The NHL’s best and worst this week – Theo Fleury’s plan to better support mental health

The NHL's best and worst this week - Theo Fleury's plan to better support mental health

    Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

“Nobody knows what I’ve been doing since I left the game,” Theo Fleury says. “Everyone thinks I’m still this crazy person with problems and issues, but I’ve actually been trying to figure it out.”

Fleury last played in the NHL in 2003; he was suspended by the league for violating its substance abuse aftercare program, and never returned afterward. The winger, a 1,000-point scorer and Stanley Cup champion, previously entered the program voluntarily in 2001, seeking treatment for addiction.

Fleury, then with the Blackhawks, said he was approached by those around him, saying they heard rumors that he was struggling with abuse of drugs and alcohol. “There were tons of people wanting to help, but I wasn’t ready for the help,” Fleury said. “That’s part of the equation too. Ultimately, every time I went to treatment, I was saving my job, saving my marriage, doing it for everyone but myself.”

Fleury went to four different treatment centers, at four stages of the program. “I’ve never followed a rule in my life, so I’m not surprised I blew through four stages then got kicked out,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, at every treatment center I picked up tools that I use today to stay clean and sober.”

He continues: “I should have gone away for a whole entire year, worked on myself, got my s— together, and came back,” Fleury says. “I probably would have had eight or nine years playing if I had done that. But I didn’t. And we don’t know what we don’t know, right?”

Fleury’s addiction, he says, was a coping mechanism for managing his mental health. And that all stems back to trauma — Fleury revealed in his 2009 book that he was sexually abused by his junior coach — which is a lot to unpack. He’s still in that process, but now takes an enlightened and active role on the journey. What he’s learned? “I believe mental health is the biggest epidemic on the planet,” Fleury says. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Fleury, now 52 and living in Calgary, has been connected with other like-minded individuals, and has immersed himself into the mental health space.

“I get to hang around with neuroscientists and all types of amazing people who are smart,” Fleury says. “And they’re on speed-dial so I can have a conversation with them whenever I want.”

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That has led Fleury to pursue business ventures, which ultimately could help others. He just joined a virtual reality company, XR Medical Solutions, which uses sound to recalibrate the nervous system and create new pathways. Fleury is also sitting on the advisory board for Universal Ibogaine, a Canadian company working to combat the opioid epidemic through plant-based medicine. They’re currently doing trials in Mexico on Iboga, a root that grows in Africa.

“What it does is completely bypasses the detox off of opioids,” Fleury says. “A lot of people don’t want to get off opioids just for that fact. Because detox can be an exorcism. So this drug would help you bypass all of that, which would really help people’s recoveries.”

This month, Fleury is excited to launch a podcast entitled “We’re All A Little Crazy.” The co-hosts are Eric Kussin, the founder of #SameHere (the nonprofit Robin Lehner has supported, including on his helmet) and Darren Rovell, the former ESPN business reporter who now works at the Action Network.

Kussin said the podcast will focus conversations around current events — and how the media’s coverage of mental health can often be more damaging than helpful, especially if it doesn’t explain mental health in a larger context, or how things are interrelated. That’s why Fleury saw the need for a long-form format.

“There’s not enough men who are openly talking about their struggles with mental health, because of stigma,” Fleury says. “Just as many men suffer as women, but in my experience there’s really not a space created to have these conversations. We’re going to try to normalize how people should talk about the subject. Because there’s so much stigma. If you have mental health challenges, guess what? You’re in the majority, you’re not in the minority.”

The landscape in the NHL is reflective of society’s relationship with mental health, Fleury says. While there have been great strides with awareness about mental health, there are still “a ways to go” to better support players.

“Awareness about mental health is the only thing I see that’s different,” Fleury says. “Awareness, that’s it.”

Fleury uses the Flames, the team for whom he played 791 games, as an example.

“Calgary has a program called ‘Hockey Talks,'” Fleury says. “And it’s like, what are you guys actually talking about? They say, mental health. Well, what is mental health? What are you actually talking about? There are 30 layers to treating mental illness, and talking is one of the 30. That’s it. They use it as a way to get eyeballs and clicks and all that stuff. ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ in Canada, it gets 150 million impressions a year in one day. It’s good for business. What they’ve done is they created an incredible amount of awareness around the subject, but that’s it. So the awareness is there. But on the other side of the coin, we are seeing the highest suicide rates ever on our planet. So why isn’t all of this awareness turning into action and getting people well? Because we’re not talking about trauma. Trauma is the catalyst for all of this stuff.”

It’s one of the reasons launching the podcast now was important to Fleury.

“COVID is the most traumatic thing we’ve seen since World War II,” Fleury says. “Why are we seeing a higher rate of suicides? Why are we seeing a higher rate of overdoses and deaths? Because people are using that for a coping mechanism. And then when people lose hope — because we all don’t know when this will be over and return to some sort of normalcy — the whole entire world is living in high anxiety because we don’t know what’s going on. And then you’re isolated. The best way to deal with that is through connections and relationships, and we don’t even have that. We have Zoom screens.”

Talking it through, Fleury hopes, will help others realize they’re not alone.

A team turning plenty of heads this season is the Florida Panthers; at 13-4-3, they are neck-and-neck with the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning for the Central Division lead. The question everyone in the NHL is asking: Are the Panthers for real?

“I think if you would have told me before the season started, without watching our group, here’s what the record would be after [20] games that we’d have 29 points, I’d say, ‘Wow!'” Florida general manager Bill Zito told me this weekend. “But then when you watch the games, the guys have played really well.”

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Florida’s offense looks legit; for the second straight season, Florida is tracking as a top-10 team in goals per game. Zito, the first-year GM, deserves a lot of credit for the players he brought in. Newcomers Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist, Alex Wennberg and Carter Verhaeghe have combined for 52 points. But perhaps just as impressive in Joel Quenneville’s second campaign in Florida is how much he’s getting out of the now-veteran core. The defense looks much improved this season. Aaron Ekblad is playing some of his best hockey in five years in Florida.

Jonathan Huberdeau has surpassed Aleksander Barkov as everyone’s favorite answer for who is the league’s most underrated player. (Huberdeau is on pace for the equivalent of 20.5 GAR over a full season, tied for 15th-best among forwards, according to FiveThirtyEight). As for Barkov himself?

“Sasha, he’s really enjoying hockey,” Zito said. “It’s like you watch him, and he gets the puck, and you can just tell. He’s having fun. His leadership I think has been infectious. That whole leadership group really stepped up. Sasha, and Huby and Yandle. Keith Yandle!”

The 34-year-old defenseman, who was potentially going to be scratched in the season opener (which would have ended his 886-game ironman streak, which ranks third in NHL history) has been a revelation. “I mean, the offensive game for Yandle — he’s blessed, he’s a magician with the puck,” Zito said. “But on the other side of the game, he came out strong and was a leader on the ice.”

The most interesting aspect of Florida is their goaltending. Ahead of the season, the Panthers touted that they had formed a Goaltending Excellence Department. Zito explained the purpose was an integrated department to provide guidance and coaching for goalies from the moment they are drafted to when they reach the NHL. (The Panthers, it should be noted, have one of the league’s top goaltending prospects in 2019 first-rounder Spencer Knight). However, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the department was formed, and all of a sudden unheralded 26-year-old Chris Driedger is suddenly playing out of his mind. (Driedger has the sixth-best save percentage, .928, of all goalies who have played at least six games this season).

Zito laughs at this notion. “I think that would be self-serving to just say we snapped our fingers to get that result,” Zito said. “You’ve got to give some credit to Chris Driedger. And I don’t know, is he playing out of his mind or did he start doing it last year? And he kind of got the chance, and showed what he can do. It’s funny, a lot of goalies, it just seems to happen that they come into their own a little bit later. Some people might say that because nobody gave them the chance earlier. … But it does happen where some pretty good goaltenders get their chance later or develop later, and they’re ready for the opportunity.”

Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky have each made 10 starts, though Driedger has outplayed the 32-year-old who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract ahead of last season. (Bobrovsky has a .899 save percentage so far, and is at minus-2.9 goals saved above average, while Driedger is at 6.33 GSAA, per Evolving Hockey). Asked if he is concerned about Bobrovsky not performing up to expectations, considering how big of an investment the organization has made in the goalie, Zito was emphatic.

“No, no,” he said. “There’s ebbs and flows in our game and we’re a team. We have to worry about day-to-day. We go to work every day as a team. … He’s the consummate professional, the hardest-working guy. As a general manager, he’s a pleasure to have, because he makes everyone around him better with his work ethic, his focus, and his diligence.”

Can the Panthers keep it up? Florida was embarrassed by the way it exited last year’s bubble, losing in four games to the Islanders in the qualifying round. The franchise has made it past the first round of the playoffs just once in the last two decades.

“Consistency is the key — trying to see if we can keep it going,” Zito said. “Can we play the right way, and continue to do what we’re doing?”

It’s not going to be easy for the Panthers, who had a lighter first-half schedule and are one of six teams feasibly in the race for four Central Division playoff spots (assuming the Dallas Stars can right their ship).

“I think fatigue is the thing that is going to creep in here as the season evolves,” Zito said. “Who can manage it as the play gets sloppier and guys get more and more tired and teams figure out how to manage themselves?”

Three stars of the week

The Wild are on a six-game winning streak and the veteran winger has been a catalyst, sparking a red-hot line with Victor Rask and Kirill Kaprizov. Zuccarello had two goals and six assists for eight points in four games this week.

Mats Zuccarello (@zuccarello36) finishes off some pretty passing on this one.

— NHL (@NHL)

Vasilevskiy’s new helmet may function like a mood ring, but the vibe has been great all week for the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner. He won all three starts (against the Canes and Stars) including two shutouts, for a .975 save percentage and 0.67 goals-against average.

Wait… what?! 😱

Andrei Vasilevskiy’s new mask changes colors.

(🎨 @Sylabrush)

— NHL (@NHL)

The 24-year-old is sometimes (um, almost always) under the microscope in a tough media market. Production is the best clapback. Nylander scored three goals in three games this week, including two game-winners.

Willie Nylander calls game

— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett)

What we liked this week

1. It’s a shame for American hockey fans that Brady and Matthew Tkachuk are both playing for Canadian teams, therefore getting less exposure down here. They’re two of the peskiest — but most electric — players in the league today. As father Keith told “I assume there are going to be a lot of guys in the Ottawa Senators dressing room who aren’t going to like Matthew, and vice versa in the Calgary room about Brady, if they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

We’re in the middle of the Tkachuk brothers facing off five times in an 11-game span, which has also generated some incredible content:

These photos of young Matthew & Brady Tkachuk posing with NHL stars are golden.

(📷 @Sportsnet)

— NHL (@NHL)

Both brothers scored on Saturday night — a 6-3 win by the Flames — but my favorite moment came as Brady Tkachuk began yapping at Calgary captain Mark Giordano on his way to the box for a tripping penalty. Matthew Tkachuk is seen laughing on the bench, saying: “Give it back to him, G!”

2. Kirill Kaprizov‘s edge work is insane. You see why so many Minnesota Wild general managers were desperate to get this winger over from the KHL (and might we remind you, he was a fifth-round pick). Kaprizov’s arrival has totally changed the complexion of the team; the line of Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello is one of the hottest in the league, having outscored teams 9-2 on the ice, with a 60.64 expected goals for percentage, per Natural Stat Trick.

Minnesota has won six in a row, the franchise’s longest winning streak since 2016. Kaprizov, meanwhile, has scored in consecutive games for the first time this season. Four of his six goals so far have come against the Kings, but it’s his vision, creativity and skating that have his teammates most impressed.

“He’s dangerous when he has time and space,” Zach Parise said. “He’s strong on the puck. If we get those scenarios, 3-on-3 or 4-on-4, he could have the puck on his stick for the whole shift.”

Kirill Kaprizov is blowing the minds of opposing team’s commentators

— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett)

3. J.J. Watt already put in the work to speak in hockey language. I wouldn’t mind this as a second act for him, at all.

Clappin an absolute heater up where grandma keeps the good stuff.

Just wish I had the lettuce and lip sweater to match the dangles.

Wouldn’t mind doing a few years on the pond after I hang up the cleats someday.


— JJ Watt (@JJWatt)

What we didn’t like this week

1. There are unwritten rules in the NHL. Before making their NHL debut, rookies get a solo lap. Skaters shouldn’t shoot high on their goalie in warm-ups. Nobody should shoot the puck after the whistle, period. In the general managers’ fraternity, offer sheets are frowned upon.

And then there’s the one that’s kind of uncomfortable to talk about: The coach of the Montreal Canadiens must speak French. (A joke I heard from a longtime NHL assistant coach this week: “You don’t have to be bilingual to coach the Habs, you just need to speak French).

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It’s a unique market, with about 80% of Quebecers using French as their first language, and previous tenures for English-only speaking coaches have not ended well. Interim coach Randy Cunneyworth was the last (in 2011), and his promotion was met with a firestorm of criticism — including from provincial culture minister, Christine St. Pierre, who said she hoped the Habs would “rectify the situation” but did not call for his firing, saying she was taking the team at their word that Cunneyworth’s job title was temporary.

Claude Julien was fired this week, which isn’t necessarily surprising given the pressure Habs GM Marc Bergevin feels to contend with the moves he made this offseason. I meant this as no disrespect to Dominique Ducharme, but I was surprised to see him get the nod at interim coach over Kirk Muller — a franchise legend himself, a former NHL head coach, and the man tapped to lead the team in the bubble when Julien had to go to the hospital for a heart procedure. Then again, I shouldn’t have really been surprised. Muller doesn’t speak French. Heck, when Muller was announced as interim in August (with Julien in the hospital) Bergevin felt the need to apologize.

“We understand that Kirk does not speak French,” Bergevin told reporters then. “But there are exceptional circumstances, and we’re asking you for your understanding.”

I understand the importance of finding someone who can communicate to their fans and the media in both languages, but I also wonder if the team is limiting itself from finding the most qualified candidate, all because of an arbitrary rule. This league is more international than ever. Its coaching force should, in theory, reflect that.

2. I mean, the whole “goal suppression” thing appears to be an issue in the North Division:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

– Wayne Gretzky
– Michael Scott
– Erik Brannstrom #GoSensGo

— Ottawa Senators (@Senators)

3. Jordan Binnington got pulled on Saturday night after allowing four goals to the Sharks (the Blues would win, 7-6), and the Blues goalie was quite upset thereafter:

Things get heated as Jordan Binnington exits the game.
Stream: FSGO –

— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest)

Remember, this is the same Binnington who got a penalty for slashing an unsuspecting Ben Bishop during the commercial break of a playoff game in 2019.

It was funny watching completely different reactions. St. Louis seems happy to get behind Binnington’s passions. “Give me 20 Binningtons!” former Blues defenseman and current St. Louis radio host Jamie Rivers tweeted.

Then there’s Binnington’s San Jose counterpart Devan Dubnyk in a postgame interview: “I don’t know why he’s skating around, pretending to punch guys. I told him to get off the ice; he’s 165 pounds, swinging at guys, fake punching guys.”

Top games on tap this week

Note: All times Eastern.

Another round of Connor McDavid vs. Auston Matthews? Don’t mind if we do (provided that Matthews can play after being held out of Saturday’s tilt with Edmonton due to a wrist injury). The Oilers are on a torrid stretch, having lost just twice since Jan. 30 (best record in the NHL in that span). Matthews has been nursing that wrist injury, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting him too much when he plays; the only difference is he’s not being set up as much for one-timers.

Tuesday, March 2: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m.

Ron Hextall was the general manager for the Flyers for nearly four years, building one of the top prospect systems in the league. But he was fired in 2018, and only now is Philly enjoying the work Hextall put in. Now the GM of the Penguins, Hextall faces his former team for the first time. The intrastate rivals have not met since a two-game series to open the season.

