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Brain and Behavior

Phoebe Prince Again? Bullying Linked to Suicide of 10 Year Old Ashlynn Conner

Early last year, Phoebe Prince -- a 15 year old who had recently moved to the U.S. from Ireland -- committed suicide after relentless bullying by her schoolmates. Three 16-year-old girls -- Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Chanon Velazquez -- were charged as youthful offenders with felonies including violation of civil rights, while three other students -- Sean Mulveyhill, 17, Kayla Narey, 17, and Austin Renaud, 18 -- were charged as adults in the incident. All the cases were settled with only probation for the accused, except for Renaud, whose charge of statutory rape was dropped entirely.

It's important to remind people of the perpetrators of the bullying in this case, because that is one simple way to stop bullying. Show people that bullying has life-long consequences that will follow you forever, especially when such bullying leads a person to such hopelessness that they believe the only way out is to take their own lives.

In Massachusetts, this tragedy led to the passing of an anti-bullying law that supposedly made schools safer and put an end to the worst cases of bullying. (We don't know how effective it is, as I couldn't find any outcome data associated with the new law.)

Sadly, apparently the rest of the country hasn't gotten the message yet. Word out of Ridge Farm, Illinois yesterday was that a 10-year-old Irish American girl named Ashlynn Conner apparently committed suicide last week due to relentless bullying from schoolmates.

Worse yet -- Illinois has had an anti-bullying law on the books since 2001.

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Janssen Launches Healthy Minds Initiative with $3 Million

Last week, Janssen Pharmaceuticals announced an interesting partnership with the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO) to support One Mind for Research with $3 million in funding. One Mind for Research a program of IMHRO that fosters neuroscience research, education, and awareness-building programs.

Janssen is the developer and manufacturer of a number of psychiatric medications, including Concerta, Invega, and Risperdal. Janssen is a division of Johnson & Johnson.

As part of the Healthy Minds efforts, Janssen will become the first private-sector partner to support the One Mind for Research program, which was started by former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Garen Staglin, Vice President, Board of Directors, IMHRO.

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Cuddling Is For Men?

This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Erica Goodstone.

Did you know that men, not women, are more likely to be happy in a relationship if they are in good health, if they are often cuddling and kissing with their partner, and if their partner tends to have orgasms during sex? Cuddling, it turns out, may be even more important than sexual satisfaction for long term relationships.

Women who remain in long term relationships are more likely to be satisfied with the sexual component and that satisfaction seems to improve over time. But for women, frequent cuddling and kissing does not necessarily lead to relationship satisfaction. Women often require romance as well as a sense of being heard, understood and appreciated.

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Best of Our Blogs: November 15, 2011

A few days ago, my mind was in a state of chaos and flurry. It was like a hurricane mounting with a tiny worry catapulting into a real sense of urgency. But a few minutes into it, I had a mini Jill Bolte Taylor moment (if you haven't read My Stroke of Insight or heard about how having a stroke changed her life, this TED video will get you up to speed). I realized that the state of emergency my mind had concocted was simply a false story.

My small issue with planning the holidays turned into a huge crisis when I started obsessing about who would be hurt if I opted out of our annual family visit this year. My brain didn't differentiate between insignificant concern and that which was life threatening. And my body responded by reacting the same way it would have if I had been chased by a lion.

As quick as it had come, however, the immediacy vanished. When I realized how unnecessarily dramatic I was being, my worries quickly diminished. When I returned back to the present moment and was reminded that I was safe, my heartbeat slowed and I stopped panicking. I remember what Dr. Taylor said about our brain. Sometimes we allow that tiny pea in our mind to control our whole lives. I decided to take back control by choosing to be present.

This week we're also offering you a choice from deciding whether to give up caffeine to being more positive in the workplace to regaining control of your mind during torrential times. Hope you enjoy them and have a great week!
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Tending the Family Heart Through the Holidays: Family and Parenting Book

The holidays are fast approaching, as the barrage of advertising reminds us. With them come the usual dose of family stress over gatherings, family relationships, reconnecting with friends, travel and trying to find some meaning in it all.

To help you better cope with the holidays and find new ways to handle potential volatile family situations, we're pleased to introduce our next e-book: Tending the Family Heart Through the Holidays, by long-time contributor, Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

I can't imagine a more timely resource to help us all deal with this time of the year more effectively and successfully.

And the part I really like -- it's available for only 99 cents.

