Boing Boing 

Miles O'Brien on life after losing an arm

Television journalist, Miles O'brien, who lost an arm after an accident, gets ready for his day.


Television journalist Miles O'Brien gets ready for his day. (Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos/New York Magazine)

While on assignment in the Philippines in February, reporter Miles O’Brien had an accident and lost his left arm. In the weeks that followed, he learned that every movement, no matter how small, requires rethinking. In this week's New York Magazine, he describes his "Life, After."

Read the rest

Should a past mental health episode mean this mom loses her child?

Steve Herbert for ProPublica


Steve Herbert for ProPublica

At ProPublica, the story of a young woman who had a mental health crisis -- a psychotic episode -- and as a result, lost custody of her infant daughter. In the crisis incident, the mom became delusional and believed her child had been raped. The child had not been assaulted, nor was she ever harmed by her mom. Four years later, the mom is receiving effective treatment for her postpartum depression and psychosis, and capably raising a son. Yet, the courts in Kansas still won't give back her daughter, arguing she is unfit based an principle sometimes called "predictive neglect." Is this right?

Prints that peer into 8-bit game characters' lurking anxieties


Christopher Hemsworth's Dear Inner Demons -- Retro Video Game Edition is a series of prints (8"x8", $16) in which we learn about the deep insecurities of our favorite olde fashioned video-game characters.

Read the rest

Investigative report on collapse of US mental health care system

Karen Kelley is one of about 10 million people who suffer from mental illness. The cost is staggering, and could never account for the emotional toll, since that could never be fully calculated. [USA Today]


Karen Kelley is one of about 10 million people who suffer from mental illness. The cost is staggering, and could never account for the emotional toll, since that could never be fully calculated. [USA Today]

"More than half a million Americans with serious mental illness are falling through the cracks of a system in tatters," reports Liz Szabo and colleagues in an important USA TODAY special report. Absolute must-read.

Read the rest

Hyperbole and a Half book delivers

Back in October, I predicted that I would love the long-awaited Hyperbole and a Half book, adapted from Allie Brosh's absolute treasure of a webcomic. One of the highlights of my winter holiday so far has been gobbling up this book as quick as I could cram it into my eyeballs, a task complicated by being frequently convulsed with laughter -- at least when my heart wasn't being torn out.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

The history of lobotomy in the VA

A couple years ago, I read Jack El-Hai's brilliant book about lobotomy popularizer Walter Freeman — the man who lobotomized Rosemary Kennedy and traveled the country lobotomizing thousands of Americans with an ice pick. Now, at the Wall Street Journal, Michael Phillips has a big feature about Freeman and the influence he had on mental healthcare in the Veterans Administration. It's a chilling and important long read.

Delusions that could be real, but they're not

Last year, Joshua Brady of Matoaca, Virgina convinced a man named Herson Torres to rob banks in the Washington, DC area. Brady said that he was a CIA agent and this was part of an undercover operation to audit bank security. Brady wasn't actually a CIA agent though. He just thought he was. And as George Costanza once said, "It's not a lie if you believe it." BB pal Jon Ronson tells Brady's story for This American Life. In this terrific piece, Jon delves into delusional disorder, a rare psychiatric condition usually characterized by delusions that are within the realm of possibility. It's like something from a Philip K. Dick novel where reality is in the eye and mind of the beholder, until it isn't.

"You Can't Handle The Truth" (This American Life)

Ronson learned about Brady's bizarre tale from Tom Schoenberg's excellent Businessweek article, "In Virginia's Fairfax County, Robbing Banks for the CIA"

Three things to know about postpartum depression as you read about Miriam Carey and the Capitol car chase


On the Today Show this morning, a psychologist said "postpartum depression has led mothers to kill their children." This is not true.

Yesterday, Miriam Carey died after being shot by police following a car chase between the White House and the US Capitol building. Carey is reported to have tried to ram through barricades at the White House, hitting at least one officer as well as a squad car. She then drove her vehicle into barriers in front of the Hart Senate Building before being fatally shot by law enforcement officers. She was unarmed. A child identified as her daughter — a little more than one year old — was in the car the whole time.

