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Superheroes and Supervillains with Mental Disorders

October 30th, 2019

Whether it’s in a comic book or a movie, most everyone has seen a superhero.

Superheroes are different from the rest of us. For example: The Flash is faster than the speed of light, Superman can fly, and Spiderman can shoot webs.

People look at superheroes and see greatness and perfection. In a sense, though, superheroes are just like everyone else. They suffer from some of the same problems many people do.

One such problem is mental illness.

Take Superman, for example. The Man of Steel had to leave his home and family in a different world and learn how to fit into our world. As a result, he suffers from a condition called “Part of Two Worlds Syndrome” and will never feel as if he is truly at home.

Another superhero is Captain America. The poster boy for America could also be a poster boy for depression. He is a soldier who was frozen in the ice after World War II. When he awoke, his life changed dramatically. His family and friends were gone. Dealing with all the death and lost time changes how you see life and makes it hard to move forward.

Captain America probably fears that if he makes new connections and friends, he will lose them too. Everything he faces today is a reminder of what should have been.

Jessica Jones faces many of those same challenges as well. Before she even met The Purple Man, Zebediah Kilgrave, she lost her family in a car crash. That didn’t ruin Jessica completely, but what was left of her life was taken away by the Purple Man.

After coming into contact with experimental chemicals and spending some time in a coma, Jessica emerged with superhuman strength, enough to lift a two-ton police car with little effort, fly and block mind control.

The Purple Man used Jessica’s power to hurt her friends. He would force her to cry and watch disturbing images. The Purple Man nearly killed her friends through her. He gives off pheromones that make people around him bend to his verbal commands.

Jessica, who was known at the time as Jewel to civilians, first meets Kilgrave in a restaurant. Using his own powers, he casually asks her to give up her secret identity, which she does without hesitation and uses her powers for schemes of evil. He induces her to attack the police force outside, which she does – flipping police cruisers with reckless abandon.

Jessica endured Kilgrave’s control for eight months. That’s eight solid months of mental and emotional torture. Afterward, she was little more than a skeleton with skin and hair. A rag doll. She had no control of her own life or mind. And while she eventually escaped from her tormenter, she will never be able to break free from him totally.

The events of what happened to her haunt her in her dreams and in reality. As a result, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even with her superpowers, she has scars that will never heal.

The same is true of supervillains. They are people too – without a tether to reality. But in all actuality, they are not at fault for their actions, for the most part.

With villains, it is harder to figure out if they are mentally unstable, have a disorder or are just plain out bad. The majority of villains have mental illnesses, which is the main cause of what they do.

Harley Quinn was an innocent victim. She was a therapist of the one and only Joker, which led to her downfall. The Joker abused Harley, putting her through physical, emotional, and psychological pain that caused her to become the villain we all know her to be. As a result, Harley suffers from battered person syndrome and Stockholm syndrome, conditions she cannot escape from.

Two Florida Health Care News employees showing their support for Harley Quinn.

Some supers aren’t villains or heroes but they have mental illnesses as well. Deadpool is one such super. He isn’t classified as a villain or a hero, but Deadpool is the perfect example of a comic book character with psychological disorders.

Deadpool was tortured, physically and emotionally, to the point of death to activate mutant genes. The psychological state of Deadpool reads like a list of psychological disorders.

He mostly suffers from schizophrenia but he also has psychopathic tendencies and has more emotional baggage than any other superhero or villain. With the mental dilemma he faces on a daily basis, he can’t grasp reality.

Thankfully, superheroes and villains are fictional characters who are who they are in part because of these illnesses. We, on the other hand, are real. We live in this world, right now and right here, and just as it is with superheroes and villains, mental illnesses are prevalent.

