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Hey Tipper and Al: Why Divorce After 40 Years?

I'm the skeptical, jaded type who believes the passionate kiss former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper exchanged in front of the Democratic National Convention in July of 2004 was most likely staged. But I am truly puzzled, with the rest of America, on why a couple who seemed so together is now splitting after 40 years.

I'm not only puzzled, but also disheartened. Because I respect and admire couples who have made it beyond their silver anniversary. Like everyone else confused by the Gores decision, I suppose I attach a layer of immunity to the partners who've raised their kids, launching them successfully. Now they are safe to buy that double burial lot because, like or not, they are sticking together.

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Children and Teens

Are Your Children Safe on Halloween?

The short answer is, "Yes." At least from sex offenders.

Halloween is today. And parents around the country walk along their young children for fear of their safety. And yet, what do the data show about sex offenders offending on or around Halloween? Are they more likely to target the holiday because so many children are out and about?

Police are on alert during Halloween, especially for sex offenders. The common wisdom is that sex offenders are out and about on Halloween, looking for targets.

Researchers led by Mark Chaffin (2009) looked at the National Incident-Base Reporting System which reports crime report data. They examined sex crimes data from 1997 to 2005 against children ages 12 year and younger by non-family members.

Halloween crime rates were compared with expected crime rates based on time, seasonality, and the weekday period These rates did not differ from expectation -- no increased rate on or just before Halloween was found, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics.

In other words, the researchers found no significant increase in sex-offender related crimes against children on or around Halloween.
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Brain and Behavior

Laugh When You’re Afraid

"If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane," sings Jimmy Buffett. "Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods," says a Japanese proverb.

A sense of humor, for me, is by far the most useful weapon in my depression arsenal. Which is why Eric is panicked when I stop laughing, when my funny bone is split in 43 places.

For two nights in the psych ward, our group therapy session was to watch a comedy...
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White House Policy Adding To Stigma of Suicide

A Department of Defense task force dedicated to preventing suicide in the military recently released a report with some disturbing facts.

The report acknowledges that the physical and psychological demands on our volunteer fighting forces are huge. Between 2005 and 2009 alone, more than 1,100 soldiers committed suicide. That is one soldier dying by suicide every 36 hours. The report notes that the rate of suicide deaths in the Army has more than doubled.

The task force mentions numerous research reports that have documented the psychological and emotional injuries -- "the hidden wounds of war" -- that have devastated many military members and their families. Personnel who are deploying -- as well as those left behind -- are under stress because of an imbalance created by inadequate manpower. Consequently, military personnel are not getting enough downtime with their families and communities before they are required to return to combat.

Based on their own findings, the DOD task force believes that unless effective prevention measures are put into place, the rate of suicide deaths will continue to rise.

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Best of Our Blogs: October 29, 2010

You know what I've been thinking about lately? The ghosts of Halloween's past. The heat from a plastic Strawberry Shortcake mask, the discomfort of being herded with groups of children, the shame of begging for sweets and the sickening feeling from eating too much candy.

Funny how recalling those memories actually make me happy.

Watching mom dig through my winnings, tasting what seemed like every single one, made me feel comforted. And even though walking around in a costume felt silly and uncomfortable, there was something exciting about dressing up and being anonymous for one night.

When did Halloween get so complicated?

Yep, there are rules now about age limitations for Halloween and questions about what kids should and should not wear. But at least for me, I'd love to return to what seemed like a simpler holiday.

Whether you celebrate Halloween or not, hope you have a great weekend and enjoy these 5 sweet bloggy treats on us!

Another Danger of Bipolar: Flirting With Death

(Mental Health Humor) - How does he do it? How does Chato B. Stewart take something serious and make it so funny? I don't know. Guess you'll have to check out this Halloween themed post and ponder that too, for yourself.

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Military Mental Health: There’s an App (and Money) For That

Two good pieces of good news came out of the military this week -- especially for soldiers and veterans who are facing mental health concerns.

The first is the Monday announcement by Pentagon officials of a free smart phone application for Android devices designed to help soldiers and veterans to track their emotional health. It's called the T2 Mood Tracker (from the National Center for Telehealth and Technology) is available free free download now. (The iPhone app is in the works.)

It's basically a mood tracker, allowing users to track their mood, happiness and stress levels throughout the day. Anyone can download and use the app, free of charge.

The second piece of good news is the announcement that the U.S. Army will spend $17 million over 3 years to study suicide in solders and vets.

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Brain and Behavior

How Does That Make You Feel? Five Myths about Psychology

Walk into any bookstore and you will find racks and racks of books claiming to cure any number of major psychological problems with easy solutions. Want to lose weight? Try hypnosis. Want to get rich? Just visualize your goals and eventually you will achieve whatever you want.