Wednesday, March 3: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m.

This is the NBC Sports primetime game on Wednesday, the first of a two-game series for these teams. The obvious storyline is Zdeno Chara once again facing the team he captained for 14 seasons. The Caps are getting past some new coach growing pains, and are hoping Ilya Samsonov can return to form after a rough start to the season, including a bout with COVID.

Social media post of the week

A legitimately great question posed here. These photos are stunning:

Why aren’t more hockey photos taken from an overhead angle? These are from Leafs team photographer @mblinch (who captured the famous Kawhi shot) from an overhead camera with a strobe, and they’re like goddamn Renaissance paintings

— ℳatt (@matttomic)

This content was originally published here.

Boy heroically calms little brother down with breathing exercise

Boy heroically calms little brother down with breathing exercise

Most parents are at a loss when it comes to stopping their child’s temper tantrum, but this 6-year-old boy knew a trick to calm his little brother down and it’s the definition of brotherly love.

Ashley West, 30, of Los Angeles, California saw her middle son, Noah, using a breathing technique on his little brother, Cory, 4, who was on the verge of a meltdown and quickly decided to film the special moment. The clip of her little guy helping his brother calm down quickly went viral on Twitter last Sunday, and was then shared across other social media platforms. (It even became Hoda’s Morning Boost on Tuesday!)

Watch this 6-year-old calm his little brother down

“Okay so… I really was not expecting this video to blow up the way it did !” West posted on Instagram on Tuesday. “If you know me then you know the kids and I are ALWAYS meditating and practicing controlling our breathing / managing our emotions.”

West told TODAY Parents that that the breathing technique her son demonstrates in the video is something that’s really come in handy during the pandemic.

“Coping during COVID has been stressful as a stay home parent and graduate student,” said West, who is working toward a masters in social work at USC. “I do yoga and meditate as a form of release and relief as well as exercise. The kids will sometimes join me but they definitely watch me all the time.”

In the short video, Cory is on the verge of a tantrum due to the fact that his Nintendo is not charged. Noah heads off the situation by engaging his little brother and demonstrating the breathing, inhaling through his nose and exhaling through his mouth. “Breathe,” he says, gaining Cory’s undivided attention. When the little guy calms down, he gives him a pat on the shoulder. “See it helps you calm down,” he says.

West is mom to three boys — Amar, 9, Noah and Cory.

“Noah’s temperament used to be extremely bad,” she said of her middle son. “I’ve made a habit out of encouraging them to stop, and take a few breaths when they are upset and angry, or when their emotions are heightened.”

And although Noah has the techniques to help himself under his belt, West was surprised to see him using them on his brother.

“Noah will usually stop and talk to himself when he is angry or upset and tell himself to calm down, but in that moment seeing him co-regulate with his brother was a first for me which prompted me to record it,” she said.

West said she learned these calming techniques from working with psychologists and behavioral therapists as a social worker and thought she could apply the principles in her own home to address her kids’ negative and undesired behaviors.

“They don’t 100% have it down but I have noticed a lot of improvement with their behaviors and attitudes since introducing them to this exercise,” she said.

Video has since been shared across multiple social media platforms and has melted the heart of pretty much anyone who has viewed it.

“They are always looking out for one another.”

“I was definitely shocked to see the video spread so quickly,” said West. “I have received thousands of messages from parents, professional and media outlets telling me what a wonderful feeling they had watching my kiddo’s positive reinforcement with his brother. People from literally all over the world — Israel, Canada, Singapore, U.K. — all saying how they loved it and feel inspired which is one extremely positive and heartwarming feeling to have as a parent.”

And although the video is incredibly sweet, West said that her sons act like normal brothers most of the time. “They fight and bicker like normal siblings do but they are also absolutely the best of friends,” she said. “I encourage them to believe and move as if they are each other’s ‘keepers’ and they do — they are always looking out for one another.”

This content was originally published here.

For Some Teens, It’s Been a Year of Anxiety and Trips to the E.R. – The New York Times

For Some Teens, It’s Been a Year of Anxiety and Trips to the E.R. - The New York Times

His grades slipped badly, and he began to withdraw. “Next, he was telling us he couldn’t make himself do the work, that he didn’t want to disappoint us all the time, that he was worthless. Worthless.”

These young people do not necessarily qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis, nor are they “traumatized” in the strict sense of having had a life-threatening experience (or the perception of one.) Rather, they are trying to manage an interruption in their normal development, child psychologists say: a sudden and indefinite suspension of almost every routine and social connection, leaving a deep yet vague sense of loss with no single, distinct source.

The result is grief, but grief without a name or a specific cause, an experience some psychologists call “ambiguous loss.” The concept is usually reserved to describe the experience of immigrants, displaced from everything familiar, who shut down emotionally in a new and strange country. Or to describe disaster survivors, who return to neighborhoods that are hollowed out, transformed.

“Everything that used to be familiar and give structure to their lives, and predictability, and normalcy, is gone,” said Sharon Young, a therapist in Hendersonville. “Kids need all these things even more than adults do, and it’s hard for them to feel emotionally safe when they’re no longer there.”

The resulting changes in behavior can seem sudden: A bright sixth-grader is found cutting herself; a sweet-natured sophomore takes a swing at a parent or sibling. Parents, frightened, often don’t know where to go for appropriate help. Many don’t have the resources or knowledge to hire a therapist.

Families that land in the emergency departments of their local hospitals often find that the clinics are poorly equipped to handle these incoming cases. The staff is better trained to manage physical trauma than the mental variety, and patients are often sent right back home, without proper evaluation or support. In severe cases, they may linger in the emergency department for days before a bed can be found elsewhere.

In a recent report, a research team led by the C.D.C. found that less than half of the emergency departments in U.S. hospitals had clear policies in place to handle children with behavior problems. Getting to the bottom of any complex behavior issue can takes days of patient observation, at minimum, psychiatrists say. And many emergency departments do not have the on-hand specialists, dedicated space or off-site resources to help do the job well.

For Jean, diagnosing her son has been complicated. He has since developed irritable bowel syndrome. “He has been losing weight, and started smoking pot due to the boredom,” Jean said. “This is all due to the anxiety.”

Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has an emergency department that is a decent size for a pediatric hospital, with capacity for 62 children or adolescents. But well before the arrival of the coronavirus, the department was straining to handle increasing numbers of patients with behavior problems.

“This was huge problem pre-pandemic,” said Dr. David Axelson, chief of psychiatry and behavioral health at the hospital. “We were seeing a rise in emergency department visits for mental health problems in kids, specifically for suicidal thinking and self-harm. Our emergency department was overwhelmed with it, having to board kids on the medical unit while waiting for psych beds.”

Last March, to address the crowding, Nationwide Children’s opened a new pavilion, a nine-story facility with 54 dedicated beds for observation and for longer-term stays for those with mental challenges. It has taken the pressure off the hospital’s regular emergency department and greatly improved care, Dr. Axelson said.

Over this pandemic year, with the number of admissions for mental health problems up by some 15 percent over previous years, it is hard to imagine what it would have been like without the additional, devoted behavioral clinic, Dr. Axelson said.

Other hospitals from out of state often call, hoping to place a patient in crisis, but there is simply not enough space. “We have to say no,” Dr. Axelson said.

This content was originally published here.

Study Reveals More People are Using Psychedelics to Self-Treat Mental Health

Study Reveals More People are Using Psychedelics to Self-Treat Mental Health

The use of psychedelic drugs as an underground self-treatment for mental health conditions is on the rise, according to the world’s largest drug survey, with thousands of people turning to substances like LSD, MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine to treat psychiatric illnesses and emotional distress.

Of the 110,000 worldwide respondents to the 2020 Global Drug Survey, 6,500 (just under six percent) reported using recreational drugs as a DIY mental health treatment. These included cases of people microdosing alone with LSD or magic mushrooms, as well as cases where people took psychedelics under the supervision of another person in an unregulated setting. While these supervisors were most commonly reported as being friends and partners, the unregulated settings also included psychedelic retreats and so-called “traditional healing groups”.

