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Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Les Miserable or Django Unchained: More Grace or More Violence?

posted by Linda Mintle

I finally was able to see the movie version of Les Miserable. Stunning performances by the actors, beautiful cinematography and an incredible story of grace and forgiveness. One could not help but be moved by the message—every life is of value and worthy of God’s forgiveness and grace. I was moved to tears.

But the contrast of the movie trailers preceding the film is what struck me.  Every single film had intense violence in the trailers. I felt assaulted. Especially considering the timing. We just witnessed the burial of first graders gunned down by a heartless trigger happy adult, and now we promote movies in which violence still reigns supreme and “entertains” Americans.

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I might be alone in this, but I find nothing entertaining about the download of violence that continues to be promulgated by Hollywood. And one of the new movies in the trailers was Django Unchained, an incredibly violent movie with an over the top massacre scene directed by Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino is known for creating violence on the screen. It is his trademark.

Yet, he became incensed by reporters who asked about the connection between movie violence and real violence. He refused to answer a TMZ reporter when the question was posed and became rude. He told the TMZ reporter that he had no obligation to explore the topic of real life violence. He reportedly got hostile with a British interviewer as well.

Hmmm…becoming hostile when asked about violence? In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary violence, is it really a leap to ask about violence on the big screen? Does Hollywood have any culpability in helping curb violence in our culture?

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Hollywood. Home of the entitled and privileged, many of whom feel they can do whatever they want with little consequence. And how dare we ask them to explain their actions or thinking on the heels of one of the worst violent crimes in recent years. While violent films may not create a violent killer, the jury is out on the impact they have on all of us. Issues like desensitizing us to violence, creating fear and anxiety in terms of a world view, have been determined to be a result of violent media.

It’s time for media producers to do a little self-examination. We can have all the conversations we want on gun control, safety in schools but don’t tell me that the constant bombardment of violent images, graphic brutality doesn’t play on the minds of the unstable. However, Hollywood continues to award this type of violence and take a hands off approach regarding their own culpability when it comes to our violent culture.

The question to ask is, what good does all this pictorial violence do for average American viewer? Does it help us become better people and treat our brothers and sisters with more care?

For me, we could benefit from a lot more of Les Miserable and a lot less of Django!

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Could the Mental Health of Expectant Fathers Impact The Unborn?

posted by Linda Mintle

I’ve written several articles on the impact of the mom’s mental health on the development of her unborn baby, but what about the dad? Could the mental health of the father also impact his unborn child? A study published in Pediatrics provides and answer to this question.

A Norway study of 32,000 children found that the psychological distress of  dad during a baby’s pregnancy did indeed impact child development.

Specifically, fathers were given a screening questionnaire regarding their mental health status during their child’s pregnancy. Later, mothers were asked to also fill out questionnaires regarding their child’s development. Controlling for a number of variables, an association was found between the fathers’ mental health and their children’s later developmental problems. Dads who scored high on anxiety and distress when the mom was 17-18 weeks pregnant, had children who were more disruptive and anxious at age three!

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Why is this?

One can only speculate–maybe the mental health of the father later impacts his parenting, or maybe his mental health impacts the mother’s mental health, or maybe there is a genetic link..we don’t really know.

But psychologist, James Paulson, associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion University has been studying the mental health of dads and how this may impact child development. He believes the study has an important take away–consider the mental health of the dad, not just the mother. Better depression screening for dads just might make a difference in the development of healthy kids, even before they are born.

 

 

 

Reference: Paternal Mental Health and Socioemotional and Behavioral Development in Their Children, Kvalevaag, et al.

Pediatrics peds.2012-0804

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Blow to the Head? What Happens to the Brain?

posted by Linda Mintle

With all the football players leaving the field  for concussions and nasty hits during the playoffs, we need to be thinking about traumatic brain injury (TBI). What really happens when someone suffers a blow either by accident, in a sport or in the military?

Dr. James Kelly, Professor of Neurosurgery and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine specializes in all aspects of traumatic brain injury research and clinical care. Watch this 7 minute You Tube to understand more about what happens when you hit your head or get hit on the head.

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Dr. Kelly is easy to understand. This may impact your decision to play contact sports, help a returning family member who has suffered TBI through war experience, or know what happens when an elderly person falls and hits her head.

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For more on the impact of blows to the head, read my blog, Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be-football or hockey players, boxers…

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Cut 4 Bieber: Why Fans Are Hurting Themselves

posted by Linda Mintle

Bieber fever has spiked  a dangerous high in the past week. #Cut4Bieber began trending as a prompt for female fans to cut themselves in order to protest Bieber’s alleged smoking of pot. Beiber was caught on camera holding what looked like a joint, so an anonymous source began a campaign on a message board encouraging Bieber fans to cut in protest. According to Topsy (a trending tracker site), there were 26,000 hits in 12 hours in response to the idea. Girls were prompted to upload pictures of themselves cutting. Many did–some real and unreal images.

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The concern reached such a peak that another celebrity responded. Miley Cyrus tweeted, “CUTTING is not something to joke about. There are people who are actually suffering from self-harm, this is so disrespectful.”

And while I hardly look to Miley Cyrus for any advice on mental health, she is right. Boy Justin did not respond to the accusation directly. He did tweet, “Trying to be better.”

The “joke” represents a new low in American pop culture. Some of you may remember an earlier stunt when someone tweeted that Justin Bieber had cancer and girls should cut their hair to show support. This is really sick. Who would want to encourage teen girls to cut themselves or use a false report of cancer to garner sympathy?

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More importantly, we need to attend to the girls who would actually engage in such behavior in response to misguided pop star admiration. This is dangerous idolatry!

Self-injury is a real mental health problem that I have treated numerous times in my therapy practice.

Girls who self-harm often do so because they feel emotionally distant or invalidated by their parents. Some are rewarded for this behavior by a peer group that also engages in self-harm as a coping mechanism for stress and feelings of disconnection. Others describe feeling “dead” inside or invisible to parents, and feel alive or confirmed in their existence when they cut. For many, cutting is a way to manage overly demanding parents.

Self-mutilation is often hidden under clothing. Cutting usually takes place on the arms, thighs and legs and/or the abdomen. A sibling might notice the marks or a parent may find a razor or sharp object in the adolescent’s room. And if a teen has a habit of becoming highly distressed and locking herself in her bedroom, she may be inflicting self-harm as a form of self-punishment. This is often the case with the eating disorder girls I have treated. They would rather harm themselves than openly deal with a conflict or challenge a parent.

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Obviously, self-harm requires intervention by a mental health professional. The best treatment is family therapy with a skilled and trained family therapist. Therapy usually focuses on improving family communication, lessening expectations and demands, teaching conflict resolution, problem-solving and developing closer and more meaningful relationships with parents and siblings.

In addition to family therapy, girls who self-harm have to learn to identify the triggers that lead to cutting, learn to control their thoughts and solve problems. They need to be taught that harming themselves is not an appropriate way to feel alive or cope with emotional pain.

Spiritually, feeling connected to God, their Father and developing an intimacy with God is the best way to feel validated and alive. Understanding that God unconditionally accepts them regardless of their accomplishments, accepts their failures, promises peace in the middle of their emotional storms and is always present and willing to help can be life changing. The momentary “high” that comes from cutting can be replaced with God’s peace and transforming power. Learning to bring all burdens to the cross is key. The truth is that the blood of Jesus has already been spilled and no other blood sacrifice is required.

 

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