasting mood brought by Trump's victory. 

'Your husband's administration, everything, the election, was all about hope. Do you think that this administration achieved that?' asked Winfrey.  

In a lengthy reply, Mrs Obama said calmly: 'Yes. I do. Because we feel the difference now.

'Now, we're feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary. It's a necessary concept. 
'What else do you have if you don't have hope?'
In a glowing assessment of her husband's tenure, Mrs Obama likened him to the calming parent of the panicked toddler nation. 
'Our children respond to crisis the way they see us respond. You know, it's like the toddler bumps his head on the table and they look up at you to figure out whether it hurts and if you're like (gasp) "oh my god" they're crying but if you're like "you know what, babe it's OK"...
'And I feel that way about the nation, I feel that Barack has been that for the nation in ways that people will come to appreciate. 
'Having a grown up in the White House who can say to you in times of crisis and turmoil : "hey, it's gonna be ok", let's remember the good things that we have, let's look to the future, let's look at what we're building" - all of this is important for our kids to  stay focused and to feel like their work isn't in vain and their lives aren't in vain. 


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Campaign Launch: Teaching Hope in Trump Time

Many people I know are distraught at the upcoming new president. Michelle Obama calls it the end of hope.

Here's our idea to fight back, in a real and tangible way. Our organization, A Thousand Moms: Building Community Support for LGBT/Q Youth, has produced Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBTQ Youth. 

Purchase a copy by making a donation of $10.00 or more to and we will send a copy in your name to your local public library. And they will take it.

  1. So, take a look at the reviews below.
  2. Make a $10.00 or more donation to A Thousand Moms at
  3. Let us send the book to your local library (we will locate and mail directly on your behalf).
Here are some reviews of our book!

Author David Balog has done an excellent job of creating a book for educators (or anyone working with youth) that explains the complicated workings of the brain in an easy to understand manner. Balog goes on to discuss various types of trauma and how the adolescent brain responds to trauma such as depression, stress, addiction, risk taking, PTSD, etc. LGBT/Q youth may experience trauma in ways majority youth often do not. The author shares important coping strategies....I highly recommend this book!--Carol Dopp, M.Ed. 

"David Balog understands the strain of alienation, so he tackles this subject with compassion and concern. Mr. Balog draws on his knowledge of brain science to give readers insight into what happens to young people under tremendous stress, and he offers practical advice on how to help and cope."--Gary Cottle, author

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How to call your congressman when you have social anxiety

Many people have social anxiety and the idea of call a representative to fight Trump is daunting. We talk about depression, stress, and trauma in our new book, Healing the Brain. Click for your copy. And learn about small steps to make difference.

“How to call your reps when you have social anxiety”

There’s a LOT going on in the U.S. right now. Many people’s rights and safety are at risk. You’ve probably heard that one of the most effective ways to advocate for issues you care about, or stand up against dangerous policies and appointments, is to call your local representatives.
If you want to help but have social anxiety and find phone calls very intimidating, you may be thinking, “How do I do this?!” (An oversized telephone handset hovers ominously over the narrator with its cord spiraling around her body. She looks up at it with great concern.)
Here’s a step-by-step:
  1. Block off time on your calendar. Each call only takes a minute or so, but you might want to block off more time for your first call, so you can prepare your words & nerves. Don’t rush yourself! Scheduling is super important, otherwise you will perpetually delay calling.
  2. At the scheduled time, go sit somewhere quiet.
  3. Find out who represents you. Some places to look: House ( and Senate (
  4. Write out exactly what you plan to say. It only needs to be a few lines, and there are lots of templates online that you can use. e.g. “Hello! I am constituent from city (zip code) and I am calling to urge Some Name to publicly…” If they have already released a statement, don’t use that as an excuse to avoid calling. I know it’s hard, but call anyway. Thank them and ask them to keep pushing.
  5. Take a deep breath. You can do this.
  6. Do this: dial. (This is the hardest part.)
  7. Read from your script. At this point, you’ll likely be sent to voicemail or to an actual person. The person will most likely be friendly and probably won’t have much time to talk, so you shouldn’t have to deviate much from your script. It’s a quick conversation.
  8. That’s it! Say “Thank you” and hang up.
You did it! If you’re thinking “Hey, that wasn’t so bad…”, call more people! And follow up with them next week, or even tomorrow, to make sure they keep these issues top of mind.
It is okay if your voice shakes. It is okay if you feel awkward.They get a lot of calls, so they don’t have time to judge you by how well you delivered your message.
Is is also okay if you can’t call.
This week, my best friend told me, “Do something that is uncomfortable but not harmful to your mental health.” For me, calling was enough outside my comfort zone to be stressful & scary, but not so far away as to use up all my energy. That might not be the case for you, and that’s okay. Do not beat yourself up about it. There are lots of ways to take action without picking up a phone:
  • Write to government officials
  • Create art that challenges and art that inspires
  • Donate, if you’re financially able, to organizations that fight injustice
  • Listen to immigrants, people of color, women, trans and non-binary people, people of all faiths and sexual orientations, and people with disabilities. Support their work. Amplify their voices.
  • Keep it up