The findings show that while health regulators around the world debate whether or not to legalise the therapeutic use of drugs like LSD, MDMA and psilocybin, demand among users is increasing. And according to Dr Monica Barratt, a professor at Australia’s RMIT University and a co-author of the study, it “may end up being filled outside of the medical setting”.

Depression, anxiety and relationship problems were the most common underlying factors leading people to self-medicate with illicit substances—but others included PTSD, bereavement and problems related to substance use. As the authors note, “people are thus using psychedelics to treat the most common mental health problems that people currently seek help for from traditional medical services.”

“The findings suggest there are many people with common preexisting conditions for whom existing treatment modalities are either insufficient or unattractive to engage with,” they add.

The most common reported reason for taking LSD was to enhance wellbeing (about 52 percent) followed by use to deal with a specific emotional worry or concern. The most common primary reason given by respondents who used magic mushrooms was to enhance general wellbeing, followed by use to cope with worries and to get relief from a psychiatric condition.

Just over 4 percent of respondents who used psychedelics as self-treatment reported visits to the emergency department.

The authors of the study urged caution for anyone thinking of self-treating with illicit substances, and Dr Barratt pointed out that mental health professionals have an important role to play in supporting such people—as long as they’re appropriately trained.

“Accredited training for psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to do preparatory and integration sessions to help support people who take underground psychedelics for self-treatment may help bridge the gap,” she said in a statement.

Overall, the authors noted that conversations around the regulation and use of certain drugs in clinical settings need to develop as quickly as possible, in order to meet the rising demand from people who are evidently not able to access more traditional mental health treatments.

“The longer the delay in rolling out these treatments through clinical services the greater the risk that vulnerable people will be tempted to access these drugs in situations that carry potential greater risk of harm,” they state. “More scientific data is needed of course, but our data suggest that should these new treatments become available there will be a large group of people keen to engage with them.”

They further note: “despite their potential utility as treatments for several mental health conditions, unplanned attempts to use these substances to deal with serious mental illness are not recommended. Positive outcomes and healing can only occur with the holistic preparation and integration of psychedelic experiences in a supportive environment with access to additional resources if needed.”

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This content was originally published here.

How Exercise Affects Our Minds: The Runner’s High – The New York Times

How Exercise Affects Our Minds: The Runner's High - The New York Times

Endocannabinoids are a likelier intoxicant, these scientists believed. Similar in chemical structure to cannabis, the cannabinoids made by our bodies surge in number during pleasant activities, such as orgasms, and also when we run, studies show. They can cross the blood-brain barrier, too, making them viable candidates to cause any runner’s high.

A few past experiments had strengthened that possibility. In one notable 2012 study, researchers coaxed dogs, people and ferrets to run on treadmills, while measuring their blood levels of endocannabinoids. Dogs and humans are cursorial, meaning possessed of bones and muscles well adapted to distance running. Ferrets are not; they slink and sprint but rarely cover loping miles, and they did not produce extra cannabinoids while treadmill running. The dogs and people did, though, indicating that they most likely were experiencing a runner’s high and it could be traced to their internal cannabinoids.

That study did not rule out a role for endorphins, however, as Dr. Johannes Fuss realized. The director of the Human Behavior Laboratory at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, he and his colleagues had long been interested in how various activities affect the inner workings of the brain, and after reading the ferret study and others, thought they might look more closely into the runner’s high.

They began with mice, which are eager runners. For a 2015 study, they chemically blocked the uptake of endorphins in the animals’ brains and let them run, then did the same with the uptake of endocannabinoids. When their endocannabinoid system was turned off, the animals ended their runs just as anxious and twitchy as they had been at the start, suggesting that they had felt no runner’s high. But when their endorphins were blocked, their behavior after running was calmer, relatively more blissed-out. They seemed to have developed that familiar, mild buzz, even though their endorphin systems had been inactivated.

Mice emphatically are not people, though. So, for the new study, which was published in February in Psychoneuroendocrinology, Dr. Fuss and his colleagues set out to replicate the experiment, to the extent possible, in humans. Recruiting 63 experienced runners, male and female, they invited them to the lab, tested their fitness and current emotional states, drew blood and randomly assigned half to receive naloxone, a drug that blocks the uptake of opioids, and the rest, a placebo. (The drug they had used to block endocannabinoids in mice is not legal in people, so they could not repeat that portion of the experiment.)

This content was originally published here.

How Portugal silenced ‘centuries of violence and trauma’ | Arts and Culture News | Al Jazeera

How Portugal silenced ‘centuries of violence and trauma’ | Arts and Culture News | Al Jazeera

As a wet winter gives way to spring, Lisbon’s Campo das Cebolas square is empty and quiet.

From the nearby ferry terminal, commuters from neighbourhoods on the other side of the Tagus river go back and forth. Between the empty, pedestrianised square and the river bank runs the Infante Dom Henrique highway, named after the discoverer, Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1960). A few hundred metres away, a soaring, empty cruise ship, the Vasco da Gama, evoking the great 15th-century explorer, is moored to the dock.

References to Portugal’s epic, seafaring past like these litter this city – there is even a Vasco da Gama shopping mall. But until now, there has never been a single explicit reference, memorial or monument in Portugal’s public space to its pioneering role in the transatlantic slave trade, nor any acknowledgement of the millions of lives that were stolen between the 15th and 19th centuries.

This is the task that has brought Kiluanji Kia Henda, Angola’s most successful contemporary artist, here from his hometown of Luanda. The forthcoming Memorial-Homage to the Victims of Slavery that he has designed will be the first memorial of its kind in Portugal and, he says, “the greatest challenge I’ve faced as an artist”.

Illustrations of the memorial by Kiluanji Kia Henda [Courtesy of Djass – Association of Afro-descendants]

The installation, due to be unveiled in Lisbon this spring, features a field of three-metre-high sugar canes, forged in aluminium, alluding to the cold economic rationale that drove the transatlantic-slave trade. It is also a challenge for Portugal. For a country that both established the transatlantic slave trade and was one of the last to continue reaping its profits (it was still using de-facto slave labour in its colonies in the 1960s), Portugal has been slow to reckon with its past.

The national school curriculum, museums and tourism infrastructure all amount to a grandiose rendering of the country’s 15th to 17th-century “discoveries” in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and a selective recollection of its 20th-century colonial exploits in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé & Principe, Goa, Macau and East Timor.

There are monuments and statues up and down the country dedicated to navigators, missionary priests responsible for the conversion of Africans and Indigenous people to Catholicism, or soldiers who fought against African independence in the colonial wars. Meanwhile, it is often said that “Portugal is not a racist country”, despite enormous structural inequalities and decades of documented discrimination. “There has been a silencing here of centuries of violence and trauma,” says Kia Henda.

However, a burgeoning movement here – the Movimento Negro – along with global calls to “decolonise history”, have begun to challenge the way Portugal views itself, from past to present. The Movimento Negro has been around in various forms in Portugal since the start of the last century; the latest resurgence of it is now in its second generation. Most of the sizeable Black population in Portugal today are immigrants and their descendants from the former Portuguese African colonies, who emigrated here from the 1960s and hold in their memories and histories a very different version of Portugal’s past. Kia Henda’s memorial is seen as part of this process; erupting on the national landscape and expected to stay.

Significantly, the memorial is not an initiative of the Portuguese government, but came about in 2017, when the Djass Afro-descendent Association, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded by the Portuguese MP, Beatriz Gomes Dias, won a popular vote for public funds.

‘A plantation in mourning’

That the memorial’s artist comes from Angola, the country that suffered the most catastrophic loss of lives during the trade in enslaved people at the hands of the Portuguese, is poignant. By the 19th century, Angola had become the largest source of enslaved people taken to the Americas. “For me, it is about building a bridge to the past as a way of establishing a dialogue about these historical cycles of violence,” says Kia Henda.

