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Call to Action: How to Help Loved Ones Radicalized by YouTube

Permanent Linkby Sunnyg on Sun Nov 08, 2020 6:27 pm

I’m writing this post today because I’m deeply concerned about how YouTube has changed the narrative dialogue and reporting in our nation. As a person in recovery and healing from schizophrenia, I have a unique qualification to speak about dealing with alternative narratives like people who are reacting to being radicalized by YouTube. Delusions, conspiracy theories, and personal narratives have a lot In common. Some are fun, others mind-bending, and some are dangerous. I’m not suggesting everyone who believes outside the mainstream is delusional, but I’m suggesting there are effective strategies to help individuals experiencing isolating ideas. Theories help us make sense of our world, but if they aren’t grounded and triangulated with reality testing - it can be dangerous if people choose to act on their beliefs. For me, alternate ideas have involved politics, technology, religion, and the multiverse. I’m lucky that in my paranoia I documented everything as my only major action, and I trusted my loved ones (friends and family). Treating individuals experiencing alternative beliefs with care is critical to recovery. In many ways, delusions and radicalized people are similar because they may behave like someone living in an alternative narrative from mainstream thinking. Today, I’m writing because I’m concerned about others who may choose to act on their radical alternate beliefs.

As part of my healing process, an essential treatment has been my supportive family and relationships with friends over the years. These relationships helped me get back to mainstream thinking by finding common ground. Using social connectedness is a critical strategy in helping individuals struggling to make sense of delusions, alternative thinking, and experiences. When the medication has yet to take effect for me, the best medicine is a connection, even if it is talking about something trivial. It keeps me grounded at the moment. It is vital to stay connected with those in our networks in this time of isolation and the pandemic.

There is an effective strategy that I’ve had used on me that I like. I use the system to help my loved one radicalized by YouTube videos, and I work to maintain our relationship.

LEAP (Listen. Empathize. Agree. Partner) is the most effective strategy for healing from a crisis with the reality that I know. Never confront a delusion or radicalized thinking directly. You can read more about why not to on www.psychforums.com, and the delusional disorder thread “avoiding the forbidden confrontation.” It explains the struggle well within the context of mental illness. Use this strategy instead:

1. Listen: Acknowledge the persons’ emotional struggle. Listen to their feelings, not their facts.

2. Empathize: Empathize with their experience, but don’t agree with alternate facts.

3. Agree: Find common ground that you can both stand on and reflect on. But, never agree with the delusion or false narrative. That will feed the illusion or delusion and not help the person get back in touch with a shared reality.

4. Partner: Try to partner to find a solution together related to the crisis the individual is experiencing.

This technique was developed by Dr. Amador, who wrote, “I’m not sick, I don’t need help.” He is a psychiatrist with a brother who struggled with schizophrenia.

The key to healing trauma is keeping a healthy relationship and finding common ground. Propaganda is a form of psychological warfare. The best way to fight psychological warfare disinformation is by treating your loved ones with humanity, dignity, and respectful discourse. This process will take time and effort to stay with our family and friends who radicalized, and I highly recommend family therapy if you struggle to keep in connection through this process.

Over the past four years, one of my loved ones radicalized through youtube content about China and the presidential campaign. We are living with different understandings and narratives as ...

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thoughts on the 2nd amendment and mass shootings

Permanent Linkby Sunnyg on Thu Jun 16, 2016 2:52 pm

We have a problem in our country. Too much hate and not enough love. We suffer from an epidemic of mass shootings.

I've heard a few helpful solutions that I support. 1. Ban automatic weapons. 2. Increase training for firearm safety. 3. Reduce the number of bullets allowed in clips.

But in theory I support the 2nd amendment for the following reasons.

Imagine a leader who is divisive and leads a corrupt government who creates a list of people ineligible to purchase firearms or has any constitutional liberty removed without due process. Using labels and creating an unjust "watch list".

Who decides which people with mental illness belong on a restricted list? One in five Americans have some form of mental illness.

