Stop the Shock – a coalition of more than 30 organizations in the Disability Justice and Neurodivergent community – organized a rally and press briefing at the Boston Common on Sept 9. The rally succeeded in garnering greater publicity and support for passing House H180 in the Massachusetts state legislature to outlaw the use of aversion therapy. Aversion therapy includes skin shocks, pinching, ammonia face spraying, contingent food programs (using food deprivation as punishment), long-term restraints, sensory deprivation and white noise helmets used primarily against children with disabilities. All of these methods are used at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts.
Corporate capitalism, defined by the cult of the self and the ruthless exploitation of the natural world and all forms of life for profit, thrives on the fostering of chronic psychological and physical disorders. The diseases and pathologies of despair — alienation, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression, morbid obesity, mass shootings (now almost two per day on average), domestic and sexual violence, drug overdoses (over 100,000 per year) and suicide (49,000 deaths in 2022) — are the consequences of a deeply traumatized society. The core traits of psychopaths — superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception, manipulation and the inability to feel remorse or guilt — are celebrated.
If you think the San Francisco Bay Area is “woke,” you probably don’t know about East Contra Costa County, in the East Bay, where nearly half the City of Antioch’s police department are now on leave for police misconduct that includes exchanging racist, homophobic, and misogynist text messages, some of which include the n-word and references to Black people as gorillas and monkeys. In one instance it was revealed that one cop had sent another a text image depicting the Black police chief, who had been on the job for about a year, as a gorilla . The chief resigned shortly thereafter without saying why.
Violence is ubiquitous in American life, and so is the trauma that follows in its wake. From the domestic sphere to the public sphere, interpersonal violence, particularly of a sexual nature, is all-too-common in the US. How does the resulting trauma manifest, and how does this trauma shape everything from our personal relationships to our politics? Specialist Dr. Judith Lewis Herman joins The Chris Hedges Report for an in-depth discussion on how trauma distorts the mind and the body politic alike. Dr. Judith Lewis Herman is a psychiatrist who studies trauma and developed the diagnosis for Complex PTSD. She is the author of several books, including her most recent, Truth and Repair: How Trauma Survivors Envision Justice.
Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating a prisoner from all human contact for an extended period of time. It is often used as a form of punishment or to control behavior, but it can have serious negative effects on mental health. Most countries around the world limit the time that a prisoner can spend in solitary to 15 days. The United States doesn’t. There are scores of prisoners across the U.S. who have been in solitary for years and, in some cases, decades. It should be clear to everybody — the courts, the states, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons — that solitary only worsens already bad situations. It shouldn’t be in use.
The horrific choking murder of 30-year-old Jordan Neely by a white MTA rider on May 1, 2023, in the New York City subway sparked mass outrage, with demonstrators converging on subway stations while cops brought “force and chaos” to a vigil in his memory. The murder has put a renewed spotlight on carceral logics of the state that assume the disposability of Black, poor and unhoused people — in particular those said to be in “mental health crisis.” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s response to Neely’s killing deflects from the white supremacist violence and ongoing lack of accountability for the killer, and instead medicalizes Neely’s death: “People who are homeless in our subways, many of them in the throes of mental health episodes, and that’s what I believe were some of the factors involved here.
Certain work conditions – including inflexible or late-night schedules and lack of paid sick leave – can have a significant effect on mental health, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2021, about 1 in every 37 working adults experienced serious psychological distress, or negative feelings that were severe enough to impair social and occupational functioning and to require treatment, the report shows. The findings were based off of a representative sample of adults ages 18 to 64 who responded to the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Interview Survey.
Today, the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute, in association with the American Federation of Government Employees, released a comprehensive report on the urgent struggles of thousands of VA employees, and how they threaten to impede the future of America’s best healthcare and benefits systems. Entitled “Disadvantaging the VA: How VA Staff View Agency Privatization and Other Detrimental Policies,” the 74-page report leans on dozens of interviews, hundreds of written comments, and thousands of survey responses, as well as Congressional testimony, federal watchdog reports, and other previous investigations. It shows how a series of detrimental policies are inhibiting the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) from maintaining its preeminence in providing unparalleled veterans’ services.