“The modern world would not exist if it was not for enslavement,” he says. “The modernity you see here was built on the backs of Black people. It’s important that there is awareness about that.”

From the mid-15th century, when explorers such as Vasco da Gama opened up new ocean routes from Europe around Africa, to Asia and to the Americas, Portugal also traded in enslaved people. Often by force, and under the banner of Christian crusading missions, the Portuguese established settlements and trading posts including, among others, in the countries, they would later claim as colonies – Angola, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Principe, Mozambique, Goa – and Brazil.

From the 16th century, the Portuguese established sugar plantations in Brazil, using enslaved labourers, shipped across the Atlantic from the West coast of Africa, to produce what was then the world’s most precious commodity. The lucrative transatlantic slave trade became an international enterprise involving all of the European colonisers, including the British, Dutch, French and Spanish. However, its starting point, both historically and geographically, was Portugal.

The mini-golf course – hiding a mass grave

In the southern coastal city of Lagos, once Portugal’s second-most important harbour, the ProPuttingGarden miniature golf course serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the way this history has been glossed over.

It was here in 2009, during excavations for an underground car park, that a mass grave was uncovered containing the remains of children and adults, some with their hands bound. Forensic archeologists dated the deceased back to the 15th century, finding them to be of African descent. The remains have been kept in storage and barely mentioned since, however.

Laid out with synthetic green grass, bubbling fountains, preened shrubbery and curvaceous dancing statues, in the shadow of the old City Walls – which serve as an official historical landmark – there’s no marker official or otherwise anywhere around ProPuttingGarden to indicate the history of the site. Yet there is little doubt that the remains uncovered belong to the grim history of Portuguese slavery.

Lagos is the port where the first enslaved Africans disembarked from Portuguese ships in 1444, marking the very beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. Yet the only acknowledgement of this history within the popular, touristic centre of the city is a small museum called the “Slave Market” which opened in 2016, in collaboration with UNESCO.

“A lot of Portuguese people don’t even know that such a museum exists,” says Naky Gaglo, a historian and tour guide specialising in the 16th to 18th centuries. “The museum itself lacks a lot of information. My personal opinion is that it doesn’t change the conversation a lot.”

‘A way to fill the spaces in’

Cristina Roldão is a sociologist and organiser. “Our history is full of blanks and silences,” she says. “If you grew up Black here, you will have grown up looking for ways to fill the spaces in. We are constantly having to rebuild those histories because the work of previous generations has been systematically erased and silenced. We need anchors.”

The new memorial is not only a denunciation of the crimes of the past but also points to an effort to recognise and honour those who lived through it – a history that has been much neglected.

“We must not allow ourselves to fall into historical amnesia,” says Kia Henda. Beyond the trafficking of millions of enslaved people from Africa to the Americas across the Middle Passage of the Atlantic Ocean, less attention has been paid to the thousands of Africans who were taken to Europe and stayed there, forging a much more diverse society than is often acknowledged.

Arriving from Togo six years ago, Naky Gaglo was surprised at how little Portugal’s role in the slave trade was acknowledged publicly – especially given the impact he knew it has had in countries such as his own homeland. “It’s simply not discussed in the mainstream. There is a big problem here with how history is taught in schoolbooks. So, I decided to undertake my own research, and then I ended up creating a walking tour. It’s a way of reminding people that this history of the Portuguese in relation to Africans cannot be erased.”

Plantation workers carry sugar cane into a mill for processing, Brazil, 1845 [Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Catering to foreign tourists – mostly Brazilians, North Americans and Europeans – Gaglo’s tour begins at the centre of Lisbon’s Commerce Square, Portugal’s principal harbour from the 15th to the 19th centuries, now an iconic tourist trap.

At the edge of the square, the Lisbon Story Centre, with its room that simulates the 1755 earthquake here, and the Bacalhau cod fish history museum – neither of which makes any reference to the slave trade – are both deserted. Gaglo is standing with his back to the river, the portal for the fabulous riches that the “age of exploration” brought; among them gold, spices, sugar and people, many just children.

From here, on his tour, he begins to walk us towards the centre of the city, recalling: “In the 1400s, the Portuguese travelled to Africa and began to trade in enslaved people. As Lisbon became the epicentre of the slave trade, lots of Africans ended up living and working here, in the city, most in domestic work in the houses of the elites, and others in agriculture”.

By the mid-16th century, Africans were part of almost every area of Portuguese life, and around 10,000 Africans were living in Lisbon, making up 10 percent of the population. “It was the first European city with a large concentration of Black people,” Gaglo explains, strolling through Lisbon’s still-resplendent downtown. “Mostly life in the city for Africans was work, work, work. They were housemaids, they took care of children in the city, they provided water for the houses, the men worked unloading ships, in construction. Enslaved people were denied a family life, because mostly men and women would belong to different owners, who didn’t let them leave to get married.”

Not all of Lisbon’s African population were enslaved, Gaglo points out. “There was also an area called Mocambo where you had a number of freed or conditionally-free men and women, who had a very different life – though still, not an easy one,” he adds. Street by street, Gaglo recalls the hardships and nuances of Black life in Portugal over several centuries: “By walking a little in their footsteps, we are reminded of their suffering, and of the lives they led.”

Catholic brotherhoods

The city that Gaglo depicts in his tours no longer exists; it was almost entirely destroyed in the 1755 earthquake that cost around 50,000 lives. Six years later, in 1761, Portugal abolished slavery on the mainland. There are few traces of the Black presence that predated these historical watersheds in Lisbon, and many crucial archives were lost at the time. Nonetheless, Gaglo believes “there’s a lot still to be uncovered” by historians – including himself.

What role does the memorial play in this? For Gaglo: “It is just one step … We need to reach the point where we can talk about the history of slavery without fear, but that is still difficult. The curriculum, the way we talk about the past here and understand it – the whole discourse about Portuguese history – must change.”

Gaglo normally ends his tour breaking bread with his companions in a Cape Verdean restaurant – but restaurants in Lisbon are now closed for the foreseeable future. We finish, instead, in Sao Domingo’s square, long an important hub of African life in the city and the site of several Black Lives Matter protests in recent years.

At the doors to Sao Domingos church, Gaglo invokes the memories of the Black Catholic brotherhoods that played a complex and even subversive role in Portuguese society under slavery from the 16th Century. Catholic churches all over the country had cults whose members were a mixture of enslaved and free men and women, devoted to the worship of specific saints such as Our Lady of the Rosary.

The conversion of Africans to Catholicism was a pillar of slavery, and the Church encouraged the emergence of these brotherhoods – unaware that, under the guise of Catholic symbols and rituals, other Gods continued to be worshipped, as also happened in other societies of enslaved people such as Brazil and Cuba.

Crucially, however, these brotherhoods also offered a social life and support to those ostracised from society in almost every other way. “The fraternity can help you financially, with health problems, with legal assistance… they were spaces that offered protections and certain privileges to Black people,” explains Gaglo, “but we must not forget that they also sought to reinforce the domination and subjugation of Africans.”

They also became a way of resisting. The brotherhoods were among the earliest organised agitators against slavery, and would often collect funds among themselves to purchase the freedom of enslaved members.

The saga of Mendonça

The history of these brotherhoods is also central to the work of José Lingna Nafafé, an anthropologist and historian at the University of Bristol in the UK. Nafafé has been tracing the history of a 17th Century Angolan abolitionist who went by the Portuguese name of Lourenço da Silva Mendonça. A prince of the Kongo Kingdom of Ndongo (in modern-day Angola), Lourenço was exiled from Ndongo for declaring war on the Portuguese invaders and sent to Brazil in 1671.

As a political exile of the Portuguese crown, Mendonça lived a relatively privileged life in Bahia, the northeastern state of Brazil where the Portuguese had introduced sugar-cane plantations and brought huge numbers of enslaved Africans to work in them. But while he was there, according to Lingna Nafafé, Mendonça met the legendary Zumbi dos Palmares, a man who had escaped slavery years earlier to establish the Quilombo (free town) de Palmares, a huge Afro-Brazilian maroon community of people who had escaped slavery. It was run according to their own laws and cultural norms and took up armed resistance against the Portuguese who tried to recapture them.

