The Healing Benefits of Forest Therapy

The Healing Forests of India

Directed by Nitin Das (2019)

Film Review

An exquisitely beautiful documentary about the field of forest therapy – a form of healing is most practiced in India and Japan (which has 50 healing forests).

There are numerous studies demonstrating the calming effect of forests on children. Research from both India and Finland show that holding classes there makes children calmer, helps them focus better and reduces misbehavior and violence. It’s especially effective for kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Research in adults reveals that the forest environment can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol* levels, inflammation, depression, stress and anxiety. At the same time, it also improves serotonin** levels and immunity. Forest therapy has proved helpful in treating diabetes, hyperthyroidism and addictions. In young people, it helps alleviate depression and anxiety stemming from excessive social media exposure.

It makes perfect sense that people would find forests more inducive to health than overcrowded hyper-polluted cities. As one researcher reminds us, human beings co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years with forest plants and animals. This means our bodies are programmed to thrive in the presence of other living beings.

The recommended dose of forest therapy is five hours a month.


*Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone.

**Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain and elsewhere that is believed to mediate mood.

 

Pill Pushers in Suits: The Addition Potential of Psychotropic Medication

 

Overpill: The Darker Side of America’s Mental Health

RT (2017)

Film Review

Overpill is a documentary based on the investigation of a Russian-born accountant into the massive overprescription of psychotropic drugs (medications for depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD) in the US. He became aware of the issue while working for Health Care Communications, a company that markets prescription drugs to Americans for ordinary problems of living. He undertook this investigation after becoming romantically involved with a woman who was addicted to antidepressants and antispsychotics while, despite experiencing horrendous side effects.

The film features extended interviews with former patients who got their lives back after the excruciating ordeal of weaning themselves off medication, with others still struggling with side effects while weaning themselves off, with a malpractice attorney who represents patients experiencing permanent and painful psychotropic complications and Dr Peter Breggin, a controversial American psychiatrist and outspoken critic of the overuse of psychotropic medication.

Both men are alarmed by the deliberate effort by pharmaceutical companies to conceal the addictive potential of antidepressants and antipsychotics, as well as studies showing these drugs can permanently alter the submicroscopic architecture of the brain. This is of special concern with the growing number of psychotropics prescribed in children with developing brains. There are virtually no studies of the long term effect of these drugs in either adults or children.

While the film acknowledges that psychotropic medication can be literally life-saving in some patients with severe mental illness, it rightly points out there are far too many cases in which they’re being inappropriately prescribed.

As a class psychotropic drugs (which are heavily marketed to consumers), are the third most profitable for the pharmaceutical industry.

 

The Triumph of Profit Over Health

bought

Bought

Directed by Jeff Hays

Film Review

Bought is a new release film that can be viewed free online – but only until Aug 29. Go to http://www.boughtmovie.net/free-viewing/

Bought is a well-made scientifically based documentary about the role of Food Inc and Big Pharma in the rise of chronically debilitating illnesses. Specially it demonstrates how the mindless pursuit of profit has corrupted both scientific research and regulatory bodies charged with protecting our health and safety.

Most of the film focuses on the vaccine industry. It begins by profiling children who have developed autism, intellectual handicap and/or seizures as a direct result of childhood vaccination. Because federal legislation grants manufacturers and doctors blanket immunity from liability, children with disabling vaccine complications are compensated by a federal vaccine compensation panel. One of the families interviewed received a $7 million settlement for the lifetime medical and custodial costs for their severely disabled child.

The filmmakers also interview numerous doctors, researchers, whistleblowers and lawyers who challenge medical and government claims that vaccines are perfectly safe for everyone. As one lawyer points out, vaccines, like prescription drugs, are classified as “unavoidably unsafe.” It’s for this reason Congress has granted vaccine manufacturers blanket immunity for debilitating conditions that can arise from vaccination.

The film considerably heightens my personal concerns that the administration of multiple vaccines has been incorporated into well child care despite the dearth of research into their long term safety or efficacy. The current trend (in New York City, California and other jurisdictions) to make vaccination compulsory is a particularly alarming human rights violation. Especially in view of multiple studies linking vaccination to the growing incidence of autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions.

