This week, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour forgot what it was like to live through the civil rights era.
In comments that are fast becoming as infamous as “Houston, we have a problem,” Barbour said that he recalled growing up in Mississippi during the civil rights era, and that “I just don’t remember (the conflict over integration) as being that bad.” He also claimed that secret segregationist groups called Citizen Councils were in fact protecting law, order, and black people.
These are the kinds of claims that it takes someone with an internet connection maybe 10 minutes to debunk – if they use dial-up. Yet Barbour, a major Republican figure and potential presidential candidate, somehow didn’t realize he was painting a bulls-eye on his political future when he made them.
That’s a lot worse than losing your keys. How did this happen?
Conventional wisdom is saying that this is pure cynical politics … a deliberate extension of the infamous Republican “southern strategy” that plays off racial divisions to capture public office. And sure – okay: anyone who says “politicians are being cynical and manipulative!” gets an easy A. But is there more going on?
The numbers of college students seeking mental health services has increased over the years. More students are reporting that they’re not coping with college, and pleas for help are showing up on Facebook posts and from classmates who see their friends struggling hard just to keep going.
We’re not just talking about reports of stress or anxiety, we’re talking about suicide attempts and nervous breakdowns. According to a report by the American College Health Association (ACHA), in 2008, 1 in 3 college students reported that they felt so depressed that they were not able to function. About 1 in 10 reported they had thoughts of suicide. One out of 100 students attempted to commit suicide, 133 students were successful. These numbers are bleak.
The most painful stories are about the students who shatter to such a devastating degree that in their grief and rage they take other students with them.
Is this a sign of the times or has this been a constant presence in the lives of young college students?
Research has shown that there is little to no relationship between “mental illness” and violent behavior.
But try telling the public that.
Stereotypes are powerful, and not only is this one a thousand of years old, but it’s reinforced every night on prime time when cop shows and procedural dramas portray schizophrenic or psychotic killers.
This fear has serious consequences: the General Social Survey (GSS) showed that as of 2006 the majority of people were not willing to work closely or socialize with the person in the vignette who was schizophrenic or alcohol dependent. They even indicatd that they are unwilling to have them as neighbors, marry into their families and even perceived them as being potentially violent. Major depression was not seen as being dangerous, but the stigma related to this was still unchanged.
Given that the link between mental illness and violent behavior is illusory, it sounds like this is just the kind of damaging stereotype that needs to be corrected by a public awareness campaign. The trouble is it’s been tried, several times, and it’s not working.
In fact, the GSS shows that American attitudes towards mental illness have changed very little from 1996 – 2006.
A University of Georgia study (PDF) of more than 10,000 fifth-graders in 71 elementary schools showed that students who could see gardens, mountains and other natural elements from their classrooms scored significantly higher on tests in vocabulary and math than students whose classrooms had views of roads and parking lots.
We just don’t know why.
According to a different study (PDF), students who have access to classrooms with more natural light advance 20 percent faster in math, and score 7 to 18 percent higher, than students with little daylight in their classes.
We’re just not sure why.
The nature of the places we work, live, and play have a significant impact on the way we go about our lives and what we want to accomplish. So much so that international negotiator William Ury (author of Getting to Yes) deliberately chooses places that have histories of successful peace negotiations as the settings for mediations he leads. He says it helps.
In fact, there are many different occupations that work with “place” and “settings”: architects, urban planners, farmers, eco-psychologists, to name just a few, and all of them have sets of evolving “best practices” about how to make places come alive for the people who live and work there.
As Saybrook alumna Renee Levi discovered, each professional and academic field knows a great deal about the relationship between people and place, but they rarely have opportunities to share what they know and learn from each other.
If they were coming to him with trouble sleeping, or an eating disorder, or a drug habit, they’d have no trouble saying “I have a problem, how do I solve it?” But in the case of an unfulfilling sex life, or a low libido, he says, they’re much more likely to ask “how do I come to terms with it?”
Writing the lead article in the Fall issue of the journal Parabola, Hollis calls this a “disorder of desire,” and points out that our ability to express and experience desire is a key element of mental health. To be cut off from one’s own desire is to be cut off from one’s own life.
“While levels of desire vary from person to person,” he writes, “the absence or diminution of desire is psychologically and spiritually significant for it is desire which most expresses the life force.”
This is not a casual problem, or something to shrug off with a resigned “oh well.”
All Saybrook students, faculty, staff,trustees, and alumni are invited to the inaugural ceremony, the luncheon immediately following, and the academic colloquium. .
Please let us know as soon as possible if you plan to join us with your RSVP here.
In the last decade James Gordon, MD, has helped train thousands of healthcare providers from around the world to tend to the psychological damage of war and conflict. He’s trained healthcare practiciones in Kosovo, Israel, and Palestine.
In December Gordon, who directs The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and serves as Dean of Saybrook’s Graduate College of Mind-Body Medicine, led an international delegation with representatives from all of those places to Haiti.
Together they are laying the foundation for Haiti’s first-ever nationwide program of primary mental healthcare.
Mark Schulman, president of Saybrook University, announced this month the appointment of twelve faculty members to the rank of full professor. These appointments represent the first time that Saybrook University has chosen to bestow this rank, and recognizes the outstanding professional achievements of its senior faculty.
These 12 faculty members represent an impressive record of scholarship, practice, and research in the fields of clinical psychology, creativity studies, humanistic and transpersonal psychology, human science, integrative health studies, organizational systems, and social transformation. Among the honors bestowed upon them are awards by national and international professional associations, foreign governments, and their peers. Many of these faculty have been honored by divisions of the American Psychological Association and have served as chairs of these divisions. All of them have presented and published extensively.
The Saybrook University colleges in which they teach and a brief summary of their professional backgrounds is provided below.
Saybrook President Mark Schulman spoke this month with the journal National Medicine, recording an interview that covers everything from Saybrook’s history to how mind-body medicine is changing the medical paradigm.
If you’ve ever wondered about the connection between humanistic psychology and mind-body medicine, or wondered about how to tell the legitimate science of integrative health from the pseudoscience that often surrounds it, you’ll want to listen to this interview.
Eugene Taylor, PhD, Historian and Philosopher of Psychology, Saybrook Faculty Member, and Director of the Concentration in Humanisic and Transpersonal Psychology, has been honored by the Society for Humanisic Psychology (Division 32) within the American Psychological Association with the Abraham Maslow Award for 2011, given to an individual for an outstanding and lasting contribution to the exploration of the farther reaches of the human spirit.
Prof. Taylor will receive the award in August, at the 119th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, DC. His address to the Division will be on "Self-Knowledge as a Legitimate Method in Experimental Psychology."