“The authorities were afraid that Mendonça would run away and join Palmares,” says Nafafé, an animated storyteller – even over Zoom – his walls covered with pictures from his upcoming book on Mendonça. “So, they sent him and his family away again, this time to Portugal in 1673.”

July 12, 1975: Admiral Rosa Coutinho of the Portuguese Revolutionary Council reads out the document declaring independence for the Gulf of Guinea islands of Sao Tome and Principe, from Portuguese rule [Keystone/Getty Images]

If the move was intended to subdue Mendonça’s anti-Portuguese activities, it failed. It was in Europe that Mendonça was to make his mark as an abolitionist – a trajectory that Nafafé has painstakingly pieced together from documents found in dusty archives across the continent.

After several years of study at a monastery in Portugal, Mendoça was appointed as an advocate of the Black Brotherhoods. This, according to Nafafé, is when records show that he had begun to work on a petition against slavery. Using his position, he enlisted the support of Black Brotherhoods across the Iberian peninsula, who lobbied the Vatican by writing letters that urged Pope Innocent XI to abolish slavery across the Atlantic. Pope Innocent XI, who held the title from 1676 to 1689, did, indeed, condemn the slave trade. With power in Europe divided at the time between the Crown and the Church, the Vatican had enormous power and influence over the fate of the enslaved.

“It has never previously been established by historians that Mendonça was an African, which is really incredible – that in the 1600s you had this African man who travelled all over Europe to mobilise an activist movement for the liberation not only of Black Africans, but also of Indigenous people in the Americas,” says Nafafé.

In 1684, Mendonça went to the Vatican, where he accused the nations involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade of crimes against humanity. “What I’ve discovered is that this wasn’t just a petition, it was actually a court case, undertaken by Black Africans and supported through highly organised international solidarity,” explains Nafafé. “People always think that the legal abolitionist movement started in Britain, in the late 18th century, but Mendonça really forces us to review our positions on this.”

Protagonists of their own stories

Originally from the former Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau and one of only a handful of African scholars working on early modern history, Nafafé’s findings seem to reinforce calls to “decolonise history”, and for new perspectives to be shone on old stories.

“I’d like to think that future generations of 16-year-olds, looking in the library to learn about their history, could find some positive references,” says Cristina Roldão, who also feels there is much work to be done on the way Africans and Afro-descendent people have been portrayed in Portuguese history. “Not just that they might be the descendants of slaves, of people who were colonised, or stories about people living in impoverished neighbourhoods – but that they might encounter a different kind of narrative, in which Black people are the protagonists of their own stories, where we talk about how they lived and resisted. This is important to the Black population today – but it’s just as important for everyone else in Portugal that the truth and complexity of this history is restored.”

Circa 1950: A water carrier, with a baby on her back, at Praia, in the Cape Verde Islands [Keystone/Getty Images]

Roldão herself has recently started researching the histories of Black women in Portugal since the 16th century: “I felt drawn to these stories,” she says. “I wanted to know what these women’s lives were like; who were they? I love to imagine where they met, what they talked about … I want to uncover a history that is shrouded in silence.”

Roldão’s research weaves the threads between the lives of washerwomen and street food sellers, to the “Kongo Queens” – a ceremonial position within the Black Catholic brotherhoods, appointed and crowned each year during festivities.

“There was a whole complexity of women’s lives within the society of slavery that is never talked about,” she says. “Around 1700, for example, there’s a letter written by Black women hawkers who sold their goods on the steps of a hospital, complaining about being mistreated by the local police, and they say that they have a right to be there because that’s where they have always been since time immemorial. To see that document in the flesh, for me, as a post-colonial child, is just… awesome. Or, for example, when you start looking into the ceremonial queens of Kongo, for example, you find them in Brazil and in other Latin American countries too, in the [African] diaspora. That search, for Black history in the feminine, is not just interesting, it’s … delicious.”

Challenging questions for Portugal today

Roldão has worked both in and on education; she lectures at a university, and in the past has led research which shows that school pupils of African heritage in Portugal are more likely to fail academic years, to drop out of school, and are more often pushed towards vocational courses than into higher education.

She is also a vociferous participant in the campaign to get the Portuguese state to collect data on race and ethnicity – which is illegal, under the current Portuguese Constitution.

Intended to make amends for the explicit racism of the Portuguese colonial dictatorship that was overthrown in 1974, this clause in the constitution has become a major sticking point for anti-racism movements in Portugal because it means there is no information about population numbers for ethnic minorities at all in Portugal. The absence of data has made it hard for activists to make a case for more investment in public services for Afro-descendent and other racialised communities, or to prove the existence of the racial bias and structural inequality, for which there is plenty of anecdotal evidence.

Like her previous academic and activist work, Roldão’s historical research also seeks to pose serious and challenging questions within Portugal. “I see no contradiction between looking into statistical data on inequality in the education system – and thinking about the problems with the national school curriculum and the absence of histories – and how in turn this relates to the kinds of jobs that our parents have in Portuguese society,” she says. “They are linked to the issue of colonial slavery – so, for me, it is all continuous and interconnected.”

The Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a 1960s monument to the Portuguese discoveries by the Tagus river in Lisbon [Armando Franca/AP Photo]

In making these connections, however, Roldão is touching upon one of the most contentious issues in Portugal today. The 16th century is the period Portugal is most proud of, an era known as “the age of the discoveries” that saw the country’s ascension as a global imperial power of fabulous wealth and a certain kind of cosmopolitanism. The epic, almost mythological way this history has been commemorated has made it a cornerstone of Portuguese national identity, as well as an important element in how it is marketed as a tourist destination – “Historical Lisbon, Global City”, as its application for UNESCO heritage status reads. And, in 2017 – the same year that the slavery memorial was first proposed by activists – Lisbon’s local council revealed its own plans for a “Museum of the Discoveries” along the same riverside.

Seeming to amplify the contested representations of this particular period – at a time when many are calling for them to be revised – the idea of a new Museum of the Discoveries, and in particular its name, has generated a national controversy that has divided historians and public opinion.

Critics say the way this history is still remembered in terms of “discoveries” and “encounters” with other cultures occludes the violence and brutality that the Portuguese inflicted to achieve the domination of their trading posts and colonies. “What you can tell from the case of the Museum of the Discoveries, is that the national narrative is still all about the influence that Portugal once had in the world,” says Marcos Cardão, a historian of Portuguese popular culture and identity.

These well-established renderings of Portuguese history are perhaps best encapsulated by the cluster of tourist attractions located just a few kilometres down-river from Campo das Cebolas, in Belém, which hark back to the 16th century. There is the Torre de Belem fortress; the Jerónimos monastery, which contains the tomb of Vasco da Gama – the celebrated navigator who charted the maritime route around Africa to India; and, perhaps most recognisable of all, the Monument to the Discoveries statue, and its panoply of oversized explorers, bards and missionary priests.

Unbeknownst to the tens of thousands of sightseers who come here every year, however, and carefully disguised in the wording of its visitors’ centre exhibits, this memorial is the product of a much later period in Portugal’s history, an invention of the nationalist dictatorship that ruled Portugal and its colonies from 1926 to 1974.

The fascist origins of the ‘discoveries’ narrative

The Monument to the Discoveries was originally created as a temporary statue made of fibrous plaster for the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition, an ostentatious act of propaganda that took place at the height of dictator António Salazar’s oppressive Estado Novo regime (1932 to 1968), during a period marked by poverty and austerity.

By this point, Portugal had imposed colonial rule on Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tomé and Cape Verde, as well as continuing to assert its claims over Macau, Goa and East Timor in Asia (though having lost its hold on Brazil in 1825). The racist ideology that underpinned Portuguese colonialism had been encapsulated in an earlier public fair, the Portuguese Colonial Exhibition, held in the city of Porto a few years prior.