Today, news outlets are reporting that Carey had a history of traumatic brain injury and postpartum depression, the latter of which may have been severe enough to send her to the hospital at some point in the past year. Nobody knows what, if any, effect this may have had on what happened yesterday. But it's led to plenty of speculation, and the spread of bad information that stigmatizes women suffering from an incredibly common mental illness.

For instance, on NBC's Today Show this morning, psychologist Jennifer Hartstein declared that "postpartum depression has led mothers to kill their children" — a statement that conflates PPD with a different disorder AND overstates the risk that other disorder poses to kids.

Over the next few days, we're all likely to hear a lot of discussion about postpartum depression. As you absorb that news, keep the following facts in mind:

Read the rest

Gut microbes may control your brain

At The Verge, Carrie Arnold writes about a scientist who thinks that our intestinal bacteria could have an influence on mental health. It's not proven, but it's not a totally crazy idea, either, and there's some good evidence supporting the connection. The catch: Even if what's happening in your gut affects what is happening in your head, there might not be much we can do change the mental health outcomes.

Dolphins on acid (and other bad ideas)

How dosing dolphins with LSD (and giving dolphins hand jobs) helped shape our modern pop culture beliefs about dolphins as sources of healing — beliefs that, according to neuroscientist Lori Marino, can endanger both dolphins and the humans who come to them for help.

The Verizon order, the NSA, and what call records might reveal about psychiatric patients

"Dissent," an anonymous-pseudonymous blogger who is a mental health care practitioner, has an interesting post about one tangential consequence of the announcement that Verizon and other communications providers have been ordered to turn over records to the NSA.  
I started thinking about what those records and metadata could reveal.  Because my phone is used mainly for calls to and from patients and clients, can the NSA figure out who my patients are?  And could they, with just a query or bit of analysis, figure out when my patients were going into crisis or periods of symptom worsening?  I suspect that they can. And because I am nationally and internationally known as an expert on a particular disorder, could the government also deduce the diagnosis or diagnoses of my patients or their family members? Probably.

"Dissent" hopes someone will "come up with some point-and-click instructions for doctors and lawyers to use to protect our calls and e-mails better so that the identity of those calling or e-mailing us has better protection." Tor and burner phones for shrinks!

Read more: The Verizon order, the NSA, and what call records might reveal about psychiatric patients [PHIprivacy.net]

High on life (and that third cup of coffee)

The new DSM 5 (and the old DSM-IV, for that matter) includes caffeine intoxication as a valid mental health diagnosis. The new version has also upped the ante, adding "caffeine withdrawal" and "caffeine use disorder" to the list. It's worth noting, though, that the diagnosis criteria is based on a key point — do these behaviors significantly impact the patient's ability to function in daily life. That's, apparently, what makes a difference between everybody in America — sans Mormons — being a caffeine freak, and a few people having a problem. Of course, that distinction is also pretty subjective.

Can you trust a sociopath's memoir?

I have never killed anyone, but I have certainly wanted to. I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to my exceptionalism like moths to a flame. This is my story.

That's the beginning of an essay about sociopathy written from the perspective of a sociopath. The author, M.E. Thomas, recently published a book about her experience being a sociopath. The name is a pseudonym and it's not totally clear how much of this story you can trust. For instance, whether Thomas' sociopathy is actually professionally diagnosed or not seemed unclear to me. Another example: At one point in the essay, she says she wasn't an abused child — then goes on to describe a childhood with a father who once beat apart a bathroom door to get at her and a mother who nearly let her die from appendicitis to avoid the medical bills ... and then blamed Thomas for her own illness. It's all a little weird.

That said, there's value in the "interesting, if true" sort of read that this is. At the very least, I've never seen an actual sociopath describe their own condition before. So, if that's what's actually going on here, it's a tour of a very different way of thinking. I'm not sure whether the fact that it all comes across as very manipulative is evidence in favor of, or against, the purported origins of the narrative.