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7 Ideas to Help Save Your Sinking Relationship

This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Margaret Paul. 

Is your relationship in trouble? The first question you should ask yourself is: Do I want to save this relationship or do I want to leave it? If the answer is that you want to save it, then this article is for you.

The following are seven rules or choices that you can make to completely change the course of your relationship.

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The 5 Ways We Grieve

Back in the mid-twentieth century, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance -- and they stuck.

According to Susan Berger, researcher and practitioner in the health and mental health fields for over twenty-five years, those five stages may work well for the dying individuals. But for the folks who are left behind to grieve the loss? Not as successful.

In her groundbreaking book, The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing after the Loss of a Loved One,, Berger offers five identity types that represent different ways of creating meaning from the loss of a loved one in an effort to redefine a life purpose, a reason to continue growing spiritually and emotionally, and to find meaning in this life.

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The Stigma of Humor and Fetishes

"I like your blog," someone will whisper to me at a party. It's their secret -- and I guess it's a dirty one since they whisper it to me. Yes, I write a humor blog -- which does, occasionally, address sexual penchants. Interestingly, the issues surrounding both are similar.

There's a certain terror in being amused or aroused by something outside “the norm." When I first started listening to my favorite comedy podcast which finds humor in all things (including truly horrific news items) I was a little taken aback by the conflict I felt at my reaction. "I'm a decent person," I thought, "and yet I’m laughing at this..." I felt the same kind of discord in what I was turned on by: "But I can't be this terrible… What is wrong with me?"

When it comes down to it, while we many not wish to find certain things funny, you like what you like. Similarly, many people find they have certain sexual desires -- which they would, in a perfect world, prefer to dismiss.

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My Home: Exciting and Peaceful

The first line in Gertrude Stein's Paris France is:

Paris, France is exciting and peaceful.”

For a moment, I was surprised by this pairing of words -- but then I realized, it's not really surprising. Paris is exciting and peaceful.

I'd been thinking along these lines about my home (no surprise, I spend a lot of time thinking about home these days, while I'm working on my next book, Happier at Home).

I have what seem to be, at first, paradoxical desires for my own home.

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Jumping Without a Chute: Honoring Our Veterans, 2011

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., a day to give thanks and honor all who serve our country in the military. While the military has made some strides in recent years in acknowledging the mental health problems of both veterans and active military personnel, it remains an area where prejudice and misconceptions run rampant.

A soldier wouldn't jump out of a plane without checking their parachute to make sure it was secured and in working order. Yet they are jumping out of active duty into a system that isn't prepared for their needs, and remains underfunded and under-resourced.

For instance, last week we discussed these continuing challenges with mental health services and the rate of suicide in the military today, among vets and active duty soldiers.

Each year in the U.S. approximately 35,000 - 37,000 people die by suicide. It's the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of things like hypertension, homicide and Parkinson's disease (all things that get a lot more news and research attention than suicide).

About 100 people kill themselves each day. Nearly 20 percent of those who take their lives is a veteran -- or about 18 vets a day. Let that sink in for a moment, because it's a big number.

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Best of Our Blogs: November 11, 2011

Have you ever felt fully present in a moment? Just a moment. Not a day or even an hour. But a mere moment where you were focused on the sunset in front of you, the steering wheel under your grip, the feeling of the ground under your footsteps?

I spent an entire quarter taking a course on stress management spending two hours a day meditating and being mindful. It was the most peaceful and yet alive I've ever felt. What surprised me was how exhilarating mundane activities became. Instead of switching to automatic pilot, I let myself be engaged in the process. Tuning in to things like taking a shower felt like a mini spa day.

I'm feeling nostalgic about those times. Lately, I'm multitasking while talking to my spouse, watching television and going for a walk. I think it's an obsession with tech toys, the feeling of importance we get from having a busy schedule and the fear of silence that's taking control of how we live our lives.

Unfortunately, this constant state of busyness creates a string of un-lived, unidentifiable days, which feels like they are all melded into one because we're just not paying attention.

Recently, I heard fashion designer and filmmaker Tom Ford on OWN's Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind. The entire program was intriguing, but I hit pause on my DVR when I heard him say this:
"A few times in my life, I've had a few moments of clarity where I can drown out the noise and I can feel rather than think."
Poignant don't you think?

If you're feeling disconnected lately, you will appreciate a post we have this week on the topic of mindfulness. Hopefully it will help you gain clarity and bring you back to this moment. Enjoy!
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