The 1940 World Exhibition in Lisbon, meanwhile, was designed to forge a new sense of national identity that reflected Salazar’s imperial ambitions – “the very synthesis of our glorious history”, according to a guidebook to the exhibition – promoting Portugal’s achievements in the world past and present, and binding them together, forever. “These official commemorations turned the Portuguese colonial experience into a sort of civil religion,” says Cardao.

To this end, the exhibition resurrected the symbols of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries along the banks of the Tagus river in Belem, where huge swathes of housing and industry had been displaced for the event. As well as giant statues of the explorers and their patron, Henry the Navigator, there was a replica 16th-century caravel ship and long parades of marching groups in costume, who carried flags of the military Order of Christ (the flag of the 16th-century Christian crusaders) and performed acrobatics for the dictator, Salazar, and his entourage of Catholic priests at the opening ceremony.

The exhibition encapsulated everything that Salazar wished Portugal to be known for – for having “discovered” India, Africa and the Americas, and for bringing Christianity and “civilisation” with them; there was no place in this narrative for the violent realities of slavery or colonisation. “As well as being based on possession, imperialism and civilising missions, these narratives were also very ethno-centric,” Cardão says, “fetishising and exoticising Africans, for example.”

Portuguese dictator Antonio De Oliveira Salazar (1889 – 1970) reviews troops about to embark for the African colonies of the Portuguese Republic, circa 1950 [Evans/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

While the exhibition – and the temporary monument – lasted only a few months, the ideas they perpetuated were hugely popular and deeply influential. “The idea of the Portuguese as exceptional colonisers became a way of narrating history and imagining Portugal and the Portuguese people,” says Cardão. “Yet, by seeking to point out their exceptionalism, and how different they were, they were simply replicating what all of the other European colonisers did.”

The Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre encouraged these ideas in 1952 when he coined the term “Luso-tropicalism (“Luso” refers to Portuguese and originates with the Lusitanian people who were among the early native inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula). “Freyre’s theory was that Portuguese colonialism was exceptional, because they were more humane, more fraternal than, say, the British or the Belgians, who were understood as being more brutal and less tolerant of other races,” says Cardão.

It was a useful framework for a regime that intended to export thousands of (mostly poor, rural) Portuguese to its colonies, as Cardão explains: “Luso-tropicalism became the common rhetoric of the regime … promoting the idea that the Portuguese empire was a single political unit, spread across the continents, and multi-racial, with a kind of easy co-existence of different peoples and cultures, in absence of racial prejudice.”

Life in the colonies, however, was far from the “racial democracy” that Freyre romanticised. Under the legal framework of the Estatuto do Indigena – or Native Statute – Indigenous subjects of Portuguese rule had an inferior status to white Portuguese, based on the explicit understanding that they were less civilised than their colonial masters. The only way for non-whites to gain access to education and other privileges in the colonies was by renouncing their own cultures to assume Catholicism, the Portuguese language and customs, and achieving the status of being “assimilated”.

Exploitation and extensive forced labour in the colonies were well documented, yet Luso-tropicalist ideas about the Portuguese people’s lack of racial prejudice remained central to Portuguese national identity and history-telling.

The 15th Century Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, who is still revered as a major figure from Portugal’s “age of discoveries” [Keystone/Getty Images]

“The Portuguese regime actively appropriated and worked these narratives,” says Cardão. As other European powers conceded independence to their colonies, Portugal resisted calls to decolonise, even in the face of mounting international pressure as the years went on: “This is the context in which Salazar ordered the Monument to the Discoveries to be built again.”

In 1960, just as African independence movement leaders like Amilcar Cabral in Guinea Bissau and Agostinho Neto in Angola were taking up arms against Portuguese colonialism, a larger and sturdier version of the Monument to the Discoveries took its permanent place on the Lisbon riverfront. At its feet is the Compass Rose (Rosa dos Ventos), the world’s largest mosaic map – a gift from the apartheid regime of South Africa to the Portuguese dictatorship.

For Cardão, “the slavery memorial will finally bring a visual counter-narrative of this history to the city… The dominant narrative associated with these national representations of Portugal – that is, the supposed lack of racial prejudice in the “tolerant” Portuguese and the absence of racism as a result – doesn’t fly anymore. And it was the plans for the Memorial and the organising of the Black movement that has brought this change about.”

Portugal’s ever-more assertive and politically engaged Black population, now second-generation, are at the forefront of those in Portuguese society pushing for a more nuanced and complicated version of history to finally be told. This Movimento Negro has also brought more attention to the ongoing legacies of structural racism – in terms of police brutality, equal access to housing and education, and representation, for example.

The debates sparked by the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa have also been felt in Portugal, with protestors targeting a statue of Padre Antonio Vieira, the 17th century missionary Jesuit priest, in Lisbon. An open letter on the issue from four Portuguese academics to the Portuguese Publico newspaper stated in February 2020: “The consensus around the narrative on the meaning and legacies of Portuguese colonialism has run dry.”

A Black Lives Matter protest in Lisbon, Portugal on June 6, 2020, following the death of George Floyd in the US [MANUEL DE ALMEIDA/EPA-EFE]

There are other challenges afoot, however. The growth of a new, far-right party, Chega, has highlighted the enduring appeal of Luso-tropicalist ideas – the party even held a “Portugal is not a racist country” protest in August 2020, in response to a national Black Lives Matter demonstration. In February 2021, a petition circulated online gathered 15,000 signatures calling for the deportation from Portugal of one the country’s most prominent anti-racist organisers, Mamadou Ba, on the grounds that “he doesn’t agree with our cultures and values”.

Nonetheless, when the new memorial takes its place on Campo das Cebolas this spring, it will mark an unsettled history with a permanent fixture on the city landscape. “It’s been a long time coming,” says Kia Henda.

Initiated by Black Portuguese, voted for by the public and conceptualised by an African artist, the memorial challenges not only the way this history has, until now, been recorded and memorialised in Portugal, but also who gets to tell it. “The new memorial will not solve everything, but I think it could be an anchor,” says Cristina Roldao, “for different memories and narratives.”

This content was originally published here.

How Exercise Enhances Aging Brains – The New York Times

How Exercise Enhances Aging Brains - The New York Times

But those students were young and healthy, facing scant imminent threat of memory loss. Little was known yet about whether and how exercise might alter the communications systems of creakier, older brains and what effects, if any, the rewiring would have on thinking.

So, for the new study, which was published in January in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Mark Gluck, a professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and his colleagues decided to see what happened inside the brains and minds of much older people if they began to work out.

In particular, he wondered about their medial temporal lobes. This portion of the brain contains the hippocampus and is the core of our memory center. Unfortunately, its inner workings often begin to sputter with age, leading to declines in thinking and memory. But Dr. Gluck suspected that exercise might alter that trajectory.

Helpfully, as the director of the Aging & Brain Health Alliance at Rutgers, he already was leading an ongoing exercise experiment. Working with local churches and community centers, he and his collaborators previously had recruited sedentary, older African-American men and women from the Newark area. The volunteers, most of them in their 60s, visited Dr. Gluck’s lab for checks of their health and fitness, along with cognitive testing. A few also agreed to have their brain activity scanned.

Some then started working out, while others opted to be a sedentary control group. All shared similar fitness and memory function at the start. The exercise group attended hourlong aerobic dance classes twice a week at a church or community center for 20 weeks.

This content was originally published here.

‘Depression Is Understandable’: Michelle Obama Reiterates Struggles With Mental Health Amid Pandemic, George Floyd Death

‘Depression Is Understandable’: Michelle Obama Reiterates Struggles With Mental Health Amid Pandemic, George Floyd Death

Former first lady Michelle Obama reiterated how depressed she has been during the past year, especially in light of George Floyd’s death.

“Depression is understandable during these times,” Obama said during an interview with People published Wednesday.

Mentioning specifically the death of George Floyd, who died last May in the custody of Minneapolis police, Obama described 2020 as “a time when a lot of hard stuff was going on.”

