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Sunday, October 26, 2014

School Shootings: Why Social Media Should be Monitored

Above: Washington school shooter's Twitter post days before the shooting. 






In the wake of the latest school shooting in the state of Washington, much attention has been paid to the shooter’s (Jaylen Fryberg’s) Twitter account. In fact, after a school shooting, social media sites are typically the first place that people go to learn about the assailant. While this is understandable, one has to wonder if any of these school shootings could be eliminated if someone had paid more attention to these shooters’ social media sites before the shootings.

Possible interventions ahead of time can include psychological counseling (outside and/or inside school) to teach adaptive and prosocial coping mechanisms to deal with stress and conflict, psychotropic medication consultation, more careful and close monitoring of the person’s emotional state by family and health care providers, and removal of firearms access by family members and others known to be close to the individual. Media accounts state that the firearm used by Fryberg belonged to his father.

Taking a look at Fryberg’s Twitter account, once can see that there is an incredible disconnect between how he portrayed himself online compared to how others appear to have viewed him in person. A student at his school, Alex Pietsch has been quoted as saying:

"It's weird to think about, because you see him and he is such a happy person." You never really see him be so angry and so upset. ...”

Yet on Twitter, here are a few of Fryberg’s comments made since June 2014, which show a disturbing trend:

On June 17, Fryberg  seems upset about something (“This Is a F***ing joke”), perhaps after doing some yardwork for a house he says “we” are not going to purchase. Or perhaps it was about something else.

The July 17th comment notwithstanding, it all seemed to go downhill on June 18 when Fryberg appeared to be having an argument with someone, suggestive of a relationship breakup. In fact, media reports state that he had broken up with a girlfriend recently. Posts that day include a long drawn out “F*** YOUUUUU!!,” and “You’re starting to piss me off” followed by an emoticon blowing out steam. Those comments were followed by:

“YOUR SO F****ING BRAVE!! JUST REMEMBER THIS IS F***ING IT!! NO MORE AFTER THIS” along with three angry emoticons.

The next day, Fryberg is still angry with the following posts: “WTF EVER!!” and a long drawn out F word in all caps with angry and sad emoticons and many exclamation points. The most ominous and threatening comment that day was this one:

“I Know Your Weaknesses And What Breaks You... And When That **** Happens... Just Know There's No Coming Back (emphasis mine)” followed by a sad face.

He then said he was going to a hospital, but no reason is given. Only one person asked him why.

On June 20th, Fryberg seems to express regret coupled with anger when he wrote,

“What The F*** Did I Just Do…F*** it.!! Might As well Die Now (emphasis mine).” 

Each of these sentences was followed by a series of sad faces, broken hearts, and steam coming out of an emoticon’s nose. Prior to that posting, Fryberg wrote numerous comments expressing infatuation with someone he appeared to be dating. After the break-up, he wrote posts that appear to reflect him missing being with someone romantically (presumably his girlfriend).

Only July 3rd, Fryberg’s post became more threatening: “It’s about to go down” followed by an emoticon of wide-eyes fear.

Fast forward to August 20th, in what could be considered a foreshadowing of events to come he wrote:

“Your gonna piss me off…And then some s****’s gonna go down and I don’t think you’ll like it…Your not gonna like what happens next!!" (emphasis mine) ” followed by emoticons with steam coming out of their nose.

Some of his posts also displayed an element of possessiveness, presumably over the girl he was dating. He then wrote on the same day, “I hate that I can’t live without you. “This comment was followed by emoticons of rage, sadness, disgust, worry, and blank expressions. That day, he retweeted a comment that the first heartbreak is “unforgettable.”

On August 23rd, Fryberg is angry again, with comments such as, “Sick of this S***!!” and “Oh My God This Is So F****ing Stupid!!” followed by angry emoticons.

On September 16, Fryberg wrote “Fml” which means F*** my life. He appeared to be getting more and more despondent.

On September 19, Fryberg gets into an online dispute with someone he was apparently pretty close to about his girlfriend. In one of the posts that day, he writes:

“Dude. She tells me everything. And now. I f***ing HATE you! Your no longer my "Brother!” He appears to feel betrayed. He then wrote, “Night f***ing RUINED.” 