Read the full essay "Confessions of a Sociopath"

Read a review of M.E. Thomas' book by Boston Globe writer Julia Klein, who has some of the same reservations that I do.

Depressed Cake Shop: a pop-up shop selling grey cakes to raise money for mental health charities


Miss Cakehead writes, "The Depressed Cake Shop will be like nothing ever seen before as it will sell ONLY grey coloured cakes. Raising money for mental health charities, it will also provide a platform for discussion of the illness. The pop up is based in the UK but with other events starting to be planned around the globe."

The Depressed Cake Shop

Mind-controlled man makes 100+ calls to 911 in a month

Jimmy Shao of Sacramento, CA was arrested for calling 911 more than 100 times in one month. Shao says he won't stop until Congress investigates the shadow government who use satellites to control his mind and body.

“My brain, I can feel it starting. I’m blasted by the signals, every couple of minutes,” Shao told CBS Sacramento. “I yell and I scream, ‘Stop it, I don’t need this,’ but they never listen.”

According to the news report, police promise to arrest Shao again if he continues to call 911, and that they "may look for some counseling to get him some help."

Yeah, um, the latter.

More evidence that your mom's illnesses can affect your mental health

You've probably heard before that people with schizophrenia are more likely to have been born in winter than other seasons — and that this weird fact could be linked to their mothers coming down with the flu, or suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. A new study has now found that people with bipolar disorder had a greater likelihood of being born to women who had had the flu while pregnant. It's a strange connection, and might just be correlation. So far, doctor's don't really understand why a virus-infected mama would lead to her child developing mental illness later in life.

Scanxiety, or how waiting for cancer tests makes you crazy

Photo: Me in an MRI, by Tara Brown

I had a rough week, this week. I came back from a transformative, restorative trip to Hawaii, where I did lots of creative work for Boing Boing and for personal projects. The morning after my flight home, I dove in to a week of medical tests. My primary treatment for breast cancer is complete (chemo/surgery/radiation), but that doesn't mean cancer's over. I have to take a drug for 5 years (or more, who knows), and there is at least one more surgery ahead that I know of.

But there is also much monitoring ahead. I have to get various blood tests and exams and scans every 90 days, 6 months, and annually. Scanning my body for any new cancer, scanning the horizon for bad news, and hoping it never arrives.

The big thing this week was tumor marker blood tests, which are used to see if your blood shows signs that cancer is returning and progressing. The tests are very much imperfect, a blunt and controversial tool. What they tell us is a matter of debate. Some oncologists don't even use them. Mine does, and I do respect why, and I comply.

When I received my tumor marker results, I flipped out, even though my oncologist's office told me they were "fine." The numbers showed a slight increase in my tumor markers. How the fuck can that be fine?

Read the rest

Robotic rat terrorizes rats into depression

PopSci: "In order to create a workable model of a human mental disorder like depression, anxiety or schizophrenia, rats are often genetically manipulated or have their nerve system surgically altered. Sometimes they are forced to swim for long periods of time. Now, researchers at Waseda University in Tokyo have created a new method: Let a robotic rat terrorize the rats into depression."

(Via Neatorama)

ADHD diagnoses up 24% in CA study hey look a squirrel

A large-scale study of patients belonging to the Kaiser Permanente health care system has found "a significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)." The study involved about 850,000 patients ages five to 11, and showed a 24 percent jump in diagnoses from 2001 to 2010. It is possible that the increase in part or in whole due to "better diagnosis." (KPCC)

Clay Shirky: "Remembering Aaron by taking care of each other"

Author and NYU professor Clay Shirky writes about one of the imperatives he believes the death of Aaron Swartz should bring to life: "We need to take care of the people in our community who are depressed," he writes.

Suicide is not hard to understand, not intellectually anyway. It is, as Jeff Atwood says, the ultimate in ragequitting. But for most of us, it is hard to understand emotionally.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve spent a lot of time with people at risk of suicide, and so have become an amateur scholar of that choice. When I first started reading about it, I thought of it as the last stop on a road of stress and upset — when things get bad, people suffer, and when they get really bad, they take their own lives.