Sunday, December 11, 2016

PTSD: Post-Trump Stress Disorder?

In our book, Healing the Brain, we give readers the history and biology of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Get your copy here, Healing the Brain. We present below a compelling article on widespread PTSD-type misery spreading across America and the world, from Alternet.

Anguishing yet again over election results in the middle of the night, I finally realized I’m experiencing something similar to PTSD. Check out this definition from the renowned Mayo Clinic:
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
Let’s call this PTSD post-Trump stress disorder, triggered by the election, to the most powerful office in the world, of a man who’s espoused wholesale exclusion of Muslim immigrants, deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, repealing Roe v. Wade, abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and encouraging Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons, among other polarizing proposals. While post-Trump stress in no way equals the level of trauma experienced by combat veterans in Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam, this is an experience shared by tens of millions of Americans right now.

“Before the election, at least half of my psychotherapy clients in San Francisco were exhibiting enormous anxieties around the issues of bullying, sexual exploitation, racial and ethnic stereotyping and threats of violence associated with the Trump campaign,” observed San Francisco psychotherapist Deborah Cooper. “Now that he has actually been elected, my entire practice is experiencing this as a traumatic event.”

In addition to the classic PTSD symptoms listed above, the Mayo Clinic cites irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior, overwhelming guilt or shame, depression, self-destructive behavior such as alcohol and substance abuse, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, and being easily startled or frightened. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Calls to the San Francisco Suicide Prevention hotline shot up 30 percent in the first five days after Trump’s election. “Some are wondering if they’re going to have the same health care,” director Courtney Brown reported. “Others are wondering if they’re going to still be allowed to be in the country. The only comparable incidents have been 9/11 and the Loma Prieta earthquake,” she said.

For some, Trump’s threats of violence to protesters, admission of sexual assaults against women, and bullying and intimidation of political opponents and the press have raised the specter of past political traumas: the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, and his brother Robert in 1968; The fact that more than a dozen Nixon campaign operatives served time in jail for campaign finance violations and political dirty tricks—and Nixon himself resigned in 1974—provided some solace, but the shock remained.

And then there was the 2000 electoral stalemate between Al Gore and George W. Bush, ultimately decided by a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court rather than the will of the people. The epically misguided invasion of Iraq and subsequent horrors in the Middle East as well as Brussels, Paris, Madrid and other terrorist-targeted centers, followed.

The first step in treating PTSD, psychotherapist Cooper says, is to admit you are suffering from trauma. “This is a time to reach out, feel the validation that others are experiencing similar things, and then figure out what we each can do individually about it, both emotionally and with action. Some need to take to the streets, some to the couch.” One thing Cooper warns against is trying to cope with the election as something normal. “This is not normal.”

For those contending with suicidal thoughts, San Francisco Suicide Prevention suggests additional steps.
  • Take compassionate, caring actions to support others. Help a friend in crisis, or a stranger in need, or volunteer to assist others in a cause that you care about.
  • Limit your interaction with things that might aggravate your stress. In its survey on stress and the 2016 election, the American Psychological Association found that adults who use social media are more likely to be stressed out by the election than those who don’t. Unplug for a while.
  • Call the Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Available 24/7, it’s free and confidential.
For those seeking a more political solution, there’s labor songwriter Joe Hill’s exhortation, “Don’t mourn, organize!”

Learn more about PTSD in our book, Healing the Brain.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Trump, Putin and Lies

This election was a terrifying nightmare. Partisanship abounded and tonight news from the Washington Post describes how the Russian were involved in our election and how Republicans voted to squelch a CIA investigation. Read about our brains and behavior in Healing the Brain, our new book.

