Wake Up Call

Gloria Gordon

Jon Stewart broke the news recently that the Daily Show will throw a “Rally to Restore Sanity” on Saturday, October 30th on the Washington Mall. He exhorted viewers to come and “Take It Down A Notch For America.” Going beyond a parody of the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor Rally in August, Stewart builds on the “sanity” theme—and invites all of us folks who haven’t been out there yelling stupidities to show up. “Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement.” Stewart’s rally will meet a dueling “March to Keep Fear Alive,” led by his Comedy Central ally Stephen Colbert.

Hearing of the Stewart-Colbert plans is the tonic I’ve needed ever since watching the video of an address by Chris Hedges at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP) in August. Hedges, a former war correspondent, reviewed recent and current U.S. political and economic behavior and drew a chilling picture of what he sees for the future—a dark-age period that it is too late to prevent.

Hedges talk was a wake-up call for me. His observations fit what I have been noticing, but I had not connected the dots to face the full grip that corporate America has on our status as a democracy. At the same time, neither I nor my friends in the VFP audience agree with his opinion that it is too late for citizen action to turn things around.

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Mental Health in Haiti

Yosef Brody

Even before the earthquake of January 12th — before the physical, psychological, and social catastrophe that killed as many people as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki— the psychosocial state of Haiti was extremely fragile. The living ghosts of slavery, terror and exploitation by foreign and domestic powers, political violence in the streets, destructive hurricanes, lack of social infrastructure, near famine conditions…the majority of the Haitian people have been dealing with chronic, elevated life stress for many years. Haitians have undergone a particularly traumatic social history, a collective experience lived out over the course of centuries.

Today, the basics of everyday life are either hard to come by or are simply not available: shelter, food, school, doctors, and clean water cannot be taken for granted. The stress that comes with living under these conditions—traumatic events aside—increases the likelihood that a human being will lose her ability to function as effectively as possible. When a massive disaster such as the 2010 earthquake, which had both natural and man-made causes, is added in to the mix, psychological problems spike. Mental health care in Port-au-Prince today is practically non-existent, a fact that has dire implications not only for current suffering, but one that also increases the probability that psychological problems will be passed down to future generations.

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Seeking Answers from Social and Personality Psychologists: 10 Research Questions in the Torture/Interrogation Debate

Bradley Olson

As someone trained in personality and social psychology—and now also working as a community psychologist—it’s clear to me that social and personality theory and research make essential contributions to understanding social justice issues.

I’ve long been an activist on the American Psychological Association (APA) torture issue and a member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR). This led to an invitation to participate in a session chaired by Chris Crandall at the 2009 Society for Experimental Social Psychology conference in Portland, Maine. The session involved presentations of several excellent studies related to U.S. torture and interrogation. My role was to act as a discussant and to suggest what other areas, as an activist, I thought should be studied empirically.

For several decades, the horrors of WWII and the racism that led to the civil rights movement inspired the work of U.S. social and personality psychologists. As several participants mentioned at the session in Portland, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and Guantanamo can have similar influences on the discipline in the years ahead. I agree. From my perspective as an activist, here are 10 questions I would love social and personality researchers to help answer:

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PsySR Calls for End of Gaza Siege

In advance of the direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington in early September, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued a statement below calling on the Government of Israel to end the siege of Gaza and urging health and mental health professionals to join our call.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility Calls on the Government of Israel to Lift the Siege of Gaza

The Israeli government’s siege of Gaza imposes an unacceptable cost to the health and mental health of the citizens of Gaza. Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) therefore calls upon the Government of Israel to end the siege. We further urge our medical and psychological colleagues in Israel and Palestine to join our call so that those living in the region can return to more normal and secure lives.

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The CIA’s Torture Research Program

Stephen Soldz

In the aftermath of World War II the Nuremberg Code and other standards established that all research on people should be based upon two fundamental principles: voluntary informed consent and minimization of harm. “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential,” begins that Code. The principles of the Nuremberg Code were widely incorporated, including in the United States, into professional ethical rules and laws governing human research. New evidence suggests that, not only did the CIA torture the detainees in their custody, but they also conducted illegal and unethical research on them.

Experiments in Torture

A new report of which I am a coauthor, Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program, just released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) provides the first strong evidence that the CIA was indeed engaged in research on detainees in its custody. The report, the result of six months of detailed work, analyzes now-public documents, including the “torture memos” from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the CIA’s Inspector General Report and the accompanying CIA Office of Medical Services (OMS) guidelines for monitoring of detainees.

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The Conditions for Human Health and Well Being Reside within the Psychosocial Contexts of Human Life

Anthony Marsella

As our concern for human health and well being grows with each day, we find ourselves too often looking to solutions within limitations of the health care system. We speak of the need for more medical services, lower medical costs, more health professionals, better medical technologies, improvements in medical records, greater access to health care, and more research.

While all of these factors are important, they distract us from recognizing and addressing the very psychosocial causes that ultimately limit human health and well being – causes that could be addressed directly and immediately and that would significantly reduce dysfunction, disorder, and disease, and promote human health and well being.

We are infatuated with the physical. We pursue reductionism endlessly, going from limb, to organ, to cell, to gene, to atom and molecular space. All of these pursuits are warranted for they have helped illuminate the substrates and structures of illness. But they cannot in and of themselves address the tolls on human health and well being that are exacted within the psychosocial contexts of our lives. For example, can anyone deny that a reduction in poverty would limit scores of illnesses associated with the deprivations of poverty?

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A Prevention Model for Reducing the Federal Debt While Doing Social Good

Neil Wollman

The growing federal debt has become such a looming problem that President Obama appointed a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to tackle it. So far, the public discourse has focused on two painful but seemingly necessary solutions — raising taxes and cutting current government programs. If instead, far more funds were put toward preventing problems before they arise, future spending would be reduced, along with the need for as many tax hikes and program cuts. This prevention model is primarily associated with health care (it is cheaper to prevent than treat an illness), but it could be applied across diverse budget sectors. What if all budget administrators were instructed to consider funding preventive measures that might save money in the future? Here are some examples.

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