And what I learned was that this view is wrong. Suicide is no more a heightened reaction to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than depression is just being extra sad. Most of us won’t kill ourselves, no matter how bad things get. The common thread among people who commit suicide is that they are suicidal.

Read more: Remembering Aaron by taking care of each other (Clay Shirky blog)

Stress on special ops troops 'worse than we thought' in 2012

Snip from a report by USA Today's Gregg Zoroya: "According to Pentagon data, there were 17 confirmed or suspected suicides this year among commandos or support personnel through Dec. 2, compared with nine suicides each of the past two years. That's a suicide rate among these troops of about 25 per 100,000, comparable to a record rate this year in the Army and higher than a demographically adjusted civilian suicide rate."

Physical, sexual abuse documented at FL facility for autistic and brain-injured

Investigative reports released under a court order to Bloomberg News show that caregivers at a Florida center for brain-injured and "non-neurotypical" adults physically and sexually abused patients, in a systematic and brutal manner. Caregivers "goaded them to fight each other and fondle female employees and in one instance laughed at complaints of mistreatment." At least five patients have died at the center in question, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, from alleged abuse or neglect there since 1998. Two patients died in just the last two years. (Bloomberg)

The natural history of the European werewolf

Where did the European werewolf come from and why did this particular mythology become so powerful that we're still telling stories about it today?

In a fascinating talk recorded at Skepticon 5 last month, Deborah Hyde discusses the history of lycanthropy and its various roles in European society. Lycanthropy was more than one thing, Hyde explains. It functioned as a legitimate medical diagnosis — usually denoting some kind of psychotic break. It served as a placeholder to explain anything particularly horrific — like the case of a French serial killer. And, probably most importantly, lycanthropy went hand-in-hand with witchcraft as part of the Inquisition.

Hyde is the editor of The Skeptic magazine and she blogs about the cultural history of belief in the supernatural. As part of this talk, she's tracked down cases of werewolf trials in the 16th and 17th centuries and attempted to understand why people were charged with lycanthropy, what connected those cases to one another, and the role the trials played in the history of religious liberty. Great stuff!

Read Deborah Hyde's blog

On the Googlers who are paid to look at the absolute worst things on the internet

Buzzfeed reports that the people Google hires to screen for the worst possible stuff on YouTube (CP, beheadings, and this horrific stuff) suffer mental health risks (well, duh), and that they are unlikely to be hired as full-time employees who would receive health care benefits. That does not seem right. (via Joel Johnson)

How old is post-traumatic stress disorder?

It is very hard, and very weird to try to get a handle on how human health has changed between the 19th century and today. Obviously, the way we live has changed dramatically. But understanding how that impacts health (or doesn't) is complicated by the fact that healthcare, science, and public health research changed dramatically during those years, as well.

And all that science hasn't happened in a vacuum. The names we give various disorders change. Whether or not we consider something to be a disorder, at all, might change. And our cultural understanding changes, too—especially when it comes to mental illness.

At the Mind Hacks blog, Vaughn Bell has an excellent breakdown of two recent studies that try to put the modern diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into a cultural and historical context. Many people assume that PTSD is just a new name for something that has always existed—look at shell shock, which made it onto Downton Abbey last season. But these new papers suggest that the distinction between what soldiers experienced in the past and what they experience today might go deeper than naming conventions.

The diagnosis of PTSD involves having a traumatic experience and then being affected by a month of symptoms of three main groups: intrusive memories, hyper-arousal, and avoidance of reminders or emotional numbing ... there has been a popular belief that PTSD has been experienced throughout history but simply wasn’t properly recognised. Previous labels, it is claimed, like ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat fatigue’, were just early descriptions of the same universal reaction.

But until now, few studies have systematically looked for PTSD or post-trauma reactions in the older historical record. Two recent studies have done exactly this, however, and found no evidence for a historical syndrome equivalent to PTSD.

