Open Letter: The Solitary Confinement of PFC Bradley Manning

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is deeply concerned about the pretrial detention conditions of alleged Wikileaks source PFC Bradley Manning, including solitary confinement for over five months, a forced lack of exercise, and possible sleep deprivation. It has been reported by his attorney and a visitor that Manning’s mental health is suffering greatly from his treatment.

As a response, PsySR has issued the Open Letter below to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing our concerns about this misuse of solitary confinement and alerting him to the psychological literature on its harmful effects. It has been sent to the Secretary and PsySR is now releasing it publicly, The text of the letter and a PDF version are also available on PsySR’s website at www.psysr.org/gates-manning-letter.

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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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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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Fort Hood: A Harbinger of Things to Come?

Bryant Welch

The Army knew that Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan was shouting political and religious harangues to patients during his therapy sessions at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

When that happens in a psychiatric setting, it is time to radio Houston that we have a problem.

Instead of admitting the serious break down in Army quality control, each day the Army provides a new explanation of why blame for the Fort Hood shootings should be laid at the feet of Muslim terrorists and not the US military.

This problem the military has in confronting psychiatric problems is longstanding.

Unless there is a dramatic change in the military’s use of mental health expertise there will be more Fort Hoods as our troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious psychiatric disorders.

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New Restrictions on Abortion: Protecting Irrational Women Everywhere (in Arizona, Anyway)

Kate Sheese

az_capitolEarlier this month, the Arizona state House voted to impose new restrictions on abortion, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period during which a woman is required to receive information – in person – regarding the anatomical characteristics of the foetus at its particular stage of development and the apparent abundance of available support options if she decides against having an abortion.

There are a number of problematic assumptions that underlie these kinds of restrictions and these assumptions need to be made apparent in order to have any kind of productive and meaningful discussion on abortion and reproductive rights. These assumptions should be of particular concern to psychologists and psychological researchers who have been given a unique role in the debate over abortion as women’s psychological well-being is consistently invoked on both sides to prove either the necessity or harm of restricting access to abortion.

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Creative Maladjustment and Learned Helplessness

Andrew Phelps and Lynne Stewart

mlkMartin Luther King, Jr., in his address to the American Psychological Association in 1967, urged “Creative Maladjustment” as the appropriate behavioral response to life in an unjust society.

Compliance with the norm of social injustice is problematic, Dr. King noted. But one can abide in a wholesome and justifiable position in the face of injustice through creative maladjustment, by which he meant a commitment to upholding the values of freedom and dignity for all. He called for fundamental changes in behavioral science so that behavioral research and “treatment” embrace the values of freedom and dignity (see http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan99/king.html).

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