The truth is that the mind is an incredibly powerful and complex instrument and we are only beginning to learn its the true potential. Although psychology may assist in explaining our rational decision-making and emotional makeup, there is still plenty of guesswork out there. Below are five commonly believed myths about psychology.

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Scare Mongering and ADHD

Hey, what's the best way to link Halloween and an increasingly common childhood concern, such as attention deficit disorder? How about some scare-mongering in the form of an ostensibly educational article?

I received an email newsletter from the website,, that encouraged me to learn about "8 ADHD Culprits Lurking in Your Home: Could your home be a haven for toxins that can cause ADHD?" Hmmm, I thought, I didn't know that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was caused by toxins in my home! I like to think I keep up with the research literature, so this was a potentially eye-opening article.

Then I clicked through and found one of those infuriating "photo galleries" that show a stock photo next to each explanation of the toxin. These photo galleries are meant to do only one thing -- generate clicks on the website. The article could just as easily be all on one page (and most photo galleries offer that option -- but not this one).

Frustrated, I clicked through only to find the kind of shallow article that passes for health journalism nowadays. There are really only 4, possibly 5, toxins in the article -- 3 are repeated in order to get to the magical number 8. The three big ones are: lead (in water pipes and paint; both of which have been banned for some time), phthalates, and organophosphate pesticides.

So just for fun, I decided to examine each claim and the research backing for it.

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Proof Positive: Can Heaven Help Us? The Nun Study – Afterlife

“I donated my brain, so when the time comes, they can make a study of it. The fact that I have not had any of this Alzheimer’s disease, or even an inclination so far is something they would naturally want to study."
-- Sister M. Celine Koktan, 97 years old in March 2009

“We’ve received over 500 brains.”
-- Dr. Karen Santa Cruz, neuropathologist.

Can you imagine being asked to be part of a study where the researcher asks if you not only would be willing to take part, but would mind terribly donating your brain to be dissected after you're gone?

That is exactly what was asked of the nuns participating. Of the 678 sisters in the original study about four dozen are still living. But researchers already have begun analyzing the more than 500 brains saved to dissect and study.

The nun study is one of the most dynamic and powerful studies on the impact of positive emotions and thoughts in the history of positive psychology. Researchers Danner, Snowdon, and Friesen (2001) from the University of Kentucky sampled the nuns, perfect subjects for a study because of the profound similarities around their physical health. They have similar, regularized diets, live together in similar surroundings, do not have children, and do not smoke or drink to excess. In other words, their physical backgrounds and conditions are about as controlled for as any group of human beings might be.

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Avatars Remind Us We’re All Human

The right avatar may remind us that we're all human. And in turn, reinforce us to respond more empathetically toward others online.

So says new research from Laramie Taylor (2010) who looked at people's responses in the Yahoo Answers Q&A service. People sign on to Yahoo Answers to ask their own questions, or answer other people's questions about any and every topic imaginable.

Two studies were conducted to examine whether avatars elicit more emotional involvement -- like empathy -- from people who answer the questions. The researcher also hypothesized that questions that have avatars will receive more answers than those that don't.

The first study looked at 881 answers in response to 132 questions on Yahoo Answers. The second study examined the altruistic nature of people who answered questions and their avatar usage, and looked at 125 responses. Responses were coded by independent raters.

The researcher found that avatars increased the sense of emotional involvement in this kind of community. Questions that used an avatar received more empathetic answers. And people who had more altruistic motivations had a stronger preference for answering questions posted by someone with an avatar.

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Brain and Behavior

Love in the Brain

Ahh, what researchers won't study. Is nothing sacred, even the most spiritual of matters of the heart, such as love?

Now research out of Syracuse University by Stephanie Ortigue (that's her, pictured), suggests that there are measurable brain changes when a person falls in love. She gathers this idea from a review of the research literature of neuroimaging studies (studies that primarily used something called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI) that have examined...
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Dr. Ken Duckworth On Living With Bipolar Disorder

Aside from my own psychiatrist, Dr. Smith, there are few doctors that can explain a confusing and complex condition like Bipolar Disorder with such clarity as the medical director of NAMI, Dr. Ken Duckworth.

Three years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing him when I was the Patient Advocate for the Bipolar Center of Revolution Health. At the NAMI National Convention in DC last month I attended his talk on treating bipolar disorder. This is what he had to say about some simple steps that those of us living with bipolar disorder can take to stay well.

1. Start with the four basics: sleep, stress, exercise, and cognitive therapy.

One of the reasons I respect Dr. Duckworth so much is that he insists that we participate in our own recovery. Medication will only help us to a certain extent. It's our responsibility to do the other steps: sleep a consistent 8 hours at night, lower our stress as best we can by lifestyle changes, exercise five times a week for at least 45 minutes of heart-pumping, aerobic moves (walking is good, but it's not going to give you the antidepressant effect of aerobic workouts), and practicing cognitive-behavioral therapy so that we can train our thoughts not to leave such a huge mess for us to clean up.
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