In prisons and jails across America, between 41,000 and 48,000 people are currently being held in solitary confinement, or “isolation,” as it is called in a new study by the Correctional Leaders Association and the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law at Yale University Law School. Those numbers are too high, especially when the United Nations’ special rapporteur for torture has called the U.S. practice of using solitary confinement as a punishment a form of torture. Still, as high as the numbers are, they are far lower than they were in 2014. And there is growing support across the country for solitary confinement reform.
August Wilson wrote 10 plays chronicling Black life in the 20th century. His favorite, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, is set in 1911 in a boarding house in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The play’s title comes from “Joe Turner’s Blues,” written in 1915 by W. C. Handy. That song refers to a man named Joe Turney, the brother of Peter Turney, who was the governor of Tennessee from 1893 to 1897. Joe Turney transported Black prisoners, chained in a coffle, along the roads from Memphis to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville. While en route, he handed over some of the convicts, for a commission, to white farmers. The prisoners he leased to the farmers worked for years in a system of convict leasing — slavery by another name.
How does living in a consumer society at war with basic human needs affect our minds and, ultimately, our bodies? In his new book, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture, Dr. Gabor Maté and his son Daniel argue that our culture’s standards of normalcy are destructive to the health of human beings. In a society where profit and personal attainment are the highest values, traumas abound, and everyday people are left to endure their pain and shame in silence. The consequence of this dark ethic, Dr. Maté illustrates, plays out on our bodies, severely damaging our psyches, and pushing us towards individual and social self-annihilation. Dr. Gabor Maté joins The Chris Hedges Report to discuss his new book.
Psychologists, social workers, therapists, and chemical dependency counselors are in the ninth week of an open-ended strike at Kaiser Permanente in Northern and Central California. The 2,000 mental health care workers walked out August 15; their contract has been expired since September 2021. They’re members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which split from SEIU in 2010. NUHW says Kaiser has failed to provide the staffing and wages to retain adequate and diverse staff—yielding unsustainable workloads and dangerous understaffing. After a mental health intake visit, even patients in crisis may wait weeks or months for a second appointment. Clinicians also report managers pressure them to prescribe next appointments when an appointment is available, rather than when they think the patient needs it—a practice that’s dangerous for patients and demoralizing for mental health workers.
So I know that I’m supposed to cover the Most Censored News and the fact that massive new studies show antidepressants don’t do nearly what we were told they do is on the cover of Newsweek does not exactly count as the most censored news. But I’ll get to the censored part in a minute. Newsweek reports, “In 2019, one in eight Americans—43 million in all—were taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), and those numbers have likely risen among a public ridden with COVID-induced anxiety.” In fact, over the past few years, so many people were demanding Zoloft that the FDA warned there would be a shortage. Think about that, one in eight Americans are on antidepressants, and assuming almost all of those people are 18 or older, 43 million is actually one in every six American adults. That is insane.
California - Mental health workers at Kaiser Permanente announced plans Tuesday for an open-ended strike that could lead as many as 2,000 Northern California mental health workers to curtail appointments beginning on Aug. 15. The announcement came in response to frustration with the level of service provided to patients at the nation’s largest nonprofit HMO, which Capital & Main reported on in a recent story. As a result of understaffing, patients who should receive weekly therapy are waiting months to start treatment and as long as two months between appointments in violation of clinical guidelines, according to a statement released by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents the workers. (Disclosure: NUHW is a financial supporter of this website.)
While Harris County is spending millions of dollars on mental health services and service-providing agencies to reduce the number of mentally ill people entering its county jails, activists on the ground are tackling the problem from another angle—by providing direct support to the county’s homeless population. “We don’t have the best safety nets in Texas, and from the mental health standpoint, there really aren’t the mental health services available that people need,” Catherine Villarreal, director of communications at the Coalition for the Homeless, told TRNN. But Villarreal also stressed that, for people experiencing homelessness and/or mental health crises, the lack of healthcare resources and social support is a crisis unto itself: “when someone ends up homeless, often that didn’t happen overnight.”