A study just published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders looked at the extensive medical records for soldiers in the American Civil War, whose mortality rate was about 50-80 greater than modern soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, there would have been many more having terrifying experiences but despite the higher rates of trauma and mentions of other mental problems, there is virtually no mention of anything like the intrusive thoughts or flashbacks of PTSD.

Read the rest at Mind Hacks

David Dobbs adds some more context to Bell's post at the Neuron Culture blog.

Can a kid be a psychopath?

The New York Times has a fascinating (and, FYI, kind of disturbing) story about young kids who exhibit psychological symptoms similar to what you see in adult psychopaths. It's a complex subject because, while everybody involved agrees these kids could use some kind of intervention, nobody knows exactly what that intervention should be and definitely don't want to stick the kids with a terrifying label that will follow them for their whole lives. More importantly, what we do know is that half of these kids will grow into normal adults—though we don't know exactly why.

It's an awkward situation where the science hasn't yet caught up to the personal need. In a perfect world, you might not want to mess around too much with this until we can learn more. But on the other hand, you're left with families that clearly need help now—like the family profiled in the story that must navigate how to deal with a nine-year-old who oscillates between violent tantrums and creepy, logical chill.

When I first met Michael, he seemed shy but remarkably well behaved. While his brother Allan ran through the house with a plastic bag held overhead like a parachute, Michael entered the room aloofly, then curled up on the living room sofa, hiding his face in the cushions. “Can you come say hello?” Anne asked him. He glanced at me, then sprang cheerfully to his feet. “Sure!” he said, running to hug her. Reprimanded for bouncing a ball in the kitchen, he rolled his eyes like any 9-year-old, then docilely went outside. A few minutes later, he was back in the house, capering antically in front of Jake, who was bobbing up and down on his sit-and-ride scooter. When the scooter tipped over, Michael gasped theatrically and ran to his brother’s side. “Jake, are you O.K.?” he asked, wide-eyed with concern. Earnestly ruffling his youngest brother’s hair, he flashed me a winning smile.

If the display of brotherly affection felt forced, it was difficult to see it as fundamentally disturbed. Gradually, though, Michael’s behavior began to morph. While queuing up a Pokémon video on the family’s computer upstairs, Michael turned to me and remarked crisply, “As you can see, I don’t really like Allan.” When I asked if that was really true, he said: “Yes. It’s true,” then added tonelessly, “I hate him.”

Glancing down a second later, he noticed my digital tape recorder on the table. “Did you record that?” he asked. I said that I had. He stared at me briefly before turning back to the video. When a sudden noise from the other room caused me to glance away, Michael seized the opportunity to grab the recorder and press the erase button. (Waschbusch later noted that such a calculated reprisal was unusual in a 9-year-old, who would normally go for the recorder immediately or simply whine and sulk.)

Read the full story at the New York Times

Mental institution filled with 28,000 flowers before it was demolished


Artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to produce an installation in the massive, ancient Massachusetts Mental Health Center before it was demolished. She filled it with 28,000 flowers. Here, Colossal talks with Schuleit about "BLOOM," the resulting installation.

The reactions to Bloom ranged from expressions of delight to raw and renewed sorrow. It was a strange duality: at its core this project was intended to allow people free access to a building that had always been locked and mysterious, while opening its doors also (and especially) to those who had been there for years. The building meant many things to many people, as a workplace, a refuge, a place of confinement. The installation of live flowers and audio (a collage of the sounds of the building before it closed being played over the old PA system) elicited as many reactions as there are stories. I met many hundreds of people who had worked and been at MMHC for years and decades. It was for them that I created this work. We had a guest book in the lobby which filled up with many entries, here are some:

“I walked through Bloom with a close friend of mine who has spent a great deal of time inside similar hospitals. He was close to tears and repeated said he felt the desire to jump into the flowers, sum bold for the freedom and the celebration of his own growth and healing. We recognized that Bloom brought beauty and wonder to what has always been an inherently taboo subject matter.”

