There is only one success: to be able to live your life in your own way.
– Christopher Morley
There is only one success: to be able to live your life in your own way.
– Christopher Morley
The uproar over allegations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually abused and harassed dozens of the women he worked with is inspiring countless women (and some men) to share their own personal sexual harassment and assault stories.
With these issues trending on social media with the hashtag #MeToo, it’s getting harder to ignore how common they are on the job and in other settings.
I have studied sexual harassment and ways to prevent it as a diversity and inclusion researcher. My research on how people often fail to speak out when they witness these incidents might help explain why Weinstein could reportedly keep his despicable behavior an open secret for decades.
Of course, Weinstein’s alleged wrongdoings went well beyond sexual harassment, which University of British Columbia gender scholar Jennifer Berdahl defines as “behavior that derogates, demeans or humiliates an individual based on that indiviudual’s sex.”
But sexual harassment is such a chronic workplace problem that it accounts for a third of the 90,000 charges filed with the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2015. Since only one in four victims report it, however, the EEOC and other experts say the actual number of incidents is far higher than the official number of complaints would suggest.
The usual silence leaves most perpetrators of this toxic behavior free to prey on their co-workers and subordinates. If sexual harassment is pervasive on the job, and most women don’t report it, what can be done?
Some business scholars suggest that the best way to prevent sexual harassment, bullying and other toxic workplace behavior is to train co-workers to stand up for their abused colleagues when they witness incidents. One reason why encouraging intervention makes good sense is that some 70 percent of women have observed harassment in the workplace, according to research by psychologist Robert Hitlan.
The trouble is that most people who witness or become aware of sexual harassment don’t speak out. Screenwriter, producer and actor Scott Rosenberg has both admitted to and denounced how this dynamic enabled Weinstein to become an alleged serial abuser. “Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing,” he wrote in a private Facebook post published in the media. “Everybody-f—ing-knew.” He also said:
“in the end, I was complicit.
I didn’t say s—.
I didn’t do s—.
Harvey was nothing but wonderful to me.
So I reaped the rewards and I kept my mouth shut.
And for that, once again, I am sorry.”
To understand why witnesses often don’t speak up, a colleague and I did a study in 2010 that asked participants to review hypothetical sexual harassment scenarios and indicate if they would respond.
The results seemed promising: Participants generally said they would take steps to stop harassing behavior if they saw it happen. People indicated they’d be more likely to respond if two conditions were met: It was a quid pro quo – that is, if the harasser promised benefits in exchange for sexual favors – and the workplace valued diversity and inclusion. In such cultures, there are open lines of communication, and leaders embrace diversity and inclusion.
There’s a potential problem with experiments using the kind of hypothetical scenario that we and others employed. People don’t always do what they think they will in real-life situations. For example, psychologists find that people tend to believe they’ll feel more distraught during an emotionally devastating event than they actually do when it occurs.
Other researchers find similar patterns with reactions to racists. People think they will recoil and experience distress when hearing racist comments. But when they actually hear those remarks, they don’t.
The same dynamics are at play when examining sexual harassment during job interviews, as illustrated in a study conducted by psychologists Julie Woodzicka and Marianne LaFrance.
Participants, all of whom were women, expected to feel angry, confront the harasser and refuse to answer the hypothetical interviewer’s inappropriate questions. Some of the questions, for example, included asking the job applicant if she had a boyfriend or if women should wear bras at work.
However, when they witnessed this simulated behavior during the experiment’s mock interviews, people responded differently. In fact, 68 percent of participants who only read about the incidents said they would refuse to answer questions. Yet all 50 of the participants who witnessed the staged hostile behavior answered them.
Drawing from these studies, my team conducted an experiment in 2012 to determine how harassment bystanders would react to hearing inappropriate comments about women.
Some of the female participants read about a hypothetical scenario in which harassment took place, while another group observed harassment occurring in a staged setting. We determined that the participants, who were college students, overestimated how they would respond to seeing someone else get harassed.
The reason this matters is that people who don’t feel distress are unlikely to take action.
What stops people from reacting the way they think they will?
Psychologists blame this disparity on “impact bias.” People overestimate the impact that all future events – be they weddings, funerals or even the Super Bowl – will have on them emotionally. Real life is messier than our imagined futures, with social pressures and context making a difference.
This suggests a possible solution. Since context matters, organizations can take steps to encourage bystanders to take action.
For example, they can train their staff to speak up with the Green Dot Violence Prevention Program or other approaches. The Green Dot program was originally designed to reduce problems like sexual assault and stalking by encouraging bystanders to do something. The EEOC says this “bystander intervention training might be effective in the workplace.”
Especially with workplace harassment, establishing direct and anonymous lines for reporting sexist incidents is essential. They also say employees should not fear negative reprisal or gossip when they do report harassment.
Finally, bystanders are more likely to intervene in organizations that make their refusal to tolerate harassment clear. For that to happen, leaders must assert and demonstrate their commitment to harassment-free workplaces, enforce appropriate policies and train new employees accordingly.
Until more people take a stand when they witness sexual harassment, it will continue to haunt American workplaces.
This applies to everything. Enjoy the journey. Irrespective of the outcome. Enjoy the experience. It means you’re alive!
(Note that this applies to adults, not to children.)
And now I’m going to finish the post I started writing 6 days ago (lol!) Please forgive me if it’s a little disjointed or repetitive or something! 😉
Minimalism is the trend. It’s not a new thing; Zen Buddhists and other cultures have been practicing it for years. But Americans (I admit, I’m not sure about the rest of the world) have suddenly “discovered” it, and like anything else we do, especially anything new and “exotic”, we (collectively speaking) feel the need to do it to excess. And we have this fetish for politicizing things. Yes, including minimalism.
I would like to inject a little sanity into the wayward convo; can I get an amen?
Let’s start at the beginning. What’s minimalism, anyway? Well, according to The Minimalists themselves (the self-proclaimed spokespeople for the subject, although I will give them a hats-off for humor! They’re kinda funny)…
…They don’t actually…
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The Victorian Parliament will consider a bill to legalise euthanasia in the second half of 2017. That follows the South Australian Parliament’s decision to knock back a voluntary euthanasia bill late last year, and the issue has also cropped up in the run-up to the March 11 Western Australian election.
With the issue back in the headlines, federal Labor’s justice spokesperson, Clare O’Neil, told Q&A that in countries where the practice is legal, “very, very small” numbers of people use the laws.
Whether or not you agree with O’Neil’s statement depends largely on your interpretation of the subjective term “very, very small”, but there is a growing body of data available on how many people are using euthanasia or assisted dying laws in places such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Canada and some US states.
Many people use the terms “assisted dying”, “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia” interchangeably. But, technically, these phrases can have different meanings.
Assisted dying (sometimes also assisted death) is where the patient himself or herself ultimately takes the medication. Euthanasia, by contrast, is usually where the doctor administers the medication to the patient.
Assisted suicide includes people who are not terminally ill, but who are being helped to commit suicide, whereas assisted dying refers to people who are already dying. Some reports do not, however, distinguish between assisted dying and assisted suicide, and I will not distinguish them here.
In some jurisdictions, the word “euthanasia” is used to refer to both assisted dying/suicide (where the patient himself or herself takes the medication) and to euthanasia (where the doctor administers the medication to the patient). So “euthanasia” can sometimes be used as a broad term to cover a range of actions.
According to a peer-reviewed paper published last year in the respected journal JAMA:
Between 0.3% to 4.6% of all deaths are reported as euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions where they are legal. The frequency of these deaths increased after legalization … Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalized, remain relatively rare, and primarily involve patients with cancer. Existing data do not indicate widespread abuse of these practices.
The authors of that paper said that 35,598 people died in Oregon in 2015. Of these deaths, 132, or 0.39%, were reported as physician-assisted suicides. The same paper said that in Washington in 2015 there were 166 reported cases of physician-assisted suicide (equating to 0.32% of all deaths in Washington in that year).
Interestingly, the same paper noted that US data show that:
pain is not the main motivation for PAS (physician-assisted suicide)… The dominant motives are loss of autonomy and dignity and being less able to enjoy life’s activities.
The authors said that in officially reported Belgian cases, pain was the reason for euthanasia in about half of cases. Loss of dignity is mentioned as a reason for 61% of cases in the Netherlands and 52% in Belgium.
A 2016 Victorian parliamentary report has quoted from the UK Commission on Assisted Dying, which in turn referenced the work of John Griffiths, Heleen Weyers and Maurice Adams in their book Euthanasia and Law in Europe. The commission said:
There are no official data in Switzerland on the numbers of assisted suicides that take place each year, as the rate of assisted suicide is not collected centrally. Griffiths et al observe that there are approximately 62,000 deaths in Switzerland each year and academic studies suggest that between 0.3% and 0.4% of these are assisted suicides. This figure increases to 0.5% of all deaths if suicide tourism is included (assisted suicides that involve non‑Swiss nationals).
Around 3.7% of deaths in the Netherlands in 2015 were due to euthanasia. The Netherlands’ regional euthanasia review committees reported that there were 5,516 deaths due to euthanasia in 2015. That is out of a total of around 147,000 – 148,000 deaths in the Netherlands that year.
This figure represents an increase of 4% of deaths due to euthanasia compared to 2014.
A 2012 paper published in The Lancet reported on the results of nationwide surveys on euthanasia in the Netherlands in 1995, 2001, 2005 and 2010. The researchers said:
In 2002, the euthanasia act came into effect in the Netherlands, which was followed by a slight decrease in the euthanasia frequency … In 2010, of all deaths in the Netherlands, 2.8% were the result of euthanasia. This rate is higher than the 1.7% in 2005, but comparable with those in 2001 and 1995.
Another Netherlands-based study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reported in 2015 that:
Certainly, not all requests are granted; studies conducted between 1990 and 2011 report rates of granting requests between 32% and 45%.
A 2015 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine about euthanasia rates in the Flanders region of Belgium (the northern half of the country) noted:
The rate of euthanasia increased significantly between 2007 and 2013, from 1.9% to 4.6% of deaths.
It can be hard to put these rates in context, but what is clear is that euthanasia is by no means a leading cause of death in countries where it is legal. For example, Statistics Belgium said that for the year 2012, cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death (28.8%), and cancer was the second most common cause of death (26%).
And in the Netherlands – where 5,516 of deaths were due to euthanasia in 2015 – more than 12,000 Dutch people died from the effects of dementia in 2014, approximately 10,000 Dutch people died from lung cancer and nearly 9,000 died from a heart attack. In 2013, 30% (about 42,000) of Dutch deaths were from cancer and 27% (about 38,000) of Dutch deaths were from cardiovascular disease.
If this article has raised issues for you or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 44.
As a psychiatrist, I find that one of the hardest parts of my job is telling parents and their children that they are not to blame for their illness.
Children with emotional and behavioral problems continue to suffer considerable stigma. Many in the medical community refer to them as “diagnostic and therapeutic orphans.” Unfortunately, for many, access to high-quality mental health care remains elusive.
An accurate diagnosis is the best way to tell whether or not someone will respond well to treatment, though that can be far more complicated than it sounds.
I have written three textbooks about using medication in children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems. I know that this is never a decision to take lightly.
But there’s reason for hope. While not medically able to diagnose any psychiatric condition, dramatic advances in brain imaging, genetics and other technologies are helping us objectively identify mental illness.
All of us experience occasional sadness and anxiety, but persistent problems may be a sign of a deeper issue. Ongoing issues with sleeping, eating, weight, school and pathologic self-doubt may be signs of depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Separating out normal behavior from problematic behavior can be challenging. Emotional and behavior problems can also vary with age. For example, depression in pre-adolescent children occurs equally in boys and girls. During adolescence, however, depression rates increase much more dramatically in girls than in boys.
It can be very hard for people to accept that they – or their family member – are not to blame for their mental illness. That’s partly because there are no current objective markers of psychiatric illness, making it difficult to pin down. Imagine diagnosing and treating cancer based on history alone. Inconceivable! But that is exactly what mental health professionals do every day. This can make it harder for parents and their children to accept that they don’t have control over the situation.
Most important of all is making sure your child is assessed by a licensed mental health professional experienced in diagnosing and treating children. This is particularly important when medications that affect the child’s brain are being considered.
Thanks to recent developments in genetics, neuroimaging and the science of mental health, it’s becoming easier to characterize patients. New technologies may also make it easier to predict who is more likely to respond to a particular treatment or experience side effects from medication.
Our laboratory has used brain MRI studies to help unlock the underlying anatomy, chemistry and physiology underlying OCD. This repetitive, ritualistic illness – while sometimes used among laypeople to describe someone who is uptight – is actually a serious and often devastating behavioral illness that can paralyze children and their families.
Through sophisticated, high-field brain imaging techniques – such as fMRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy – that have become available recently, we can actually measure the child brain to see malfunctioning areas.
We have found, for example, that children 8 to 19 years old with OCD never get the “all clear signal” from a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. This signal is essential to feeling safe and secure. That’s why, for example, people with OCD may continue checking that the door is locked or repeatedly wash their hands. They have striking brain abnormalities that appear to normalize with effective treatment.
We have also begun a pilot study with a pair of identical twins. One has OCD and the other does not. We found brain abnormalities in the affected twin, but not in the unaffected twin. Further study is clearly warranted, but the results fit the pattern we have found in larger studies of children with OCD before and after treatment as compared to children without OCD.
Meanwhile, the field of psychiatry continues to grow. For example, new techniques may soon be able to identify children at increased genetic risk for psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
New, more sophisticated brain imaging and genetics technology actually allows doctors and scientists to see what is going on in a child’s brain and genes. For example, by using MRI, our laboratory discovered that the brain chemical glutamate, which serves as the brain’s “light switch,” plays a critical role in childhood OCD.
When I show families their child’s MRI brain scans, they often tell me they are relieved and reassured to “be able to see it.”
Children with mental illness continue to face enormous stigma. Often when they are hospitalized, families are frightened that others may find out. They may hesitate to let schools, employers or coaches know about a child’s mental illness. They often fear that other parents will not want to let their children spend too much time with a child who has been labeled mentally ill. Terms like “psycho” or “going mental” remain part of our everyday language.
The example I like to give is epilepsy. Epilepsy once had all the stigma that mental illness today has. In the Middle Ages, one was considered to be possessed by the devil. Then, more advanced thinking said that people with epilepsy were crazy. Who else would shake all over their body or urinate and defecate on themselves but a crazy person? Many patients with epilepsy were locked in lunatic asylums.
Then in 1924, psychiatrist Hans Berger discovered something called the electroencephalogram (EEG). This showed that epilepsy was caused by electrical abnormalities in the brain. The specific location of these abnormalities dictated not only the diagnosis but the appropriate treatment.
That is the goal of modern biological psychiatry: to unlock the mysteries of the brain’s chemistry, physiology and structure. This can help better diagnose and precisely treat childhood onset mental illness. Knowledge heals, informs and defeats ignorance and stigma every time.