What process decides who may commit a mass shooting? Would you qualify for such a bigoted list? At what point would you be added to a "watch list"? Would #Blacklivesmatter leaders be added? Would #occupy leaders be added? Would #mentalhealth advocates be added? I'm not pro guns. I do support 2nd amendment rights. I am an advocate for mental health and personal liberty. In times like these we need more love, less hate, and to consider our future. Would you want the right to protect yourself against another Hitler? I don't like guns, but I'd want to know that the homes of my family are safe from bigoted and oppressive leaders. In 2016, I have limited trust in the American electoral process (although I'm hopeful that the odds makers in Las Vegas are right about the election this year). It is my friends, family, the networks of personal connections, and my community that I believe in. Without the people I trust having rights to protect themselves against a corrupt government, we may have exchanged our freedom and liberty for fear.


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What to do when a parent is delusional at the park

Permanent Linkby Sunnyg on Sat Mar 05, 2016 5:10 pm

I recently read the story about "Maryland’s severely mentally ill need treatment before the worst happens" in the @washingtonpost. I was struck by the fact that a mother could be in plain sight in public with such a tragic end. Where were the other parents? Why didn't somebody call for help? Why didn't the police pay her a visit? This was a tragic situation. Ideally a citizen would have noted the child was being swung too much, and called the authorities to investigate. Or made a connection that could have grounded the woman in truth and love an helped her. Why is preventive treatment tragically overlooked? Every community needs to look for signs of neglect and child endangerment, especially when their caregivers or parents are at risk for mental illness.

I have a similar story but with a positive outcome. I became sick shortly after the birth of my daughter in 2005 but I had access to care. I remember just before I was hospitalized in 2006, someone notified the police who came to check on me and my daughter.

Excerpt from "All in Her Head" by Sunny Mera

“Here, you need to be taking these. You are experiencing psychosis,” he said gently but firmly, handing me samples and a prescription to fill for Geodon, the same antipsychotic medication I had taken in the fall.

I trusted Dr. Bouley, so I decided to comply with his instructions. I nodded and opened my hand, where he placed the medication. I stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts near the hospital, and while I waited in line, I listened carefully to the words on the radio. As I realized how powerless I felt against the messages surrounding me, I knew I had to resign myself to letting go of my ego. Here we go again, I thought. I ordered a large iced coffee and took my medication with it before Jamie and I did anything else.

It was midafternoon when I left the drive-through line. I spent the afternoon walking along the Merrimack River by the Manchester campus and playing on a blanket in the grassy patch near the sidewalk next to the water on the east side of the river. About an hour later, despite my iced coffee, I started to feel sedated. Jamie descended into a fussy, miserable mess by 4:00 p.m.—the “witching hour,” as Jack’s mom called it. I tried everything, but she refused food, comfort,
and entertainment. The only thing I could do to pacify her was to carry her around in my arms and walk. But that afternoon, I was too tired from the medicine, so we went back to the car. As Jamie
crawled into my lap, crying, my eyelids and limbs became heavier and heavier, and I eventually succumbed to the sensation.

I woke from my deep sedation to the sound of tapping on the tinted window. It was a police officer. He wore a blue uniform with a shiny new badge on his chest. His skin was dark brown. I opened the
door, smiling slightly.

“May I see your identification, Officer?” I asked.

“Yes, here it is,” he said, holding up an identification badge. “We got a call about an unattended child in a green SUV.” My face burned with the heat of a blush as he told me why he was there. He looked at me with my child in my lap. “But there must have been a misunderstanding, because everything looks fine,” he said. “Can I close the back gate on the trunk?”

“Sure, it was too heavy for me to close earlier,” I said. He looked like he felt bad for us as my daughter continued to fuss and I held her, trying to bounce and pat her to quiet her down in front of the officer. Jamie was still miserable, and I was still struggling against the sedation, but we looked perfectly ordinary, other than my delayed responses and Jamie’s tearstained cheeks.

Jack got to the Manchester campus parking lot that afternoon and took Jamie home. I didn’t talk to him immediately about the police officer incident or my appointment with Dr. Bouley. It wasn’t that I hid it; it just didn’t occur to me that I needed to tell him. After all, we rarely...