In the excerpt from the Dana Foundation, below, Dr. Guy McKhann writes about lies and liars.

This is a column from Dana's print publication, Brain in the News
Those of us with children and grandchildren try to raise them with a regard for the truth. We preach that lying is unacceptable behavior. On the other hand, we may “stretch the truth” every so often: making results sound more positive, leaving out criticisms, not fully acknowledging the work of others, saying things about our research when trying to raise money that we would never say at a scientific meeting. This list could go on and on. After all, we just went through an election in which the majority of our population considered both major candidates “untrustworthy.”

Aside from a Pinocchio-like creation, the two major methods for detecting lies are polygraph and brain imaging. Polygraph machines have been around for more than 50 years. They measure physiological functions such as heart rate, respiration, and skin resistance. Accuracy varies from study to study, but the figure of 75 percent accuracy is commonly used.

The alternative is brain imaging, particularly fMRI. The idea behind this approach is that when a person is lying, or maintaining a lie, parts of the brain have to work harder. When they do, this increase in activity is represented as increased blood flow to specific brain areas. The areas are somewhat widespread and include prefrontal areas and the limbic system. However, these areas are activated in many other situations. At present there are no specific truth or lying “centers” in the brain.

A group at Penn, led by Daniel Langleben, is one of the first to make direct comparisons of the two techniques. Subjects were asked to choose a number between three and eight and reply “no” when asked about the different numbers, making one answer a lie. The fMRI was 24 percent more accurate than polygraph in detecting the lie, though neither method was perfect.

In the real world, of course, there are situations in which parts of a statement may be true and other parts false. Despite the claims of companies trying to advance commercial products for use in court, brain scans are not yet ready for prime time.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

One Month After: 'Fear of Trump' Is Making Some Youth Physically Sick

One month after Trump's 'election,' many adults anecdotally and many children, documented, express more fear and anxiety about Donald Trump. In this excerpt from an article published by Common Dreams, we look at 'fear of Trump.'

To find more detailed information about fear, our most powerful emotion, get our book, Healing the Brain.

After a campaign built on xenophobic remarks, a pledge to construct a massive wall across the southern border, and promises to form "a deportation force" to rid the nation of millions of undocumented immigrants, it's not surprising the psychological impact of Donald Trump's rhetoric would be most sharply felt among those living within those communities.

"People worry their families will be broken up, that parents will be deported and children will end up in foster care, on a scale that we’ve never seen before. The feeling out there is one of great fear." —Marielena HincapiĆ©, National Immigration Law Center

And now, with the reality setting in that Trump will soon by the President of the United States, the Guardian reports Friday how pediatricians serving in communities with large populations of undocumented immigrants are seeing a spike in anxiety-related physical illnesses, most notably among children expressing worry that they, their parents, or other loved ones will soon be arrested or deported.

As the Guardian's Andrew Gumbel reports:

One little boy in North Carolina has been suffering crippling stomach aches in class because he’s afraid he might return home to find his parents gone. In California, many families are reporting that their children are leaving school in tears because their classmates have told them they are going to be thrown out of the country.
Children are showing up in emergency rooms alone because their parents are afraid of being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they show their faces. Even American-born children are suffering – one boy in the south-east asked a doctor for Prozac because he was worried about his undocumented friend.
"It’s as though a volcano erupted. It’s been awful," said Mimi Lind, director of behavioral health at the Venice Family Clinic, one of the largest providers of healthcare to low-income families in southern California. "People who don’t have a history of anxiety and depression are coming forward with symptoms they’ve never had before. And people who had those symptoms already are getting much worse."

It’s too soon to put precise figures on the wave of Trump-related anxiety, but health professionals and immigrant rights groups say it is unmistakable. "People worry their families will be broken up, that parents will be deported and children will end up in foster care, on a scale that we’ve never seen before. The feeling out there is one of great fear," said Marielena HincapiĆ© of the National Immigration Law Center.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Trump: Insomniac in chief?

Donald Trump is known for his lack of sleep (tweeting in the small hours of the morning). Problem is he's got a growing nation of insomniacs, frightened awake at his erratic, upsetting behavior. What is sleep and why do we need it to maintain health? This article from the Dana Foundation gives an overview. Learn about brain essentials in our book, Healing the Brain.