“‘Never worry alone’ was a Dr. Tom Gutheil classic line, but because of the lack of social support, too many patients who came here had to worry alone. Anna saw these corridors as places to be filled with growth. For all the patients who never received flowers, these flowers are for you.”

“My therapist’s office was in the basement and the floor is covered in grass. Grass does not bloom but it cushions and it is in the right place. It is the foundation, it softens everything. Conceptually it is brilliant.”

“My mother told me, 36 years ago, “Hang on. They’ll find a cure.” I was suffering alone until I came to MMHC. And today… oh so grateful… beyond any words, so grateful. Lives and sufferings have been redeemed here, and today we celebrate and honor, all of us, in this place, for better or for worse. Today, we flourish. The list of what we cannot do grows shorter and shorter. We become comfortable in a world of three dimensions; we gladly surrender the fourth, fifth, and sixth.”

Bloom: 28,000 Potted Flowers Installed at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (via Making Light)

Why shrinks diagnose anti-authoritarians with mental illness

Bruce Levine, a clinical psychologist, has written on Mad in America about his colleagues' propensity for diagnosing anti-authoritarians with mental illness. Levine says diagnoses like oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder and anxiety disorder are applied to people who question authority's legitimacy by mental health practitioners who are, themselves, unconsciously deferential to authority.

Gaining acceptance into graduate school or medical school and achieving a PhD or MD and becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist means jumping through many hoops, all of which require much behavioral and attentional compliance to authorities, even to those authorities that one lacks respect for. The selection and socialization of mental health professionals tends to breed out many anti-authoritarians. Having steered the higher-education terrain for a decade of my life, I know that degrees and credentials are primarily badges of compliance. Those with extended schooling have lived for many years in a world where one routinely conforms to the demands of authorities. Thus for many MDs and PhDs, people different from them who reject this attentional and behavioral compliance appear to be from another world—a diagnosable one.

I have found that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals are not only extraordinarily compliant with authorities but also unaware of the magnitude of their obedience. And it also has become clear to me that the anti-authoritarianism of their patients creates enormous anxiety for these professionals, and their anxiety fuels diagnoses and treatments.

In graduate school, I discovered that all it took to be labeled as having “issues with authority” was to not kiss up to a director of clinical training whose personality was a combination of Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and Howard Cosell. When I was told by some faculty that I had “issues with authority,” I had mixed feelings about being so labeled. On the one hand, I found it quite amusing, because among the working-class kids whom I had grown up with, I was considered relatively compliant with authorities. After all, I had done my homework, studied, and received good grades. However, while my new “issues with authority” label made me grin because I was now being seen as a “bad boy,” it also very much concerned me about just what kind of a profession that I had entered. Specifically, if somebody such as myself was being labeled with “issues with authority,” what were they calling the kids I grew up with who paid attention to many things that they cared about but didn’t care enough about school to comply there? Well, the answer soon became clear.

Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill

Fukushima and mental health

Yesterday, I got to host an eye-opening Q&A with Dan Edge, a PBS FRONTLINE producer who just finished a documentary about what happened at Fukushima during the first few days of the nuclear crisis there.

During that discussion, we touched a bit on the psychological impact all of this—the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear meltdowns—has had on the Japanese people. From studies of what's happened to the people who lived near Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, we know that the fear and stress associated with these kinds of disasters can have complex and long-ranging health effects.

Today, Paul Voosen, a journalist with Greenwire, emailed me a story he wrote last year, during the first month of the Fukushima crisis, that delves into some of the science behind how disasters (and especially nuclear disasters) affect the human psyche. If you've already read it, it's worth reading again.

Certainly, lasting scars of emotional distress -- which, at its worst, can manifest itself as serious depression or post-traumatic stress, among other symptoms -- are what researchers found in young mothers and others directly affected by past nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and seven years later at the much more serious Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine.

"What's most striking," Bromet said, "both about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which are obviously completely different events with different environmental consequences, is that the emotional consequences just never end."