Approximately one in five adults in the U.S experience mental illness of some kind within a year. But help is available and there are many types of therapies and solutions, including:

  • Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy is the therapeutic treatment of mental illness provided by a trained mental health professional.  Psychotherapy explores thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and seeks to improve an individual’s well-being.  Psychotherapy paired with medication is the most effective way to promote recovery.  Examples include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, etc.
  • Medication – Medication does not outright cure mental illness.  However, it may help with the management of symptoms.  Medication paired with psychotherapy is the most effective way to promote recovery.
  • Support Group – A support group is a group meeting where members guide each other towards the shared goal of recovery.  Support groups are often comprised of nonprofessionals, but peers that have suffered from similar experiences.
  • Self Help Plan – A self-help plan is a unique health plan where an individual addresses his or her condition by implementing strategies that promote wellness.  Self-help plans may involve addressing wellness, recovery, triggers or warning signs.
  •  Peer Support – Peer Support refers to receiving help from individuals who have suffered from similar experiences.

Fans of superheroes may not want to know their dark secrets. But superheroes and villains, like many of the people they save, need help. In that way, they are like regular everyday civilians.

 

Advances, Retreats in the Cancer Battle

September 25th, 2019

At the end of May, the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer was released, and it offered some encouraging news. The report included cancer statistics from the years 1999 through 2016, the most recent year statistics are available. The report was created by a consortium of the country’s top cancer organizations.

The updated annual report noted that US cancer death rates continued to fall during those years. It stated that overall, cancer death rates decreased 1.8 percent per year in men and 1.4 percent per year in women. This decrease continued am an ongoing trend in declining cancer death rates.

The report also noted that the rate of new cancer cases among men consistently fell between 2011 and 2015, decreasing two percent per year. This is good news after the rate of new cases increased between 1999 and 2008. The rate of new cancer cases in women, however, remained stable from 2011 to 2015.

In addition, the Annual Report to the Nation described progress in the battle against two major cancers, lung cancer and melanoma. Lung cancer gains were attributed to increasing declines in smoking. The reason cited for the improved success against melanoma was the development of new and better treatments for it.

There was some negative news in that report, however. It stated that cancers related to obesity, such as colon cancer, breast cancer in older women and uterine cancer, are on the rise. This should strike a chord in those of us who are struggling with excess weight.

The report also found that the incidence of cancer in women ages 20 to 49 rose an average of 1.3 percent per year. And cancer deaths in this age group were higher for women than for men. Apparently, we’re failing to get the cancer prevention message to these women.  Fortunately, their cancer death rates declined by about 1.7 percent per year from 1999 to 2016.

The American Cancer Society has its own annual report called Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. This report is a companion piece to Cancer Statistics 2019, a scientific paper that was published in January in the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. In these publications, the Society estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths in 2019.

According to Cancer Facts & Figures 2019, more than 1.7 million new cancer cases are predicted to be diagnosed in the United States in 2019, and approximately 606,880 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year. The number of new cases is the same as last year, but the number of deaths expected in 2019 is slightly lower, down from 609,640 estimated for 2018.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years, second only to accidents. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019 estimates that 11,060 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in American children ages birth through 14 in 2019, and 1,190 deaths are predicted to occur. The report notes that childhood cancers have increased by 0.6 percent per year since 1975.

Tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death in the US, despite declines in cigarette smoking. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019 reports that cigarette smoking among American adults ages 18 and older decreased from 42 percent in 1965  to 14 percent in 2017. Among high school students in the US, smoking decreased from 29 percent in 1999 to 8 percent in 2017.

Still, about 30 percent of all cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of at least 12 types of cancer and may be a factor in two others. Secondhand smoke is also a risk factor for the development of some cancers. In 2014, 5,840 nonsmoking adults in the US were diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of inhaling secondhand smoke.

Most cancers have risk factors. Some are non-controllable, such as age, gender and family history. Other risk factors are controllable, such as smoking, being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle.

You can reduce your risk of many cancers by modifying your controllable risk factors. This includes stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

In addition, follow your doctor’s recommendations for getting routine tests and screenings for various cancers. In many cases, uncovering cancer in its early stages means catching it when it’s most treatable and, in some cases, curable.

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