Saturday, December 04, 2004

Words of sense, about "PEST"

...or "Post Election Selection Trauma," as it's designated by a Florida psychologist. But why are they at the very end of the article?
The Boca Raton News reported last week that more than 45 South Florida Kerry supporters sought psychological help after the Democratic candidate conceded to Bush on Nov. 3.
That number, including 20 patients treated by Schooler, had risen to more than 50 by the weekend...
In addition to Schooler’s one-shot hypnotherapy, more than 30 people have called the non-profit American Health Association at 561-361-9091 to sign up for free support group therapy...
Executive Director Rob Gordon said Friday that AHA’s first election support group is scheduled for after Thanksgiving. The Boca-based charity, which has more than 500 professional and non-professional volunteers in Palm Beach and Broward counties, is offering the free sessions through the end of the year...
A psychologist at the Boca-based Center for Group Counseling, whose spokeswoman last Monday was referring depressed Kerry voters to the Democratic National Committee, said he thinks AHA and Schooler are unethically using the Kerry supporters’ misery for self-promotion.
“The word ‘trauma’ is overused and I haven’t seen Kerry voters traumatized according to the existing definition,” said William A. Weitz, adult program manager. “Certainly we’ve had people discussing their responses to the election at regular support group meetings, but the idea you would use hypnosis on them doesn’t make sense to me.”
Boca Mayor Steven L. Abrams, a Republican, said post-election therapy is “more of the same” in a city where people already spend tens of thousands of dollars a pop on plastic surgeons, beauticians and matchmakers.
“I do think it’s silly,” Abrams said.

Some comments from CJR about reporting on PEST:

When we first read the News' pieces about PEST, we thought perhaps we had stumbled across some Onion-style parody. The notion of Post Election Selection Trauma, a heretofore-undiagnosed affliction that came complete with its own absurd acronym and the backing of characters seemingly right out of a Carl Hiassen novel, strained credibility. Salai's pieces barely gave voice to dissenters within the psychological community, who might think the PEST diagnosis a bit overblown and grandiose...
The more interesting question was this: Why was the News earnestly publishing deadpan stories that the outside world couldn't resist ridiculing?

Even more interesting is the question: where are my psychiatric colleagues, and why haven't they weighed in on this? My own thoughts: this reeks of self-promotion (and self-parody). If people can't cope, then go ahead, offer help. We have plenty of acronyms for every kind of emotional misery and loss. We don't need a new acronym. We could probably do with a few less than we already have. But why aren't other psychiatrists commenting? Don't tell me they're all suffering from PEST!

(afterthought - I guess that with my blog entitled "shrinkette," I can't be too hard on people for self-parody....)
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