Nov 29

PRIDE Study: YOU Can Aid LGBTQ Health Research

Join the first longitudinal health study of LGBTQ people today. The Pride Study

…And contribute to research that will hopefully “do for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) health, what the Framingham study did for heart health,” states UC San Francisco, the site of this landmark study (UCSF News).

After all, how can LGBTQ health and mental health needs get adequately addressed when there’s been a dearth of specific knowledge about our needs? PRIDE in the Pride Study, by the way, stands for The Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality.

Mitchell Lunn, MD, and Juno Obedin-Maliver, MD, MPH, “founded the PRIDE Study to engage the LGBTQ community, understand their health priorities, and frame research questions to address specific disease risks, outcomes, and resiliencies in this population.”

The PRIDE study is affiliated with PRIDEnet, a national network of over 40 LGBTQ-focused organizations. According to their site, “We are a patient powered research network (PPRN) funded by PCORI and staffed by Carolyn Hunt and Micah Lubensky.” PCORI stands for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

See a brief video below that features a variety of individuals explaining the importance to them of the PRIDE study:

One research participant is physician Daniel Summers, Slate, who in his recent article mentioned mental health issues as an element of the PRIDE study:

The wide range of questions asked by the survey could help health providers detect and lessen problems or risk factors they may have overlooked previously. To pick one area of inquiry that stood out to me when I completed the survey, it may be that growing up in a religious community that rejected gay and sexual-minority people is a significant risk factor for depression or anxiety in LGBTQ people—but joining an affirming religious community mitigates this risk later in life. By collecting very granular data points like those, the authors can provide physicians and counselors with a better idea about areas of their patients’ lives that might never have occurred to them before.

Also now a proud participant, one of thousands, is yours truly. I found the questionnaire informative, thorough, wide-ranging, and highly sensitive to all sexual minorities.

Although many have already joined the study, tons more are needed, say the researchers. That’s where you come in.

Get on your computer or any internet-connected device now and at this link answer just a few questions to see if you’re eligible. For starters, are you LGBTQ-identified and over 18?

If you are able to proceed with this confidential study, you’ll need at least a half hour, probably more, to complete the extensive questionnaire—a worthy chunk of your time and effort on behalf of LGBTQ people everywhere, don’t you think?

Nov 02

“First Things First” In Three Different Ways

Online dictionary definition of “First things first”: Used to assert that important matters should be dealt with before other things.

First things first. Whether regarding time management, addiction recovery, and/or decision-making about one’s primary romantic relationship versus another, this slogan may seem simplistic—but often comes in handy.

I. Time Management

Stephen R. Covey (1932-2012) wrote First Things First, about time management, in the 1990’s. Joan Price‘s Amazon Review states that Covey’s organizing process is designed to help you prioritize what’s truly important. Four quadrants represent the tasks you find at hand—and your job is to figure out what goes where:

  1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
  2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
  3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
  4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)

Focusing on quadrants one and three, the urgency realm, is what many people do:

We get a temporary high from solving urgent and important crises. Then when the importance isn’t there, the urgency fix is so powerful we are drawn to do anything urgent, just to stay in motion. People expect us to be busy, overworked. It’s become a status symbol in our society—if we’re busy, we’re important; if we’re not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it. Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular, and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives. ‘I’d love to spend quality time with you, but I have to work. There’s this deadline. It’s urgent. Of course you understand.’ ‘I just don’t have time to exercise. I know it’s important, but there are so many pressing things right now. Maybe when things slow down a little.’

Focusing on quadrant number two, on the other hand, is more likely to be constructive.

II. Addiction/Sobriety

So, there’s urgency addiction, according to Covey, and of course so many other types of addiction. How exactly can “first things first,” a key 12-step slogan, apply to addiction recovery? For those early in the process, expert Lisa Frederiksen, Breaking the Cycles, offers the following steps, noting in advance that it’s either the addict or the caring loved one who can start the process toward health. (Click on the link for details.)

  • Accept that addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease.
  • Learn as much as you can about what happens in the brain of an addict/alcoholic as a result of the brain disease of addiction and about what happens in the brains of the family member, as well.
  • Let go of the old notion of control.
  • Do what you can to improve your diet, get regular exercise and get enough sleep.

III. Relationship Decision-Making

A common dilemma: Person A is in some level of commitment to one partner (B) but having an affair, emotional or otherwise, with another (C). Often at some point A has to determine, is it B or or is it C? Or maybe neither. “First things first” requires time and space to re-place more focus on both the problems and benefits of being with the one who was a priority first, B. Only then can A become rational and free enough from outside pressures to make appropriate decisions in this regard.

Aug 25

“Ingrid Goes West”: Social Media Obsession to Extreme

The drama, directed by Matt Spicer, is the latest entry in the picturesque-mental-illness genre. Richard Brody, New Yorker, reviewing Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West as described on Rotten Tomatoes:

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is an unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing ‘likes’ for meaningful relationships. Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) is an Instagram-famous ‘influencer’ whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF. Built around a brilliantly disarming performance from Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West (winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance) is a savagely hilarious dark comedy that satirizes the modern world of social media and proves that being #perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In the trailer alone, Ingrid’s mental health is called into question several times:

More About Ingrid

Sheila O’Malley,

When we first meet Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), she is in the process of crashing a wedding and spraying Mace in the bride’s face as retaliation for not being invited. A little bit later we learn that the two women weren’t even friends. Ingrid was just obsessed with this woman’s Instagram feed, and felt they had a personal connection. A short time in a psych ward follows. Upon Ingrid’s release, she falls back into the old pattern. Life is not worth living without an object of desire.

Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

Plaza disappears into the unhinged Ingrid, a character exciting in her sheer unlikeability. She lies and steals to get what she wants. She exploits trust and kindness. But she brims with a deep human fear of inadequacy, one she hopes internet popularity might remedy. Plaza brings a vulnerability and desperation to Ingrid that makes her relatable. She’s obsessive and unstable, but she just wants to be liked, online or anywhere.

Social Media Obsession Theme

Sheila O’Malley,

‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a biting expose on How We Live Now: sitting on our phones, rote scrolling through someone else’s online life, clicking ‘Hearts’ without even taking a moment to absorb the image. The film lampoons stuff that didn’t even exist 10 years ago but has now become such a part of our everyday lives that no one takes a second to consider the potential negative effects. If everything is public, then where is the Self? Is turning yourself into a ‘brand’ really a good idea? If you don’t take a picture of it and – crucially – share it with the world, did it really happen?

Selected Reviews

Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times: “This is the real ‘Emoji Movie,’ a true horror story for our digital times. In the most acutely relatable ways and built around deft turns by Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, it skewers how we live and lurk these days in timelines fraught with angled sunlit selfies, artisanal avocado toasts and the FOMO-frothing torment of scrolling compulsively through other people’s bliss.”

Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter: “…(E)ven though this feature debut for director Matt Spicer, who co-wrote the script with David Branson Smith, is sort of all over the place, it’s still often sharply amusing, crisply assembled and features game, broad-brushstroke performances from leads Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, vaguely recreating Single White Female for the smartphone generation.”

Leah Greenblatt,

…The lemur-eyed Plaza vibrates with manic intensity, and Olsen is a brilliantly hollow foil. Though strangely, it’s the men who feel most real: Ingrid’s stoner landlord-cum-boyfriend (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Taylor’s shaggy husband (Wyatt Russell), and Billy Magnussen as the ruthless party-boy brother who sees right through his sister’s new BFF. It’s too bad that in the end West doesn’t fully trust its own ugly truths, settling instead for a postscript so glibly, brightly #blessed.

Jul 26

“Stick With It”: Persistence and Perseverance Pay Off

If you’re looking to make big personal changes, one new resource is Sean D. Young‘s Stick With It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life–for Good. 

About a decade ago James O. ProchaskaJohn Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente also had strong ideas on this topic when they published a similar-sounding title, Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. 

The Stages of Change Model developed in the 1970’s and 80’s by Prochaska and DiClemente began with studying smokers’ attempts to give up their habit. The end result was the development of a tool to assess one’s readiness to work on change of any kind as well as one’s readiness to stick with it, or to persevere.

It’s one thing, that is, to decide to go for behavior change, another to hang in there—perseverance is key. Some quotes from other noteworthy authors and individuals to help you not only try for change but also stick with it:

Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success (2016):

…(G)rit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity. The maturation story is that we develop the capacity for long-term passion and perseverance as we get older.

Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.

Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (2015):

The desire to start something at the “right” time is usually just a justification for delay. In almost every case, the best time to start is now.

The most important step is the first step. All those old sayings are really true. Well begun is half done. Don’t get it perfect, get it going. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started, and strangely, starting is often far harder than continuing.

Albert EinsteinIt’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

Maya Angelou: You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Hillary ClintonYou know, everybody has setbacks in their life, and everybody falls short of whatever goals they might set for themselves. That’s part of living and coming to terms with who you are as a person.

Barack Obama: Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.

Mar 15

“Irresistible”: Adam Alter Says We’re Hooked On the Tech Stuff

The environment and circumstance of the digital age are far more conducive to addiction than anything humans have experienced in our history. Adam Alter, Irresistible

Although I usually save the book reviews for last, in this case I believe they can serve as apt descriptions of what psychology and marketing expert Adam Alter is trying to convey in Irresistible:The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked (2017).

In reviewing Irresistible author Daniel H. Pink notes that Alter is focusing here on behavioral addiction, “a hidden danger in our lives.” Examples of tech-related addictions include “tracking social media ‘likes’ to counting our steps,” he reports. Alter concludes “our actions are being guided less by our own volition than by the architecture of the technologies we use.”

David Epstein: “In Irresistible, Adam Alter illuminates the surprising, fascinating, and frightening biological and psychological connections between a toddler hitting every button in an elevator, a surgical patient asking for painkillers, and the millions of people hooked on Facebook. No one who has ever seen an advertisement, checked their email on a smartphone, or used the Internet will come away quite the same.”

What are the actual numbers? According to Alter’s research, use of cellphones is up to three hours a day for many, video games can be weeks on end for some adolescent boys, and Snapchat users often open up their apps over 18 times a day.

Furthermore, “In one survey, 60 percent of the adults said they keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep. In another survey, half the respondents claimed they check their emails during the night.”

And that’s not all. Regarding the general incidence of behavioral addictions? “A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.”

(Stats from the last three paragraphs are from Alter’s interview with Claudia Dreifus, New York Times).

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: “[Alter] also illustrates the stakes: that these technologies are preventing us from forming meaningful relationships, raising empathetic children, and separating work from sleep and play.”

An appropriate conclusion from another cultural authority, Malcolm Gladwell: “As if to prove his point, Adam Alter has written a truly addictive book about the rise of addiction. Irresistible is a fascinating and much needed exploration of one of the most troubling phenomena of modern times.”

How can these types of addiction be managed by overusers? Dreifus asked Alter to comment:

I’d suggest that they be more mindful about how they are allowing tech to invade their life. Next, they should cordon it off. I like the idea, for instance, of not answering email after six at night.

In general, I’d say find more time to be in natural environments, to sit face to face with someone in a long conversation without any technology in the room. There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens.