December 19, 2007

Deus Ex Homonymia

Answer the following questions, and don't look at the next until you answer the previous:

  1. Does depression in kids raise their risk of violence? 
  2. If a kid is violent, is it more or less likely they are depressed?
  3. If someone is depressed and violent, is it likely they are a kid?
  4. Can you define any of the nouns in the preceding questions?

In a study called Perceived Dangerousness of Children With Mental Health Problems and Support for Coerced Treatment the perceptions of 1100 members of the public were evaluated, finding:

Children... with major depression were perceived (by 81% of the sample) as somewhat likely or very likely to be dangerous to themselves or others, compared with children with asthma (15%) or those with "daily troubles" (13%).

and, later:

...compared with the child with "daily troubles," the vignette child with depression was more than twice as likely to be assessed as dangerous toward others and ten times as likely to be assessed as dangerous toward himself or herself.
Now, you lose no money assuming the public at large merely guess at probabilities.  So what they think may be right, wrong, both-- who knows.  But whatever they think, it's probably important to quote them correctly:


"The issue that was highlighted by this study that was really concerning to us was that Americans have linked depression in youth and violence, particularly violence towards others," said Dr. Pescosolido ["distinguished professor of sociology, Indiana University."] [emphasis mine, but, face it, really theirs.]
Well, no, that's not what the public thinks, at least according to your study.  They think that depression leads to violence against themselves, and maybe towards others.  Only 9% thought violence towards others was very likely.  The majority thought violence towards others was not likely.  Right?

Also, please note the subtle cut against "Americans," those barbarous, judgmental, yellow ribbon tying NRA members, i.e. "Texans."  (I know, sociology professor...)

"It's really, really horrible.  Many people who are not in the field perceive these youths as dangerous-- and yet we have no evidence that these kids are any more dangerous than youth randomly picked..." said Dr. Kelleher, professor of pediatrics at Ohio State.
Wow.  I had thought the entire infrastructure of psychiatry rested on the very foundational idea that psychiatric disorders, especially depression, are responsible for increased risk of violence to the self.  And these quotes are even more weird given that they come from Ohio and Indiana-- the two states responsible for over half the increase in female youth suicides in the whole country.  You know, the increase that everyone is blaming on antidepressants.

But words are lies, and  you can use loose language like "violence" and "dangerous" and "youth" and "kids"-- bending its meaning to whatever you need it to mean at that moment-- to make any point you want. The actual arguments for this position can be be flipped when necessary (e.g. Nasrallah saying a school shooting isn't "evil" but "medical illness.")  You can do this if you manipulate words, e.g. conflating school shooting and suicide to "violence," and then making "violence" mean what you need it to mean at that moment.

So what is her point?  I'm sure she doesn't want to be saying that depressed kids aren't prone to self harm.  So?

So nothing.  She, they, don't have a point, they want to convey a feeling, a political position, something like, "no one is bad just because they are sick; but if they were bad, then it was because they were sick." 

It's a good position, given that it is entirely empty, and can be made into whatever you want.  Right or wrong is precisely besides the point.

So what do these authors tackle next?  Forced psychiatric treatment, of course.



And on a related note: ... (Below threshold)

December 20, 2007 12:13 AM | Posted by Steve: | Reply

And on a related note:

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When Liz Spikol <a href="ht... (Below threshold)

December 20, 2007 7:43 AM | Posted by Jon S.: | Reply

When Liz Spikol posted about this study a while back I noticed the same statistical spin of adding together "violence towards self" and "violence towards others" into just "violence," which is a vague term most people would assume only refers to "violence towards others."

I suppose it makes a twisted kind of sense if you think that the depressed are not really themselves, then any actions of suicidality/self injury would really be towards someone else.

I should stop before someone reading this decides to use this line of loony logic for serious.

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But this is part of the lar... (Below threshold)

December 20, 2007 3:02 PM | Posted by Rich Hudson: | Reply

But this is part of the larger trend that *no* condition, no matter how detrimental to quality of life, is a problem unless those with the condition choose for it to be treated so: Obesity may be a health problem, but obese people are merely making a lifestyle choice. Now depressed people are saying, "We may be depressed, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with us!" It may seem contradictory ("Treat our condition but don't treat us differently!") but part of it is, I think, a legitimate reaction to (or attempt to preempt) discrimination. In this police-state age when employers will some day have access to everyone's medical records, no one wants to be turned down for a job just because we take (or once took) Prozac.

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Re violence against self an... (Below threshold)

December 21, 2007 2:42 PM | Posted by DrSteve: | Reply

Re violence against self and others, a powerful combination is for a depressive and a psychopath to pal-up. The one supplies the hot anger, the other the cold superiority. See this piece on Klebold and Harris:

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Me again. I came across an ... (Below threshold)

December 26, 2007 2:05 PM | Posted by DrSteve: | Reply

Me again. I came across an article on sockpuppetry (pretenting to be someone else on the internet) and was reminded of your description of the borderline:
"Chameleons aren't inherently hurtful. How could they be? They want to be loved and be everyone's very best friend and fandom buddy. They are however frustrating to deal with on a long-term basis. It's one thing to know that someone enjoys other things than you do, and quite another to realize that, if you mentioned in the right tone that you thought all the puppies in the world should be rounded up and shot into the sun, that she would agree with you and in fact help make plans to help you design the rocket (at least until a PETA member came into the chatroom, at which point she would start chanting "Fur is murder!")."

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If I'm the father, can I sa... (Below threshold)

January 4, 2008 7:04 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

If I'm the father, can I say No, to my daughter's doctor about taking prozac, or any other mind altering drug??

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It was "enlightening" to se... (Below threshold)

January 20, 2008 9:35 AM | Posted by Diane Abus: | Reply

It was "enlightening" to see the statistics! reflecting societal attitudes.from Tana Dineen in her book' Manufacturing Victims',the air is saturated with psychological jargon-it's like a thick fog- (my paraphrase).

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Dear Father,You can ... (Below threshold)

January 20, 2008 5:51 PM | Posted by Diane Abus: | Reply

Dear Father,
You can and must say no if this is right for your daughter and for my money depression can also lead the way once the "black dog"(Winston Churchill's name for his own depressive nature) -is understood to wonderful new ways of dealing with oneself and the challenges of an often crazy world....Legally,also you are on terra firma.

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You're so right about words... (Below threshold)

November 12, 2014 11:12 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You're so right about words and it gives me great paranoia

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Some interesting details in... (Below threshold)

November 12, 2014 3:35 PM | Posted by : | Reply

Some interesting details in your post.

Homonymia - is that affinity to words that can have more than one meaning?

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