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Fullerton Police Beat to Death Mentally Ill, Homeless Man

A police officer only needs to use "reasonable force" to make an arrest. How many Fullerton, Calif. police officers does it take to arrest one man?

Well, it took five patrol cars, 6 officers, tasering 37-year-old Kelly Thomas numerous times, and beating him so badly that he went into a coma. And then died a few days later.

What was Thomas's alleged crime that resulted in his death? Breaking into cars, looking for things to steal.

Welcome to our more violent America, where citizens stand by while the police beating took place, too afraid to intervene and save Thomas's life. Is this what we've come to?

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Sometimes I’m Tempted to Fight My New Passion

For the last month or so, I’ve been possessed with a passionate interest in the sense of smell. I follow the resolution to cultivate good smells -- I’ve read lots of books, I’ve started disciplining myself to be more aware of the smells that I encounter in my day, I’ve been eliminating sources of bad smell in my home (a very worthwhile endeavor, by the way), and I’ve also become interested in perfume.

I’ve never had much interest in perfume, but suddenly I am, because so much of the energy and writing around the subject of smell is related to perfume.

I’m newly fascinated by perfume, but I’m also fascinated by my own process of becoming fascinated. As Virginia Woolf noted in her Diary: “I must remember to write about my clothes next time I have an impulse to write. My love of clothes interests me profoundly: only it is not love, & what it is I must discover.”

Because of the happiness project, I spend a lot of time asking, “What elements are necessary for a happy life?” I’ve become convinced that one of the greatest supports to a person’s happiness is passion -- whether for musical theater, video games, constitutional history, camping, stamps, shoe-shopping, teaching English as a second language, or whatever.

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Children and Teens

If I Have to Tell You One More Time: 23 Tools for Parents

Before you read this post, I must confess that I have not read a parenting book for seven years: since my son was three and my daughter one. Up to that point, I averaged one a month. Some were helpful, but I was such an insecure parent, that the majority of these well-intentioned references made me like a horrible mother who was incapable of raising good kids.

I then decided to “pick my battles,” and work on my self-esteem rather than perfecting my parenting skills. So I tossed any parenting books that came my way into the Goodwill pile. Whenever the topic of expert parenting advice or philosophies came up at play dates, I walked away and participated in another conversation... like about which kind of chocolate to buy.

I must have evolved in these seven years because I was unafraid to read Amy McCready’s book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling, which is full of useful nuggets. Still squinting a tad at the subtitle, because I have so much nagging, reminding, whining, and yelling going on at our house that I just can’t fathom an afternoon without it.

I still falter on most of the building blocks for good parenting: consistency, structure, confidence, and firmness.

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The New Grief: How Modern Medicine Has Transformed Death and Grief

The realities of death and dying have changed profoundly in a relatively short period of time. Why? Thank the ongoing and remarkable advances in medical diagnosis and treatment. As a result of these advances, life expectancy in countries like ours continues to grow. We all die, but modern medicine is getting better and better at staving off death. And because of this the nature of grief has changed.

In her groundbreaking 1970 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified a process which she believed individuals pass through when they are confronted with death. At the time, sudden and unexpected death was much more common than it is today. The grief associated with that kind of loss is captured powerfully in Joan Didion’s memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, which recounts her reactions to sudden death of her husband, who collapsed and died of a heart attack in the midst of eating dinner. Didion’s initial response to her husband’s death typifies what Kübler-Ross called denial. She refused, for example, to read his obituaries. She refused to throw away his clothes. And she avoided going places that would remind her of him.

Contrast the above to the story told by Eleanor Clift in her book, Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Politics. There she details her experiences after her husband, Tom, was diagnosed with kidney cancer, fully five years before he died. Tom spent the last ten weeks of his life at home, in a bed that hospice services had set up for him. The couple had a good idea, at least four months earlier that the end was finally approaching, when Tom’s oncologist recommended discontinuing chemotherapy. Even then another four months transpired.

Clift’s memoir -- like Patti Davis’s account in The Long Goodbye, which recounts the decline and death of her father, President Ronald Reagan -- describes what more and more people are facing: the profound shift in the experience of dealing with dying and death.

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Brain and Behavior

DBS for Depression: Still Mixed Results

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment long used for Parkinson's disease. But in the past decade, some researchers have also examined its use for the treatment of severe clinical depression.

Severe major depression is a serious problem in society, because some studies estimate that up to 30 percent of those who attempt to be treated for it find they have "treatment resistant" depression -- that is, traditional treatments simply don't work very well.

Deep brain stimulation has mixed results. As we reported on back in February, a long-term followup of 20 patients found an average response rate to DBS of 64 percent. Not shabby, but also not the hopeful, guaranteed cure it was once held out to be.

Maiken Scott, the behavioral health reporter for Philadelphia station WHYY, has a story following a handful of patients in a local clinical trial looking into the effectiveness of DBS for depression.

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Best of Our Blogs: July 29, 2011

I think I was about 10 years old when I was astounded by my teacher writing the word "ass" on the chalkboard. She asked the class, "Do you know what assume means? It's to make an ass out of you and me."

