Leave Jake Lloyd alone: We need compassion for mental illness, not snark

Published: Salon (April 11, 2016)

Life wasn’t easy for Jake Lloyd after his starring role in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” As anyone who went to the movies in 1999 will recall, his subpar performance was frequently singled out as a major weakness in a film that was hardly lacking in shortcomings. Lloyd has even discussed how the bullying he received from other kids ultimately turned him off acting for good.

Now Lloyd has been hospitalized for schizophrenia following a ten-month stint in jail, which occurred after he led South Carolina police on a high-speech car chase last June. Predictably, a great deal of the reaction from the Internet has ranged from unsympathetic to downright cruel. “Dude looks like straight sith material. Do not let him out” posted one reader at TMZ. A commenter on Inquirer wrote “too much metaclorian [sic] in blood, bad for the brain.” On Global News, a Star Wars fan snarkily joked that “someone probably showed him Phantom Menace.”

While it’s tempting to chalk this up to the sociopathy that seems to contaminate nerd culture these days (see: Star Wars fans complaining that George Lucas “raped their childhood” or the toxic misogyny brewing in Gamergate), there is a deeper issue at play here. Even though our society is appropriately sympathetic to celebrities who develop serious physical illnesses, we continue to ridicule the ones whose sicknesses are psychological in nature. Despite living at a time when scientific progress has made it clear that mental illnesses are no less preventable than many physiological counterparts, the stigma surrounding these disorders remains – and it is particularly evident in how we respond to celebrities who have them. read more

From the Minds of Babes: We Must Take Depression Seriously

Published: The Good Men Project (December 17, 2015)

Do you want to read an observation about depression that is, well, depressing? I turn to a recent comment by Dr. Joan Luby, the director of the Early Emotional Development Program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis:

“Nobody believed preschoolers could get depressed. People generally assumed children under the age of six were too developmentally immature to experience the core emotions of depression. I am not sure the zeitgeist has changed as dramatically is it probably should, given the data that’s available.” read more

On Autism and Loneliness

Published: The Good Men Project (November 12, 2015)

I recently discovered some lyrics from a Beatles song that resonated so strongly with me that I needed to include them here.

Courtesy of “Eleanor Rigby”:

Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

For a moment, I’d like to focus on the last three verses. When you are on the autism spectrum, you struggle to comprehend people’s facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal forms of communication. Indeed, even when language is directly involved, those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome still find it difficult to both comprehend what is being conveyed to us and respond to that information correctly. read more

An Asperger’s Bill of Rights

Published: Asperger’s 101 (October 2, 2015)

If you are a High Functioning Autistic (HFA), the odds are troublingly high that you also suffer from some form of depression.

As someone who suffers from depression myself, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to find happiness when you struggle with the burdens of having an autistic brain. One possibility for the prevalence of depression in autistic brains is that HFAs, for reasons distinct to their neurological condition, are innately more likely to feel depressed. read more

Oliver Sacks’ brilliant & essential lesson: What the legendary science writer taught us about politics & the human mind

Published: Salon (August 31, 2015)

“We normals — aided, doubtless, by our wish to be fooled, were indeed well and truly fooled… And so cunningly was deceptive word-use combined with deceptive tone, that only the brain-damaged remained intact, undeceived.

So wrote neurologist Oliver Sacks at the conclusion of “The President’s Speech,” a chapter from “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” his classic book chronicling the fascinating stories he encountered throughout his work in neuroscience. read more

Josh Duggar’s hypocrisy is part of a much larger cultural problem


Published: The Daily Dot (August 21, 2015)

America’s most high-profile Christian conservatives often use their social media platforms and media prominence to extol the virtues of chastity—only to get caught up in sex scandals.

The most recent example comes by way of Josh Duggar, one of the oldest kids from the hit reality TV show 19 Kids and CountingComing on the heels of a revelation last month that Duggar molested five young girls (including his own sisters), Americans have now learned that the outspoken opponent of same-sex marriageabortion rights, and sex education was cheating on his wife with an account on the notorious dating site for cheaters, Ashley Madison. “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever,” Duggar proclaimed in a public statement. “While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the Internet and this became an addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.” read more

Looking Through ‘Depressing’ Tweets

Published: Good Men Project (August 8, 2015)

Matthew Rozsa explores the latest Twitter trend, #TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs.

For the most part I’m not a big fan of Twitter. Any medium that attempts to condense the human experience into 140 characters is, in my opinion, more likely to water down meaningful self-expression than encourage it. Although my career makes Twitter use something of a necessity, I can’t deny that I view it with the same moderate disdain with which I hold so many other Internet manifestations of our sound byte culture (e.g., memes).

Every so often, however, Twitter winds up producing some unintentionally moving art. read more

The Proverbial Freeze Out: Why Do We Hold Grudges?

Published: Good Men Project (July 9, 2015)

Matthew Rozsa discusses the millennial generation’s habit of freezing people out… and whether the practice of holding grudges offers any benefits.

“No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.”

I’ve always been fascinated by this quote, which was allegedly the personal mantra of the Roman dictator Sulla.  From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it’s a great rule-of-thumb to use in fiercely competitive job fields (such as politics), where being feared is often perceived as vital to being taken seriously. If you want people to be loyal to you, it’s important to return all of the favors that they have done (the fact that it keeps you out of anyone’s debt doesn’t hurt). Similarly, if you want to make sure those who might wish you harm are reluctant to cross you, it’s certainly effective to set an example at the expense of someone who you decide deserves it. read more