A good deal of progress has been made recently in understanding why sleep is so important. Recent studies have shown that both acute sleep deprivation (staying awake all night) and chronic sleep restriction (sleeping only a few hours/night for 1-2 weeks) impair many cognitive functions, from vigilance and attention to speech and humor appreciation. 

We also know that it may take more than one or two days to recover after chronic sleep loss, so oversleeping during the week-end may not be enough, if the accumulated sleep debt is large. There is also strong evidence that sleep need varies significantly among individuals, although why some of us can function well with much less sleep than others remains unclear. Other studies show that a night of sleep benefits the acquisition of new information the next day (new learning during sleep, instead, remains largely a dream). 

Sleep also leads to the consolidation and integration of memories, both declarative memories - those one can recollect consciously, such as lists of words or associations between pictures and places, as well as non-declarative memories such as perceptual and motor skills. These experimental results fit the common observation that after intensive learning, say practicing a piece over and over on the guitar, performance often becomes fluid only after a night of sleep. It is likely that when we learn and repeatedly activate certain brain circuits, many synapses end up strengthening, not only when you play the right notes well, but also when you do it badly, or fumble other notes. The result is that, while by practicing you get better and better on average, your performance remains a bit noisy and variable. 

After sleep, it is as if the core of what you learned had been preserved, whereas the chaff is eliminated - that is, sleep seems to notch-up the signal-to-noise ratio. Something similar may happen also with declarative memories: in the face of the hundreds of thousands of scenes we encounter in waking life, memory is particularly effective at gist extraction, where the details (the noise) may be lost, but the main point of what happened to us (the signal) is preserved. So far, it seems that the memory benefits of sleep, especially for declarative memories, are due primarily to NREM sleep, but in some instances REM sleep or a combination of NREM-REM cycles may also play a role. One should not forget that memories can also consolidate during wake. Moreover, to some extent sleep helps memory consolidation simply because it reduces the interference caused by later memory traces.

Get the book! 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Carolina Panthers' player cries after concussion; Crowd, media gasps

In a recent NFL game against New Orleans, Carolina Panthers star player Luke Kuechly suffered a concussion. According to reactions by fans in attendance and media, they were questioning Kuechly's manhood. Notably, one year ago, Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers walked away from a lucrative contract because he saw the large risk of permanent brain damage from continued football head trauma. In Healing the Brain, we look at concussions. Here is an excerpt:

Understanding Concussions and CTE

football.jpg Public attention has focused on the vulnerabilities of young football players to head injuries.

It is fairly remarkable that “Concussion,” the movie, exists. Ten years ago, the public did not know much about concussions and other forms of brain trauma. People weren’t watching football games and thinking about the long-term neurological effects of the brutal body contact. A veil was lifted on a topic rarely discussed as more and more football players reported disturbing neurological symptoms after their careers had ended. A disturbing series of suicides were reported. Around 2009, the National Football League (NFL) started getting criticism for its outdated concussion policies. In 2013, a book and corresponding documentary that tackled the issue, League of Denial,” were released. At the end of 2015, Hollywood brought us a major motion picture that stars Will Smith as a neuropathologist fighting to reveal the truth about head trauma in football players.
Parents around America began to reconsider their willingness to allow their children to play the sport, one that plays a major role in the sports and cultural life of the country.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.

Concussions Are Serious

Medical providers may describe a concussion as a “mild” brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening. Even so, the effects of a concussion can be serious.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. CTE is a diagnosis only made at autopsy by studying sections of the brain.
CTE is a very rare condition. It has been found in the brains of people who played contact sports, such as football, as well as others. Some symptoms of CTE are thought to include difficulties with thinking (cognition), physical problems, emotions and other behaviors.
The condition is a very controversial condition that is still not well-understood. Researchers do not yet know the frequency of CTE in the population and do not understand the causes. There is no cure for CTE.
Some of the possible signs and symptoms of CTE may include: difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment), impulsive behavior, depression or apathy, short-term memory loss, difficulty planning and carrying out tasks (executive function), emotional instability, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts or behavior
Other suspected symptoms may include: irritability, aggression, speech and language difficulties, motor impairment, such as difficulty walking, tremor, loss of muscle  movement, weakness or rigidity, trouble swallowing (dysphagia), vision and focusing problems, trouble with sense of smell (olfactory abnormalities), and dementia
The full list of symptoms of people with CTE at autopsy is still unknown. It is unclear what kind of symptoms, if any, it may cause. Little is known right now about how CTE progresses.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trump Watch: Swatiskas, Slurs, Hate Epic Rise in Our Schools

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented an alarming rise in hate crimes and language in our schools post-Trump. These incidents appear in The Trump Effect, just published by the SPLC. Read them and support A Thousand Moms' new publishing effort, Healing the Brain.