On September 20th, Fryberg writes: “I Hate Hearin S*** Like That.. It Just Continues To F*** Me Up. I Just Feel Stupid Now.. Exactly What I Thought Was Gonna Happen Happened..”

He followed this up with two more posts that day: 1)"I HATE THIS S***” and 2) “I'm tired of this s***. I'm sooo f***ing done!!! (emphasis mine)” each containing emoticons of frustration.

On October 13, Fryberg retweeted a post saying “I miss you, and it's killing me” followed by an emoticon of anguish and a long drawn out “F*** you” with an emoticon of anger.

On October 21, Fryberg appears to snap when he writes,

“Alright. You f***in got me.... That broke me. It breaks me... It actually does...(emphasis mine) I know it seems like I'm sweating it off... But I'm not.. And I never will be able to...” 

Consistent with this timeline, media reports state that his demeanor changed markedly and that he refused to talk about it. He then wrote, “I should have listened.... You were right... The whole time you were right..” 

On October 23, the day before the shooting, Fryberg wrote, “It won’t last…it’ll never last…”

These postings are not consistent with someone who was a happy person over the past few months. In fact, he clearly was despondent, angry, and sad. Someone in this type emotional state, especially a minor, should not have access to firearms. If a family member of a child expressing such emotional distress owns firearms, the firearms need to be locked away with no way that the child can access the key.

If children under 18 are permitted to have a social media account, it needs to be monitored closely by the parent. By monitoring, this does not mean to allow the child access to a private account with the parent peeking over the child’s shoulder occasionally but it is what too many people do. Monitoring means that you are granted access to the child’s account by being part of their social media network. It should be made as a condition to permit social media access. You can promise not to post to the child’s account so as not to embarrass them, but they key is that you are monitoring it and interfering if you see signs of cyber-bullying, threatening comments (against or from the child), and/or signs of significant emotional distress. If the child does not agree to grant you access, then no social media account.

For counselors, it is definitely worthwhile to search for your client/patient’s social media profile so that timely interventions can be made. As this case shows, children (and adults) will sometimes present differently on the outside than they will when behind the safety of a computer (or smartphone) and a keyboard. It is important to note that it is not unethical to view these social media accounts as long as you are viewing publicly available information. You also do not need to have a patient sign a consent form to view publicly available information. Many children do not put any sort of privacy setting in place and allow the entire contents of their social page viewable to the public.

What a counselor should not do, however, is hack into someone’s private (non-public) social media account. If the account is locked to private, you are out of luck as a counselor but this is where the parent or guardian comes in as a safeguard. While we may not be able to stop all school shootings by checking social media websites, more regular social media monitoring is a potentially helpful way to prevent some of these shootings in the future. This should be integrated into a regular part of clinical practice for counselors in the future.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Here's What You Need to Know About Mesothelioma

Asbestos: The Cause of Mesothelioma
You can’t watch an episode of anything on Court TV without at least one commercial about mesothelioma.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with the condition, and you want more information about what to do next, read on:

Asbestos: The Gateway to Mesothelioma

By now, everyone knows that asbestos is linked to mesothelioma. The only real question is why did we use it for so long. For that matter, why are we still using it? Unfortunately, the cynical answer and the true answer are one and the same. Asbestos is a tremendously useful mineral that has all sorts of industrial implications. It is still cheaper for companies to lawyer up, and fight the legal battles, than to stop using asbestos altogether.

But how much do we know, and how long have we known it? In 1970, an asbestos company’s internal memo detailed the company’s knowledge of the level of asbestos exposure that would result in mesothelioma. They had conducted intense animal testing to show how asbestos effected humans. They even learned which types of asbestos were more harmful. They continued to use asbestos.

Yet another company revealed in a letter to the Gypsum Association Safety Committee, their intention to place the blame on the employees despite the fact that the company was fully aware of the dangers of asbestos. They continued to use asbestos.

As for when we knew, it was long before 1970. Set the wayback machine to 1906, and you will find the first proven case of an asbestos-related death to be reported and confirmed. The dangers of asbestos were known well before that.

Industrialization is a powerful motivator. Once we discover something as useful as asbestos, we find it difficult to relinquish, even long after we know it is killing people. As with a drug, once we get hooked, we rationalize while the people around us suffer.

