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.