“Since the election, every single secondary school in our district has had issues with racist, xenophobic or misogynistic comments cropping up. In the week since the election, I have personally had to deal with the following issues: 1) Boys inappropriately grabbing and touching girls, even after they said no (this never happened until after the election); 2) White students telling their friends who are Hispanic or of color that their parents are going to be deported and that they would be thrown out of school; 3) White students going up to students of color who are total strangers and hurling racial remarks at them, such as, ‘Trump is going [to] throw you back over the wall, you know?’ or ‘We can’t wait until you and the other brownies are gone’; 4) The use of the n-word by white students in my class and in the hallway. Never directed towards a student of color (that I’ve been told yet), but still being casually used in conversation.” — MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, INDIANA

“The slurs have been written on assignments. ‘Send the Muslims back because they are responsible for 9/11.’” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, MINNESOTA

"’I hate Muslims.’ (Student blurted this while the class was learning about major religions.)” — MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, WASHINGTON

“I’ve had a lot of students repeat the phrase ‘Trump that bitch’ in my class, and make jokes about Hispanic students ‘going back to Mexico.’” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, GEORGIA

“A proud proclamation of racism was made by a student after the election: ‘Bet those black people are really scared now.’” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, MICHIGAN

“White males have been overheard saying, ‘screw women’s rights, fag lover liberal, build the wall, lock her up.’ The rebel flag is draped on the truck of a popular student, and the p-word has been used very casually, citing Trump as the excuse.” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, MICHIGAN

“Kids saying, ‘Trump won, you’re going back to Mexico!’ Boys grabbing girls, cornering girls against lockers. Kids yelling, ‘Trump won, so [there will] be less people here soon.’” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, KANSAS

“Today I photographed vandalism in the boy’s bathroom that mentioned a specific black student (1 of 7 in a school of 200). It repeatedly mentioned the KKK, used the n-word and joining Jews. A student drew a swastika on my board a few days ago. A black female ran out of a room crying after being racially harassed by multiple students during two different classes. One student … reported asking two different Latina students if they were ready to move back to Mexico now that Trump is president. I have witnessed an increase in racist and sexist jokes by students who support Trump. I personally spent most of the day putting out fires related to these issues, including documenting and reporting them. Multiple white males also expressed anger over the school wanting to post signs stating we are a sanctuary school.” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, OREGON

Get the book!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Schools Post-Trump: Slurs, Trauma, and Tension

The Southern Poverty Law Center has conducted an extensive survey of school tensions and climates after the election of Trump. Find out how stress and trauma impedes learning and leaves emotional scars in Healing the Brain, our new book.

In the first days after the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project administered an online survey to K–12 educators from across the country. Over 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools have responded. The survey data indicate that the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students.