I didn't get it until years later. But the phrase stuck with me. I think about it every time I wrongly assume an ambivalent email is a slight or a lack of a response is a rejection. Unconsciously, I take one misunderstanding and assume the worse. As Alanis Morissette says in her song So Unsexy, "One forgotten phone call and I'm deflated."

Often our assumptions trigger something in us that makes us feel less than. Mark Lesser of Accomplishing More by Doing Less says triggers, "can be survival patterns from past experiences, or habitual ways of responding we've acquired to protect ourselves...With awareness, we can gain the ability to choose, at least to some degree, how to respond different than we have in the past."

It's not easy to clear up misunderstandings or begin to take responsibility for the ways you unconsciously sabotage yourself. But the alternative, obsessing over emails, worrying over a missed phone call can lead to unnecessary drama and stress in your life.

This week we're tackling some of these assumptions with posts such as identifying what "health at every size" really means and believing we're on our own when it comes to panic at our workplace. It's all great ways to prevent us from looking like asses. Thanks teacher!

Equine Therapy for Weight Loss?

(Equine Therapy) - When you think of losing weight, I'm sure horses don't come to mind. But there are actually a lot of good reasons why equine therapy can help those who struggle with weight. Read how here.

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CBS News, Others Get Nose Job Story Wrong

In one of the worst examples of health reporting I've seen today, a bunch of news outlets have equated "symptoms of a disorder" with having the disorder itself. It may seem like a subtle difference, but in the world of mental health diagnosis, having a symptom of a disorder is not the same as having the disorder itself.

The study in question was conducted on people seeking treatment for a nose job. To assess patients' psychopathology, the researchers administered a bunch of psychological tests to the patients before their rhinoplasty. One of those tests was the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale modified for body dysmorphic disorder.

Now, the researchers only found a 2 percent rate of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) among the 226 patients they tested. That rate is right in line with expectations for this disorder.

But they found a significant 33 percent of patients scored in the "moderate to severe" range of symptom severity on the modified Yale-Brown test.

Health reporters and their editors apparently didn't understand or appreciate this distinction.

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5 Reasons for the Joy of Craft, or, Why Is Computer Programming Fun?

I recently read (sort of) Frederick Brooks's The Mythical Man-Month. As I understand it, this book is a cult classic, and I was very curious to read it. It's about software project management, and even though that's a subject about which I know nothing, I found the book very interesting -- that is, the parts I could understand.

My favorite section was a discussion of "The Joys of Craft," in which Brooks answers the question, "Why is programming fun?" This question interests me because it's such a good reminder of my Secret of Adulthood: Just because something is fun for someone else doesn't mean it's fun for me -- and vice versa.

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12 Weeks to Feeling Better: Try Psychotherapy Today

It's time for psychotherapy to stop beating around in the bushes and get a new marketing campaign going for itself. It's time for organizations like our own, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and others to join together and have people understand a simple, basic message -- 12 weeks is all most people need to start feeling better when faced with a mental health issue.

Psychotherapy still gets a bad rap because of a basic misunderstanding of the process it entails, or prejudice around thinking that if you need to see a therapist, something's really wrong with you.

It doesn't have to be this way. Just like the endless pharmaceutical commercials on TV for antidepressants and ADHD medications, psychotherapy could be reminding people that it's not like you're making a forever-commitment to Freudian analysis. It's simply 12 weeks to feeling better.

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Brain and Behavior

Lunch Wars: Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health

Oh how happy I was to see the new book Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Heath by Amy Kalafa, producer of the award-winning documentary “Two Angry Moms.” I get on my soapbox all too often about this very issue, because I have one child who is so sensitive to food that teachers can tell if he ate a cookie at lunch, and the other possesses about as much will power as I have when it comes to saying no to cinnamon-flavored soft pretzels.

Why, in the world, would they offer seven-year-olds the option to buy Klondike bars, cinnamon-flavored soft-pretzels, Doritos, and Gatorade? I think the answer has to do with budgets.

But in the process we are raising fat kids whose academic progress is compromised by all the crap they shove in their mouths at lunch. Plus, those foods should be reserved for parents to give as bribing material. Without junk food, we are left with lame "no TV or video game" bribes, and in our house, food is much more effective. (I do realize all parenting books preach against this very thing, but you have to go with what works.)

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Brain and Behavior

The Dangers Of Letting Your Online Persona Do The Talking

Last week, while taking a break from work, I found myself reading through a friend's personal blog. While everything was well written, and while the author herself did a careful job remaining anonymous to most of her readers, I couldn't help but cringe at some of the stuff she was writing about. Personal stuff. Stuff that, once it's out there, you just can't take back.

Part of my cringing was due to the fact that about a year ago, I was right there with her. I've had a personal blog for years, and it used to be the one place where I could completely dump my emotions. A creative writer who has to work (on non-creative writing) quite a lot to pay the bills, I don't always get to spend the hours a day I'd like to on my own pieces -- so whenever I was itching to say something, and didn't seem to have the time or energy to dive into a script or short story, I would unload on my personal blog.

I was anonymous back then, and didn't feel the need to censor anything I wrote. After all, wasn't that what blogs were for? Verbally drop-kicking people who hurt me, divulging my uneasy secrets to get them off my chest, saying everything I could never say in real life? Wasn't that what the Internet was for? Finally -- a way to be noticed without being called out.

But slowly, my opinion changed.

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