The New York City law is so strict that children can’t be exempted from mandatory vaccination even when a sibling – or the children themselves – have had a prior debilitating reaction to a vaccine.

The film also focuses on the link between GMOs and children’s health problems, particularly allergies. It’s largely thanks to dedicated grassroots organizing by Moms Across America that there is any public awareness that nearly all non-organic potatoes, sugar beets, soy, corn and vegetable oil produced in the US – and all livestock who consume these products – contain genetically engineered ingredients..

According to a recent survey, 91% of Americans support mandatory labeling of GMO containing foods – only 4% oppose it.

The War Against Children

My next two posts relate to the unspeakable trauma Americans experience as children. The first film concerns the transformation of American schools into virtual prisons. The second discusses the deliberate targeting of children by corporate advertising. In both cases, parents are largely helpless to protect their kids. The scars created carry into adulthood.

The War On Kids

Cevin Soling 2009

Film Review

The main focus of The War on Kids is the Zero Tolerance approach to school discipline. The goal of Zero Tolerance is to keep guns, drugs and so-called “super-predators” out of public schools by treating all students like criminals.

The film is full of examples of high performing students receiving lengthy suspensions (as long as six months) for bringing so-called “contraband” to school. This includes nail clippers, nail files  (“weapons”) and Scope mouthwash, Alka Seltzer, Midol and ibuprofen (“drugs”). The documentary describes one girl being suspended for drawing a soldier with a machine gun. A boy who threatened to throw a spitball at another student was referred to police and charged with felony assault.

The increasing presence of armed police in public schools is especially chilling. Instead of allowing school principals to deal with minor behavior problems, police are called and alleged perpetrators (as young as six) are handcuffed and taken to jail.

Often these arrests violate children’s Fifth Amendment rights, especially when the principal asks the alleged perpetrator to write out a statement and hand it over to the police. This typically happens in the absence of legal representation, parental notification or a Miranda warning that students may be incriminating themselves.

Teaching Learned Helplessness

As part of Zero Tolerance, schools demand absolute conformity in dress, appearance, attitude and behavior. Teachers enforce conformity by constantly bullying and yelling at kids. Curiosity and creativity are systematically discouraged by an educational approach that force feeds kids with information.

Near daily exposure to this brutally oppressive environment is inducing a state of learned helplessness and apathy that persists into adulthood. Students are leaving high school with absolutely no idea how a democratic society functions. In a recent survey, 36% of high school students indicated that all newspapers should seek government approval for the news stories they publish.

Erroneous Information about ADHD

The two parts of the film I have a problem with are one that blames declining achievement on teachers’ unions (an urban myth promoted by neoliberal champions of the charter schools movement) and one in which psychiatrist Peter Breggin and two psychologists assert that ADHD is a fictitious disorder promoted by lazy teachers and drug companies.

Breggin, who is an adult psychiatrist without specialized child psychiatry training, makes a number of assertions that are factually inaccurate. The first relates to the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). Here Breggin quotes out of context from the American Psychiatric Association’s to make it appear that schools and teachers are deliberately trying to drug bright and energetic children to shut them up. He also makes claims that Ritalin and similar stimulants cause permanent brain damage and lead to drug addiction. These are also urban myths which are totally unsubstantiated by peer reviewed research evidence.

The assertion by one of the psychologists that Britain has banned the use of Ritalin in children is a blatant fabrication. In 2010, UK doctors dispensed Ritalin prescriptions for 661,413 British children.

Although ADHD is a genuine disorder documented by decades of careful peer reviewed research, the real issue is that 1) it’s being over diagnosed in the US compared to other countries and 2) American kids who take Ritalin and similar stimulants aren’t receiving adequate medical monitoring. There’s also an alarming increase in children’s prescriptions for antidepressants and antipsychotics – despite the lack of efficacy or safety research in patients under eighteen.

It would have been far more helpful if the filmmakers had stuck to established facts, rather than focusing on urban myths and half truths.

The Myth of Homework

The documentary features excellent segments at the end on cliques, bullying and the failure of homework to enhance learning.

Link to film: http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the_war_on_kids_2009/