Schools In The Aftermath: Targeting, Trauma, and Tension

The election of Donald Trump is having a major impact on American schools, but how students are affected — and how educators are addressing the impact — depends largely on demographics. American schools are increasingly segregated along racial, ethnic and economic lines. Although individual experiences will vary, looking at the proportion of students who are African American, Hispanic and white is a generally dependable indicator of what each school is experiencing, regardless of whether it is located in a red or a blue state. We found that how a school reacted ultimately depended on whether it is a white-majority school, a "minority-majority" school, or a diverse school with no single group in the majority. This is a generalization, of course, and there are exceptions, which we discuss later.
Overall, our public schools serve mainly low-income students of color. But students are not evenly distributed among schools. Here are a few important facts:
  • Total number of public schools: 98,454
  • Percentage of students who are from low-income families: 51
  • Percentage of students who are Hispanic: 25
  • Percentage of students who are African American: 16
  • Percentage of students who are students of color: 50
  • Percentage of schools that are 70% or more minority: 26
  • Percentage of schools that are 70% or more white: 42
  • Percentage of schools with less than 70% of one racial group: 32
The increase in targeting and harassment that began in the spring has, according to the teachers we surveyed, skyrocketed. It was most frequently reported by educators in schools with a majority of white students.
The behavior is directed against immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, kids with disabilities and anyone who was on the “wrong” side of the election. It ranges from frightening displays of white power to remarks that are passed off as “jokes.”
Here’s a small sampling of the thousands of stories teachers told us that illustrate post-election targeting.
“A group of white students held up a Confederate flag during the pledge of allegiance at a school-wide assembly.” — HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR, ARIZONA
“Since the election, every single secondary school in our district has had issues with racist, xenophobic or misogynistic comments cropping up. In the week since the election, I have personally had to deal with the following issues: 1) Boys inappropriately grabbing and touching girls, even after they said no (this never happened until after the election); 2) White students telling their friends who are Hispanic or of color that their parents are going to be deported and that they would be thrown out of school; 3) White students going up to students of color who are total strangers and hurling racial remarks at them, such as, ‘Trump is going [to] throw you back over the wall, you know?’ or ‘We can’t wait until you and the other brownies are gone’; 4) The use of the n-word by white students in my class and in the hallway. Never directed towards a student of color (that I’ve been told yet), but still being casually used in conversation.” — MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, INDIANA
“The slurs have been written on assignments. ‘Send the Muslims back because they are responsible for 9/11.’” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, MINNESOTA
“’I hate Muslims.’ (Student blurted this while the class was learning about major religions.)” — MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, WASHINGTON


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ecstasy (Molly) for PTSD?

From the New York times comes news of possible use of Ecstasy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. In our new book, Healing the Brain, we take a close look at PTSD, what it is and how it affects people of all ages. 

C.J. Hardin, a veteran who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a memorial in North Charleston, S.C. He is a patient in the study of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

CHARLESTON, S.C. — After three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, C. J. Hardin wound up hiding from the world in a backwoods cabin in North Carolina. Divorced, alcoholic and at times suicidal, he had tried almost all the accepted treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder: psychotherapy, group therapy and nearly a dozen different medications.

“Nothing worked for me, so I put aside the idea that I could get better,” said Mr. Hardin, 37. “I just pretty much became a hermit in my cabin and never went out.”
Then, in 2013, he joined a small drug trial testing whether PTSD could be treated with MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy.

“It changed my life,” he said in a recent interview in the bright, airy living room of the suburban ranch house here, where he now lives while going to college and working as an airplane mechanic. “It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward.”
Based on promising results like Mr. Hardin’s, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission Tuesday for large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials of the drug — a final step before the possible approval of Ecstasy as a prescription drug.

If successful, the trials could turn an illicit street substance into a potent treatment for PTSD.
Through a spokeswoman, the F.D.A. declined to comment, citing regulations that prohibit disclosing information about drugs that are being developed.

“I’m cautious but hopeful,” said Dr. Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, a leading PTSD researcher who was not involved in the study. “If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don’t help 30 to 40 percent of people. So we need more options.”
But he expressed concern about the potential for abuse. “It’s a feel-good drug, and we know people are prone to abuse it,” he said. “Prolonged use can lead to serious damage to the brain.”
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a small nonprofit created in 1985 to advocate the legal medical use of MDMA, LSD, marijuana and other banned drugs, sponsored six Phase 2 studies treating a total of 130 PTSD patients with the stimulant. It will also fund the Phase 3 research, which will include at least 230 patients...

Read out book and learn about PTSD.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Should kids play football? No.

In this excerpt from the Dana Foundation's blog post by Dr. Guy McKhann, he looks at the choice faced by parents regarding letting their kids play football. We cover this topic in our new book, Healing the Brain.

Don’t Let Kids Play Football” is the title of a New York Times OpEd column by Bennet Omalu. Dr. Omalu gets credit for being the first to recognize the distinctive neuropathology associated with repeated head injuries in an NFL player. Omalu was on call when an autopsy was needed for former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster.

Not being a football fan, Omalu was one of the few adult males in Pittsburgh unfamiliar with Webster, a star center for 17 seasons. Some time after Webster’s retirement in 1990, he gradually began to deteriorate mentally, first with depression and paranoia, then gradual loss of cognition, so that at the time of his death, he was essentially demented. Because of his football notoriety, his troubles were documented in the local newspapers.