“We had the continued killing of black men at the hands of police,” Obama continued. “Just seeing the video of George Floyd, experiencing that eight minutes.”

“That’s a lot to take on, not to mention being in the middle of a quarantine,” she added.

“I needed to acknowledge what I was going through, because a lot of times we feel like we have to cover that part of ourselves up, that we always have to rise above and look as if we’re not paddling hard underneath the water,” Obama further told the magazine.

“This is what mental health is. You have highs and lows,” she said. “What I have said to my daughters is that one of the things that is getting me through is that I’m old enough to know that things will get better.”

Obama, who is slated to be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in October, has spoken and written often about how she feels slighted by certain elements of the country for whom she served eight years as first lady.

As The Daily Wire reported:

Michelle Obama, whose memoir “Becoming” was reported in November 2019 to have sold over 11.5 million copies, making it one of the best selling memoirs of all time, stated, “That incident in Central Park, which infuriated all of us, as we watched it, it was not unfamiliar. This is what the white community doesn’t understand about being a person of color in this nation, is that there are daily slights — in our workplaces, where people talk over you, or people don’t even see you.”

“Denielle and I, when the girls were little, this is when I was First Lady,” Obama continued. “I am Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States of America, and we had just finished taking the girls to a soccer game, we were stopping to get ice cream, and I had told the Secret Service to stand back because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in. It was Haagen-Daaz, wasn’t it?”


Obama: “And there was a line, and once again, when I am just a black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me. So I’m standing there with two little black girls, another black female adult, they’re in soccer uniforms, and a white woman cuts right in front of us to order. Like she didn’t even see us. And the girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up, ‘cause I know Danielle is like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.’”

Michelle Obama Blames Her ‘Low-Grade Depression’ Partly On ‘Hypocrisy’ Of Trump Administration

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Opinion | Inside a Covid I.C.U., Through a Nurse’s Eyes – The New York Times

Opinion | Inside a Covid I.C.U., Through a Nurse's Eyes - The New York Times

The short film above allows you to experience the brutality of the pandemic from the perspective of nurses inside a Covid-19 intensive care unit.

Opinion Video producer Alexander Stockton spent several days reporting at the Valleywise Medical Center in Phoenix. Two I.C.U. nurses wore cameras to show what it’s like to care for the sickest Covid patients a year into the pandemic.

So many Americans have died in hospitals without family by their side, but they were not alone. Nurses brush patients’ teeth, change their catheters and hold their hands in their final moments.

In just a year, we’ve lost half a million Americans to Covid-19. Vaccinations may be offering some relief, but inside I.C.U.s, nurses continue to contend with the trauma and grief of America’s carousel of death.

Alexander Stockton (@AStocktonFilms) is a producer with Opinion Video.

Lucy King (@King__Lucy) is a senior video journalist with Opinion Video.

This content was originally published here.

Senate narrowly passes COVID relief bill after sleepless, tumultuous night

Senate narrowly passes COVID relief bill after sleepless, tumultuous night

The Senate narrowly passes President Biden’s $1.9T COVID-19 relief bill in a 50-49 vote after being in session for over 27 hours; Chad Pergram reports.

The Senate on Saturday narrowly passed President Biden‘s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan following a marathon overnight session in a key vote that puts new stimulus checks and expanded unemployment checks one step closer to the pockets of the American public.

Following 27 hours of debate, delays and wrangling, Democrats pushed through the legislation in a party-line vote of 50-49. The legislation now heads back to the House for final approval before hitting Biden’s desk for his signature on what would be his first major legislative victory.

Democrats, who have the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, were united in passing the legislation that they say will help rescue the economy and end the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 520,000 lives.

“The people are hurting, and today we respond,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said prior to the vote.

Republicans said the legislation is too big and bloated.

“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote.

The vote capped a sleepless and drama-filled overnight session.

The Senate has been in session for 27 hours straight as Democrats have been trying to push the landmark legislation over the finish line despite objections from Republicans who dubbed the bill a liberal wish list that does little to directly spend money on coronavirus. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was determined to “power through” Saturday to finish the bill that will deliver another round of $1,400 stimulus checks, extend $300-per-week unemployment benefits and offer more food, child care and rental assistance to struggling Americans.

Senate Continues Work On COVID-19 Relief Bill WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 05: U.S. Minority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (L) speaks as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate continues to debate the latest COVID-19 relief bill. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“It has been a long day, a long night, a long year. But a new day has come,” Schumer said. “And we tell the American people, help is on the way.”

Schumer said the legislation delivers on the promise Democrats made to the American people in the 2020 election to rescue the country from the depths of the pandemic and economic downturn.

“This bill will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government has done in decades,” Schumer said Saturday.

The road to passage has been marked by delays, long nights and a historic vote. The drama started on Thursday afternoon when Vice President Kamala Harris had to come to the rescue of Senate Democrats to cast a deciding 51st vote to open debate on the coronavirus relief bill.

But the debate on the bill was quickly scuttled by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who requested the entire 628-page legislation be read aloud by the Senate clerks in advance of any discussion on the merits of the proposal.

That meant Senate clerks spent the next 10 hours and 44 minutes reading the bill until 2:04 a.m. Friday.

Senators returned to work Friday morning to begin what is known as a “vote-a-rama” on a series of amendments to change the bill. But that effort was delayed by nearly 12 hours when Democrats needed to shore up votes for a key amendment on unemployment benefits. 

Sanders was the first senator to offer an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The effort failed to pass, but the vote was kept open for a record-breaking 11 hours and 50 minutes in a major delay tactic, as Democrats were scrambling to secure support from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on the unemployment benefit change. 

That long negotiation involved the White House and left the Senate at a standstill until shortly before 11 p.m. Friday. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

With Manchin’s support secure, Democrats overnight approved an amendment by a 50-49 vote to update the terms of expanded unemployment insurance. Benefits would be lowered to $300 a week, compared to the House version of $400. The aid would extend through Sept. 6 — a bit longer than the Aug. 29 expiration in the House-passed bill. The first $10,200 of the jobless benefits would also be tax-free to households with incomes under $150,000

But the long night showed on tired-eyed senators. Some who normally don’t wear glasses, like GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, were spotted in spectacles on the Senate floor Saturday morning. 

Some senators were resting their faces in their hands on the Senate floor, with one Democrat even appearing to doze off in the chamber. Some Republicans were spotted napping in the GOP cloakroom.

A couple of Republicans who walked into the Senate chamber afterward looked a bit disheveled as if they just woke up from a snooze.

Aside from rumpled hair, quite a few senators were seen loosening some of their ties and unbuttoning the top button of their shirts as the session wore on. Still, Republicans forged forward with offering a slew of amendments to try to curb spending and benefits in the bill — with little success. 

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., worked through the night without sleep, according to a spokesperson, as he prepared to offer amendments to support the Keystone XL pipeline and cut spending from the bill, including about $175 million in transit projects from California, New York and elsewhere. 

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., caught a few minutes of sleep between votes. Food options overnight were pizza, chips, candy and caffeine. (Toomey keeps a candy drawer stocked up in the Senate chamber). But Saturday morning brought the relief of Chik-fil-A breakfast sandwiches and more caffeine, according to his spokesperson. 

Harris was not needed for the final passage on the legislation Saturday. That’s because Republicans were down one vote after Sen. Dan Sullivan had to leave to go home to Alaska for the funeral of his father-in-law. 

The legislation now heads back to the House where a vote is scheduled for Tuesday. There’s been some concern from progressives there over changes the Senate made to remove the $15 minimum wage provision, to lower the weekly unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 and to limit the income eligibility for stimulus checks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can only afford to lose four votes and still send the bill to Biden’s desk for his first legislative win.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found this week that Biden’s coronavirus proposal would add $1.862 trillion to the national deficit over 10 years, with the bulk of the new spending — $1.173 trillion — occurring in the fiscal year 2021.

The federal government ran an annual deficit of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, more than triple the deficit of the previous year, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. The cumulative national debt now sits at $28 trillion.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Jason Donner contributed to this report. 

This content was originally published here.