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What to do when someone you know is delusional

Permanent Linkby Sunnyg on Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:36 pm

Coming to terms with mental illness can be a tough job. I remember when I first got sick, my first clue that things weren't right was when a friend who I'd confided in told me I was experiencing psychosis, that what I thought couldn't be true. This was the best gift my friend could have given me. Her honesty, thoughtful insight, and concern for my state of mental illness, prompted me to ask for help getting access to care. Being that "friend" or the person who can see mental illness is an important role in an individual with mental illness' life. When it is someone you know, I believe as a community we are responsible to eachother. Maybe it was from growing up in a tight community in the Midwest, but the sense that we are in this thing together still rings true today.

I wanted to clarify that if you know someone who has lost touch with reality, I think part of societies job is to help pick people back up and help them back on the ladder of life when they start to fall off. I mean, if they are confiding their delusions in you, you are someone they trust. Read Dr. Amador. Call the NAMI helpline for advice, and try to partner to get your friend or person you know and care about help for their illness. It is only if you don't know someone, that I think it is appropriate to let it be.

If a poster on the delusional disorder forum asked how to help his sister or close friend who was suffering from delusions and hallucinations, my answer would be very different than for that of the stranger who wants to be useful.

Last edited by Sunnyg on Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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How to be with a person suffering delusions on the subway

Permanent Linkby Sunnyg on Sun Feb 28, 2016 5:02 pm

Recently on the delusional disorder forum, a poster shared an experience where a woman was sick with delusions and hallucinations, and the passenger felt helpless in the situation. He felt he should have “done something” to help. His post asked for advice, and I’m sharing a response as someone who has been in the grips of intense psychosis, and come through with treatment to recovery and living in treatment. Here is my advice.

“How do you respond to a person suffering from delusions and hallucinations on the subway/trolley?” The answer probably depends on where you live and the laws governing the treatment of people who are experiencing mental illness.

In the United States, there is nothing anyone can do to "help" someone in a mental health crisis until they pose a threat to themselves or others. If the s/he was threatening the other passengers or to harm herself, that would be the appropriate time to call the police and clearly say you believe the person is having a mental health crisis and is a threat to himself or others. But if the person is not a threat, and is feeling persecuted, let him/her be. You may make the situation worse if you try to intervene without experience or knowledge of this person in a mental health crisis. In general, if you are not experienced interacting with a person, and do not know them, I would not recommend directly involving yourself with a person in a mental health crisis. It takes a special skill set, and training to be helpful.

When it is someone you know or love there is an effective strategy called LEAP developed by Dr. Amador. Listen, Empathize, Agree, and Partner. This strategy is the best strategy I know if you are in a situation with someone suffering from delusions and hallucinations. Trying to build trust to help is the key. I would not recommend you do anything if you didn't know the person who is showing signs of illness. The weight of the world is not on your shoulders. The person was ill, and will likely gain access to care through the people in their life who know them. If you want to understand better how to empathize with what it is like to have a mental illness there are many books that describe mental illness through personal narratives, like the book I wrote. It may give insight into what the experience is like.

As for how to behave when someone is having a psychotic break and you're on the subway?

1. If they are acting out: I'd recommend staying as you were. Don't turn your back. But don't make direct eye contact or stare. Direct eye contact may seem aggressive, whereas turning your back may make the person feel isolated.

2. If it makes you uncomfortable: Change subway cars at the next station, or wait for another train.

3. Be present: Don't ignore the person, but don't pay special attention to them either. In New York I've seen people who are skilled at dealing with unusual subway behavior. Keep to yourself as best as you can. Keep your head down, eyes averted from the individual acting out if they start to pester / direct their attention to you. Cross your arms and legs. Do all the nonverbal cuing that you don't want to engage with them, without isolating them. If they start to ask questions that are based in delusions you can shake your head back and forth and keep a low profile, or if they are checking in about their surroundings, asking if you see what they see, or something like that, keep it real. Be gently honest. For example, "Sorry, I don't understand." or "Sorry, I don't know." or "Sorry, I don't see anything like you described." Remember, you are talking to a person with feelings. Please be respectful and sensitive to their beliefs/feelings, but try to disengage if you don't have the experience and skills to know how to support an individual in crisis.


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