The Fukushima crisis is, of course, an incredibly difficult situation for Japan's authorities and residents. Caution is more than justifiable when it comes to radiation, and the fear and stress that could stem from radiation risk warnings would be difficult to prioritize over immediate health concerns, said Johan Havenaar, a Dutch psychiatrist who has worked with Chernobyl evacuees.

"It is an understandably frightening situation for [the Japanese]," he said, "even if the risk is small and the measure predominantly precautionary. ... It would be unfair to suggest that the psychological effects -- i.e. their fears -- are unjustified."

What authorities should do, and often fail to do, is treat mental and physical health problems with equal respect, understanding that the two go hand in hand, Bromet said. They must respect the persistent fears that will form about radiation exposure in Japan, no matter how low the exposure and how this can take a permanent toll on people's lives, she said.

You can read the rest of this article at The New York Times website.

If you want to know more about this, there are several other links I'd recommend:
Charles Q. Choi wrote a great piece during his tour of Chernobyl last year about the health effects of that disaster, and why it's actually easier to spot the mental health impacts than the effects of radiation exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a primer that explains how disasters affect the mental health of different groups of people, and how the impacts vary a lot based on how close you were to the tragedy.
Chernobyl's Legacy is a document produced by a study group made up of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and others. It summarizes a lot of the research showing both the mental health impact of that disaster, and how authorities have failed to respond to it.
• Another good paper, if you can find a full, free copy of it: Psychological and Perceived Health Effects of the Chernobyl Disaster: A 20-year Review.

Cat Valente on writers and haters

Cat Valente, author of such outstanding novels as The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and Deathless, is guest-editing Charlie Stross's blog, posting writing advice. Part one, published yesterday, covered some good ground, and today's continuation is especially good, with advice on coping with haters -- useful perspective for more than just writers.

People Are Going to Shit All Over You

Oh, yes they are. It really doesn't matter if you try to do something different or you just want to rescue the princess in the tower. It'll start with your teachers, in college or high school or workshops. You are going to have to hear, more than once, more than ten times, that not only does your work suck, but it betrays some signal flaw within yourself, and you as a person are terrible for having written this thing. This is true, basically, no matter what you write. It is especially true if you are trying something off the beaten path, whether that beaten path is one of bestsellers or your teacher's own predilictions. I have personally had verse and chorus of "Nothing" from A Chorus Line spewed at me from numerous teachers. For those of you not musically inclined, it goes something like: you're bad at this, you'll never amount to anything, give up and work at a gas station and leave this to the real artists. One professor literally threw up his hands at our final conference and said "You're just going to do whatever you want no mater what I say so there's no point in even trying to teach you about good writing."

We all have stories like that, I suspect. Most particularly those of us who write SFF, which makes no friends in universities. The best part is, it doesn't stop there! Once you're published, new and exciting people will appear to tell you how bad your work is, even if you are popular and/or critically acclaimed. And it will get personal, especially if you are throwing down with your whole being, laying your kinks and history on the page like a sacrifice. If you're a woman, or other-than-white, or queer, it will probably, at some point, get really personal. Many readers have a huge problem separating the work from the creator. The mountain of crap I got for writing Palimpsest, both in public venues and in private emails, would make you crawl under the table with a bottle of fuck-you whiskey. I not only wrote a bad book, but I am sexually disturbed (I either hate sex or like it way too much, depending on who you ask) and politically suspect. Give up and work in a gas station. Name a book you think is universally liked and I will find someone saying it is a sin against man, decency, and the dictionary. People get very invested in books, which is the whole point of writing books. I have myself gotten upset to tears over books and have said so online. I try not to do that unless at great need now. I know too much.

It's easy to say: you must develop grace about this. I doubt anyone actually has grace about it. We all get mad or sad or hit the bar and rage against it all. It takes a really long time, or a really good internet filter, to be ok with how much some people will not like your work and by extension you. I'm not saying get grace at the bargain virtue store.

But you can fake grace.

Between the Perfect and the Real: On Writing Part 2