Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's in a name? Today in Science

Today in the Science Times two pieces caught my eye. One by David Kohn writes about the prevalence of depression and anxiety not only in afluent societies but also in what is referred to as the "developing world." In this case they refer to India. With a burgeoning stock market and a larger share of jobs in technology come the perils of the West! The focus of this article is an innovative program:

Instead of doctors, the program trains laypeople to idenitfy and treat depression and anxiety and sends them to six community health clinics in Goa, in western India.

The workers screen every patient who arrives at the clinic, for both physical and emotional symptoms. Those with symptoms of depression or anxiety are not referred elsewhere, but are offered therapies at the clinic. The program, started by Dr. Vikram Patel of Mumbai evolved out of his research, which hypothesized that Western concepts of mental illness did not apply in the developing world. To his surprise, he learned that these two conditions were as common and as treatable as they are in Western countries.

A second article by J. Marion Tierney asks what's in a name. He looks at what the research has to say about children with cross-gender names or other names seen as undesirable - are they destined to flunk school, develop poor self esteem or get into fights? Not according to the research:

They have found one major positive factor: a better sens of self-control. It's not that you fight more, but that you learn how to let stuff roll of your back.

One might say that this study showed them that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'd like to know whether their sample were all university students or if some of them were at local prisons, in street gangs, or in psych wards. I'd bet not.

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