Omalu realized that he was seeing a very unique pathology. The gross brain appeared normal, but when he cut into it and made stained sections, he noted the marked accumulation of the protein tau. Tau, in the form of tangles, is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, as is the accumulation of another protein, beta amyloid, in the form of plaques. In Webster’s brain there were very few amyloid-containing plaques and the tau accumulation was in a different distribution than what one would see with Alzheimer’s. Omalu and his colleagues published two papers in the journal Neurosurgery: one on Webster and another on fellow Steeler Terry Long. They described their findings, suggesting that repeated head injuries might be associated with this pathology. All hell broke loose. The NFL powers that be were not happy that their sport might be associated with brain damage. Several physicians involved with NFL teams wrote the journal asking that the papers be withdrawn. (Withdrawing a paper rarely happens, and is done when there is clear misconduct such as fraud). The papers were not withdrawn.

Deciding that challenging the powerful NFL was an impossible task, Omalu left Pittsburgh and became a medical examiner in California, out of the limelight. However, Dr. Ann McKee, a well-regarded neuropathologist in Boston, picked up the slack and let the world know she and her colleagues were available to do the neuropathology on athletes, and military personnel, with head injuries. She was joined by a neurosurgeon, Robert Cantu, and Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and professional wrestler, who became concerned about his own history of head injuries. Chris has become the liaison between the Boston investigators and the athletic world, active in obtaining permission and access for the Boston group to do autopsies.

As of September 2015, they’ve analyzed the brains of 91 former NFL players and found the distinctive pathology in 87 (96 percent).

The clinical course in the others is much like that of Mike Webster: exposure to a series of head injuries over years, a period of normal functioning after retirement, and gradual decline in cognitive functions. What’s going on in these brains? We really don’t know. However, one possibility is that the accumulation of tau is initiated by head trauma. Even after the trauma stops, the accumulation continues until tau reaches a level that is toxic to nerve cells. This process may take years and might be exacerbated by the person’s use of alcohol or drugs.

So should kids play football? I have nine grandchildren. My youngest, twin seven-year-old boys, are into gymnastics and swimming, so they’re not at risk of head injuries (though they enjoy pummeling each other). The others are into soccer, lacrosse, mountain climbing, and cross country skiing. What would I tell them? I think that there is a lot of hand-waving about the susceptibility of the developing brain. In some instances the younger brain is more resistant to injury. An eight-year-old can survive and make a remarkable recovery from a stroke, while a similar stroke in an 80-year-old would be devastating. However a diffuse injury (one that is spread more widely), associated with a head injury, may have effects on brain development.
I don’t know where to draw the line regarding age. I suggest that prior to age 18 kids play less violent forms of football, like touch or flag football, to significantly reduce the chance of head injury.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Was Nancy Reagan right?

Nancy Reagan championed her "Just Say No" program in the '80s, drawing praise and criticism. In one way she was right. For an addicted brain, saying no is incredibly difficult. However, for a non-addicted brain, saying no may be the only effective prevention option. Read this excerpt from Healing the Brain.


Why is adolescence a critical time for preventing drug addiction?

As noted previously, early use of drugs increases a person’s chances of developing addiction. Remember, drugs change brains—and this can lead to addiction and other serious problems. So, preventing early use of drugs or alcohol may go a long way in reducing these risks. If we can prevent young people from experimenting with drugs, we can prevent drug addiction.

... Calhan High School.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
In high school, teens may encounter greater availability of drugs, drug use by older teens, and social activities where drugs are used.

Risk of drug abuse increases greatly during times of transition. For an adult, a divorce or loss of a job may lead to drug abuse; for a teenager, risky times include moving or changing schools. In early adolescence, when children advance from elementary through middle school, they face new and challenging social and academic situations. Often during this period, children are exposed to abusable substances such as cigarettes and alcohol for the first time. When they enter high school, teens may encounter greater availability of drugs, drug use by older teens, and social activities where drugs are used.