How Mesothelioma Is Contracted

Here’s the good news: You cannot inherit mesothelioma. Unlike other cancers, it is not genetic. It cannot be passed on from one generation to the next. It is also not contagious. There, the good news ends. The simple and shocking fact is that we know of only one way to get mesothelioma, and that is through exposure to asbestos.

It is important to know that asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. But people with mesothelioma didn’t catch it from a walk in the park. This is an industrial strength, industrially manufactured disease. To put it in no uncertain terms, humans cause mesothelioma.

Cancer, By Any Other Name

Mesothelioma is cancer. More to the point, it is a type of lung cancer. Pleural is the most common of three types of mesothelioma. This type effects the lungs, and can easily be mistaken for other ailments. Peritoneal and pericardial are the other two. They attack the abdomen and the heart respectively.
As with other cancers, there is no cure for mesothelioma, and it often presents later in life. Asbestos does not go away once in the body. It can hang around for 30 years before the cancer presents.

Who Is At Risk

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute the following are most at risk:

•Miners
•Aircraft and auto mechanics
•Building construction workers
•Electricians
•Shipyard workers
•Boiler operators
•Building engineers
•Railroad workers

Add to that list anyone living in a house built before 1980. The condition of the asbestos is key, and can be assessed by a professional. To learn more about mesothelioma and lawsuits related to it, follow the link provided and check out the resources.

While Americans have greatly reduced their dependency on asbestos, it is still legal in this country, though 55 other countries have banned it. Though the dangers are as well-known as the benefits, developing nations are still using asbestos to help spur their own industrial revolution. Mesothelioma is the inevitable result of this reckless industrialism.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Common Disabling Automotive Injuries

Almost anyone who has been disabled in an automobile accident will tell you that it ultimately doesn’t matter how they became disabled, it only matters that they became disabled, and that their lives are forever changed. That being said, it’s still a good idea to understand the types of disabling injuries that can occur in an automobile accident to understand how the injury occurred, and the options for treatment.

It’s also a good idea to learn about these types of injuries to understand how they can be prevented in the future.

The Impact of Automotive Injuries

Whether or not the automotive injury results in a physical disability, it can still have a long-term physical and mental effect on a person’s life.

Accident survivors can often spend years, and thousands of dollars, recovering from an accident, and during that time, many people are unable to work or earn a living. If the injured party was not at fault for the accident, he might be able to get assistance from his insurance company, or even from the individual who was responsible for the accident. However, doing that often involves a lot of time and energy that someone recovering from an accident can’t necessarily afford.

For example, if someone is injured in an accident on the Dallas North Tollway, and the police find another driver at fault, that other driver's insurance could pay the medical costs. The thing is, no one is going to have the energy to deal with an insurance company while recovering from an accident. However, if the injured party hires a Dallas car wreck lawyer, the lawyer can focus on the insurance company, while the injured party focuses on getting well.

Automobile Accident Injuries

You can sustain almost any type of disabling injury in an automobile accident. However, there are certain disabling injuries that are more common to automotive accidents than others, specifically brain injuries; and neck, spinal cord and back injuries.

Brain injuries

Brain injuries are the most common type of disabling injury in automobile accidents. These injuries are usually the result of the head violently striking a solid object, such as the vehicle dashboard. Brain injuries can also happen to people outside the vehicle if they are hit by the vehicle or debris from the accident, or if they are thrown from the vehicle during the accident. Another type of brain injury occurs when the brain hits the interior of the skull, even if the exterior of the skull is undamaged. In some cases a brain injury could occur as a result of penetration – a piece of the vehicle pierces the skull.

The severity and long-term effects of head injuries can vary depending on several factors including:

•  The intensity of the impact;

•  The area of the brain or head that is injured;

•  The interval between injury and treatment, because the brain can swell, which can cause more damage than the initial impact.

Because the brain controls many different bodily functions, the type of disability caused by a brain injury depends greatly on the area of the brain that is damaged. For example, damage to the part of the brain that controls memory could result in difficulty learning or retaining new information. Damage to the motor center could result in a loss of fine motor skills in the hands or in the ability to walk. It is also possible to suffer damage in multiple areas.

Neck, spinal cord, and back injuries

The terms “neck injuries” and “back injuries” usually refers to damage to the muscles, bones and cartilage in the back and neck, with or without spinal cord damage;  the term “spinal cord injuries” refers only to damage of the spinal cord. These injuries could be the result of impact or penetration and, like brain injuries, the severity and long-term effects of the injury are determined by a variety of factors. Additionally, the type of disability depends on the location of the injury.

