What Your Patients are Hearing

Myths debunked around guns, mental illness, and video games


Changing “embedded attitudes”

Kyle Fraser, a former student at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, said he left because of its “toxic environment.”

The elite private Catholic school for boys in grades 7-12 is in the midst of a controversy involving allegations of several incidents involving brutal hazing perpetrated by returning members of the school’s junior football team on rookie players. In an official statement, the school administrators profess they are “heartbroken,” and the school’s president and principal have both resigned. Yet, Mr. Fraser said, he is not surprised by what has occurred.

“That’s the culture at that school,” he said in an interview with CBC News. During his years at St. Michael’s, Mr. Fraser said, he was verbally harassed every day.

Margery Holman, PhD, said she is not surprised about the environment at St. Michael’s. “It’s those male-dominated environments,” said Dr. Holman, an associate professor emeritus at the University of Windsor (Ont.) and coeditor of the book “Making the Team: Inside the World of Sport Hazing and Initiations. “This is part of a history and tradition that is tolerated and accepted, and people turn a blind eye to it. It’s happening everywhere, not just at St. Mike’s. These are embedded attitudes that are going to take a long time to change. It took a long time to build on them, and it escalates every year.”

Susan Lipkins, PhD, a New York–based psychologist, agreed that the turmoil at St. Michael’s is not unique. “It’s being accepted as a norm, as a rite of passage. It’s becoming normalized for the kids, and they are not really attending to how awful and usually how illegal these events are.”

“Drive-by activism” turns sour

Even in an era in which photos can be altered digitally and disagreeable news can be dubbed fictitious, many people are moved to act when they become aware of others’ misfortune. But altruism turns into something else entirely when con artists become involved.

An example reported by NBC News involved a scheme that played out on a crowdfunding site.

On the site, Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure described an encounter Ms. McClure had with Johnny Bobbit, in which she ran out of gas by a roadside in New Jersey. The homeless veteran trudged to a gas station and used his last $20 to pay for gas. Later, the couple launched a GoFundMe campaign to solicit money to allow Mr. Bobbit a place to live and some transportation.

The response was overwhelming; more than 14,000 people contributed more than $400,000 in a single month. But the fairy tale turned sour after Mr. Bobbit complained about receiving only a small portion of the money. The remainder, contended lawyers prosecuting the couple, was spent on a new car and trips.

The case is “a perfect example of the inherent risks and weaknesses of giving over a crowdfunding site,” said Stephanie Kalivas, an analyst for Charity Watch in Chicago. Donating anonymously is a way for many people to feel they are doing something good and then moving on with their day – “drive-by activism,” according to Adrienne Gonzalez, founder of the watchdog website GoFraudMe. “We give five dollars, move on, and forget about it.”

GoFundMe agreed to reimburse everyone who contributed, the report said.

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