At the same time, many behaviors that are a normal aspect of their development, such as the desire to try new things or take greater risks, may increase teen tendencies to experiment with drugs. Some teens may give in to the urging of drug-using friends to share the experience with them. Others may think that taking drugs (such as steroids) will improve their appearance or their athletic performance or that abusing substances such as alcohol or MDMA (ecstasy or “Molly”) will ease their anxiety in social situations. A growing number of teens are abusing prescription ADHD stimulants such as Adderall® to help them study or lose weight. Teens’ still-developing judgment and decision-making skills may limit their ability to accurately assess the risks of all of these forms of drug use. Using abusable substances at this age can disrupt brain function in areas critical to motivation, memory, learning, judgment, and behavior control.  So, it is not surprising that teens who use alcohol and other drugs often have family and social problems, poor academic performance, health-related problems (including mental health), and involvement with the juvenile justice system.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gay youth, health, and Trump

President Lyndon Johnson set up the Kerner Commission in the late 1960s to investigate the underlying causes of nationwide riots (Newark, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Detroit, etc.). The commission's stunning conclusion was that America was two societies, separate and unequal, increasingly moving apart. As I began to talk to varied audiences with A Thousand Moms, I realized that a similar gap existed today with the gay community. Despite important successes, e.g., marriage equality, mainstream America didn't know about the LGBT community and rather than learning from an increased public awareness of LGBT issues, they remained profoundly unaware of gay life and the severe and unique stresses that can attend it--except in extraordinary circumstances. 

A Thousand Moms' mission is to educate parents, teachers, social workers, counselors, clergy, and the concerned layperson so that in an optimum world, they can support LGBT youth with a deeper understanding of a group of people seemingly from a completely different world. I wrote Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth because I had the training to do it--15 years as an editor to the world's top neuroscientists at the Dana Foundation--and access to my partner Fred's experience in child development. I was also peeved that my previous employer, in its massive reference on the brain, mentioned gay people only once. The reference blithely said that people attracted to the same sex seem to commit suicide in larger numbers and we don't know why. (Or care.) 

So this book is about the brain, but really about surviving extraordinary stress and trauma and protecting our heath. I have been given many accolades for the book, the best one calling it pioneering. But kind words have not translated into wide interest and in this world of self-publishing, the task of getting the word out has been very difficult. Therefore I am now circulating sample chapters so people can get a feel for the book and make an informed decision about getting a copy. Many books on LGBT life get called reference books or "a contribution to the literature," which means being put on a book shelf to die quietly. I am determined not to let that soft bigotry stop this important information from reaching people who can help LGBT youth--and adults--and make a real difference in our lives. We have a public health crisis in the gay community, still and perhaps worsening. And come a new administration that promises rollbacks, not progress, we are going to need education, awareness, and support more than ever. Please take a look at this sample e-book and share it. 


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gay youth need support post-Trump

What's a gay youth to do faced by an increasingly hostile social environment brought on by the Trump election? The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a rise in hate crimes against all minorities since the election and the LGBT community is included. We look at how gay youth can find a supportive hand in this climate in our new book, Healing the Brain.

Finding Support

Coming out is one of the most stressful periods in a gay teen's life.
In a best-case scenario, the teen's parents might have suspected their teen's sexual orientation, and are happy and accepting of the declaration. But in the worst case, the teen's parents might cut off financial support, reject the teen, and kick him or her out of the household.

In “Homophobic Teasing, Psychological Outcomes, and Sexual Orientation Among High School Students: What Influence Do Parents and Schools Have?” published in The School Psychology Review, anti-gay teasing was found to have negative mental health outcomes in gay teenagers who lack supportive school and home environments. Researchers Dorothy L. Esperage and others examined 13,921 high school teenagers, of whom 932 were “questioning” their sexuality, and an additional 1,065 identified themselves as homosexuals.

While all teenagers will experience negative outcomes when parents are unsupportive, for gay teenagers, this effect can be particularly strong, leading to greater instances of depression. The study stated that questioning and openly homosexual students were more likely to report depression, suicide attempts, and drug use when their parents rejected their sexuality.

But gay students who received support were less likely to report these negative outcomes, even if they experienced victimization in school environments. Family acceptance of homosexuality led to higher self-esteem, more support against victimization, and reduced depression among the participants. Since each family scenario differs on a case-by-case basis, the teen should decide if coming out to his or her parents would cause more harm than good. If so, the teen must identify individuals in the teen's life who will be accepting and supportive of the teen's decision to come out. For some teenagers, this might be an aunt, uncle, or sibling, while others find support in school counselors or close friends.