Notice Sent to Senator Hatch

Notice sent to Senator Hatch (and a slightly modified one to Senator Lee):

Senator Hatch:

As a psychologist who often works with survivors of rape and sexual abuse, I am very concerned at your overt bias toward believing Judge Kavanaugh rather than Dr. Blasey Ford. I recognize your frustration with being unable to get your radically conservative nominee onto the Supreme Court before the midterm elections. I understand Speaker McConnell’s wish to leave as his legacy a judiciary that will be conservative for decades – and that it is even more important to him (and possibly to you) than alienating survivors and the women and men who believe them and support them. Please do not underestimate our anger and determination. We will remember you, and your legacy, and not in a good way. Kavanaugh is a flawed candidate for the highest court in the land. Please reconsider your decision to push this man onto the Supreme Court.

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“Reverse Racism”

I recently came across this clear explanation of the accurate use of “reverse racism.”

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Using Our Tech in Healthy Ways

The APA continually publishes articles of general interest, including the following advice for dealing with our phones and computers:

  1. Don’t use phones behind the wheel. Thousands of Americans are killed each year by distracted driving. When you’re in the car, turn off notifications and place your phone out of reach.
  2. Defend your sleep. A variety of studies have shown that smartphone use at night can interfere with the quality of your sleep.1 Researchers believe that’s partly due to the fact that phones and other tech devices emit “blue light,” which affects the production of the sleep-related hormone melatonin. But another problem is that the content itself is often stimulating. A text or tweet at bedtime can make your mind start spinning at a time it should be winding down. Try to avoid late-night use of mobile devices. Also resist using your phone as an alarm clock — for many people, it can be too tempting to have it on the bedside table.
  3. Turn off notifications. Most of us have our phones set to beep or buzz whenever a new email, text or social media notification comes in. The Stress in America survey found that only 19 percent of Americans turn off notifications for social media apps. Yet constant notifications can have a negative effect on well-being. In a recent study, psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that when smartphone users turned off smartphone notifications, they reported lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity than they did during weeks when their notifications were turned on.2 What’s more, frequent notifications were also associated with lower levels of productivity, social connectedness and psychological well-being. In a similar study, the same research team found that people who checked email continuously reported more stress than those who checked email only three times per day.3 To help manage your own stress and improve focus, try to make some realistic decisions about what notifications you truly need. You might need to see each incoming email during the workday, but perhaps Facebook updates aren’t as important.
  4. Manage expectations. If you don’t plan to check text messages during your workday, or won’t be checking email regularly on vacation, make sure you let other people know. Tell your mom you’ll reply to any messages in the evening. Make sure your boss is onboard before you disappear for the weekend. You won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of disconnecting if you’re dealing with frustrated family members and co-workers.
  5. Use social media wisely. Many people have had the experience of feeling like their life is less glamorous or exciting than the lives their friends showcase on social media. In fact, some research has suggested a link between social media and feelings of sadness or depression.4 But you can change your relationship with social media for the better. Research shows that when people use social media passively (such as consuming information and scrolling through other people’s posts), they report lower levels of well-being. However, social media use may not negatively affect the well-being of people who use it more actively (such as by posting content, sharing ideas or commenting on other people’s conversations).5 To get the most from your social networks, get engaged. (And keep in mind that people’s lives are rarely as perfect as they make them seem on social media).
  6. Be present. Digital technology and social media make it easy to stay in touch, but they can distract you from connecting with the people you’re with in real life. And face-to-face interactions are important for emotional well-being. The Stress in America survey found 44 percent of people who check email, texts and social media often or constantly report feeling disconnected from their family, even when they’re together. When you’re with friends and family, make an effort to unplug. To avoid temptation, silence your phone and put it out of reach at dinnertime or during family outings.
  7. Take time to recharge. Quiet time to think is important for relaxing, reflecting and even for boosting creativity. If you’re grabbing your phone every time you have a spare moment to fill, you’re missing out on those opportunities to recharge. Try to set aside some time each day to disconnect. It might be difficult at first, but over time you’ll probably reach for your phone less and less — and grow to value those moments of peace.
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The Knowledgable Ones Speak Out

An interview with immigration attorney and director of the Free Migration Project (and my son) about the family separation and family detention problems.

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Latest Message to our Senators and Representative

The ongoing separation of children and parents at the US border requires all of our attention and energy, particularly yours, as our representatives in the federal government.  We must make sure that this immoral and inhuman practice has actually stopped, and then we must do everything possible to reunite these parents and their children. Please find your courage and demand that children be reunited with their parents.  This is literally every parent’s nightmare.  Use your position as a Republican in our government – spend your credit as a member of the party in power.  Your power is useless if you make no effort to reverse the tide of evil.  Be brave!

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Why Become a Refugee

from Warsan Shire, British poet

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

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Letter from the APA to President Trump re: Family Separation, Jun 14, 2018

Dear President Trump:

On behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), we are writing to express our deep concern and strong opposition to the Administration’s new policy of separating immigrant parents and children who are detained while crossing the border. We previously wrote to then Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on April 5, 2017, about this matter. Based on empirical evidence of the psychological harm that children and parents experience when separated, we implore you to reconsider this policy and commit to the more humane practice of housing families together pending immigration proceedings to protect them from further trauma.

APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. Our membership includes researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. APA works to advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives. We have 115,700 members and affiliates across the United States and in many other countries, many of whom serve immigrant youth and adults in a wide range of settings, including schools, community centers, hospitals and refugee resettlement centers.

The current policy calls for children to be removed from their parents and placed for an often indeterminate period of time in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Decades of psychological research have determined that it is in the best interest of the child and the family to keep families together. Families fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary in the United States are already under a tremendous amount of stress.1 Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children.2 Research also suggests that the longer that parents and children are separated, the greater the reported symptoms of anxiety and depression are for children.3 Adverse childhood experiences, such as parent-child separation, are important social determinants of mental disorders. For children, traumatic events can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health disorders that can cause long lasting effects.4 Furthermore, immigration policies, such as separating families at the border, can also adversely impact those immigrants who are already in the United States. They can suffer from feelings of 5stigmatization, social exclusion, anger, and hopelessness, as well as fear for the future.

As a tragic example of the current policy’s serious potential for harm, a Honduran man who was separated from his wife and 3-year-old son after he crossed the border into Texas recently took his own life while detained in a holding cell, according to the Customs and Border Protection officials, public records, and media reports.6 There are also reports of detained immigrants foregoing legitimate claims for asylum by pleading guilty to expedite the return of their separated children and reports of parents being deported while their children, including infants, remain in custody. These incidents serve to highlight the mental health crisis for many families caused by the Administration’s policy.

Given these considerations, a change in immigration policy regarding the detention of immigrant families at the border is desperately needed – from separating parents and children to housing them together and providing needed physical and mental health services. As psychologists, we have documented multiple harmful effects of parent-child separation on children’s emotional and psychological development and well-being and urge that the current policy of family separation be reversed. Should you have any questions regarding these comments, please contact Serena Dávila, J.D., with our Public Interest Directorate at or 202-336-6061.

Signed etc.

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