For example, a person who suffers broken vertebrae and bruising, or incomplete spinal cord damage, in the neck might have his neck bone surgically fused together, preventing him from turning his head, and might suffer numbness and mild loss of from the point of the spinal bruising down, but won’t be completely paralyzed.

Injuries are a major risk in any automotive accident, but there are ways to reduce your risk:

•  Always wear your seat belt, even for short trips;

•  Adjust the headrests to support your skull and prevent your head from snapping back; and,

•  Secure any loose items to prevent them from flying around during an accident.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Drug Side-Effects: When the Cure is Worse Than the Disease

Treating disease is not easy. For one thing, despite all of the advances in medical technology, there’s still so much we don’t know about the human body and the disease process. Many of the treatments that we take for granted have only been in use since the early twentieth century.  For example, the antibiotic penicillin was not discovered until 1928 and did not reach wide distribution until 1935.

When penicillin was introduced it was considered a wonder drug because it was able to prevent hospital-borne infections, and cure diseases that were previously considered terminal, like syphilis. However, there were also people who were allergic to penicillin, which made the drug dangerous for them to use. Overuse of penicillin also led to more resistant bacterial strains and the need for even stronger antibiotics.

Penicillin is not the only drug that has issues; in fact, most prescription drugs have side-effects of some sort. However, there are those with side effects so bad that it makes patients wonder if the cure is worse than the disease.

Risperdal

Risperdal is an anti-psychotic drug used primarily to treat schizophrenia, but could also be used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and irritability associated with autism. The drug is designed to make patients with these diseases more “even,” and less likely to harm themselves or others.

All of the diseases that are treated by this medication can be seriously debilitating and also difficult to treat.

For example: Schizophrenia causes delusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, and manic-like behavior. It’s not unusual for one antipsychotic drug to alleviate one symptom but have no effect on the others. Sometimes a patient has to try multiple drugs, and multiple drug combinations, before finding one that will alleviate all of the symptoms.

For many patients Risperdal, either alone or with other drugs, gives them relief from their symptoms and allows them to lead normal lives. Without it they could end up institutionalized, unable to function at all. But Risperdal also has its problems, some of which have made it the focus of a lawsuit.

The Risperdal lawsuit alleges that several patients have developed debilitating and even deadly side effects such as seizures, diabetes, breast cancer, and sudden changes in blood pressure. The issue is that many patients were unaware of these side effects when they took the drug. For some it might not have made any difference, Risperdal might have been the only medication that worked for them. But others could have opted to try a different drug to avoid the side effects. Additionally, it is alleged that drug reps were advised to suggest the drug for off-label use, such as dementia and anxiety, which would have meant thousands more people exposed to potentially deadly side effects.

Fen-Phen

Fen-Phen is a diet drug that was introduced in the 1990s. It was a combination of two drugs – fenfluramine and phentermine – and was touted as a miracle drug for weight loss. Fenfluramine was an appetite suppressant designed to make people eat less, and phentermine was an amphetamine designed to increase the heart rate and raise the metabolism. At its peak, Fen-Phen was prescribed to an estimated six million people, and many people swore by its effects. Unfortunately, like Risperdal, Fen-Phen also had its share of issues, and was the subject of a lawsuit.

The Fen-Phen lawsuit came about after the drug was taken off the market due to reports of heart valve damage in 30 percent of patients who took the drug. Heart valves are structures that prevent blood from flowing backwards inside the heart. The heart has four valves, all designed to keep blood flowing in the right direction. When a valve is damaged, blood cannnot flow properly and that can put you at greater risk for a heart attack. Damaged heart valves are incurable; once the valve is damaged the patient either needs to take medication and make lifestyle changes to prevent further damage, or they need to have the faulty valve replaced.

Fen-phen was also linked to a potentially fatal lung condition called primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH), or high blood pressure in the arteries in the lungs. The danger of PPH is that the arteries in the lungs can constrict and thicken, which means they can’t carry as much blood and the blood can’t get as much oxygen from the lungs.

Millions of people were exposed to these side effects because it was prescribed so freely, even though many health experts warned that the drug should only be prescribed to the seriously obese.

This is a post by Nancy Evans.