Media and mental health (5×8 -10/5/12)

When media lead the way, what if the economy is as good as it gets, after the Minneapolis shooting, debate postscript, and that ‘nice’ thing.

First this nice note from an MPR member who answered the call with this week’s membership drive:

It’s always Pop Tarts and Bob Collins’ News Cut blog for my breakfast and Ira Flatow’s Sci Fri gives me and the hubby something to geek out over on Friday night dates! My office, my car and my house would feel empty without MPR and the Current.

Pop Tarts, my friends! Pop Tarts! I’ll be on the air for two hours this afternoon with Mary Lucia from 4 to 6. Please join me in supporting MPR. It’s never been more important.


The more people talk about their mental health struggles, the more people come forward with their own stories. That is how public attitudes change and, as I wrote the other day, we’re witnessing that with increasing frequency.

Two media stories confirm this. MinnPost’s David Brauer, for example, has the story of KQRS’s Mike Gelfand, Tom Barnard’s sidekick, who reveals his struggles…

“It’s a cliché, but I lived in the shadow of madness and despair as long as I can remember,” Gelfand says. “I’ve tried to look back a few generations and I’ve found madness, depression and suicide at every single branch of the family tree.”

In the course of researching a memoir, Gelfand discovered he had a great aunt who “spent her entire life in an insane asylum. I had never heard of this person.” His mother was an “extreme depressive.” An older brother killed himself a dozen years ago after battling a heroin addiction for decades.

At a fundraising walk a few weeks ago for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota (disclaimer: my wife is on the board), local meteorologist Ken Barlow stood before the crowd and acknowledged publicly for the first time that he struggles, too, with mental illness. The Pioneer Press has the profile…

“When I was standing up there, I was thinking, these people came here to end the stigma of mental illness, and I’m up here living one — I’m afraid of this stigma,” Barlow said during an interview this week in a Minneapolis coffee shop near KSTP. “I thought as I was on that stage two weeks ago, I’m not going to do this anymore, I’m not going to be ashamed. Two million people have this in the country, and millions of others deal with depression and other forms of mental illness. I’m not alone.”

More struggles: MPR’s Cathy Wurzer continues her excellent series on Bruce Kramer, who is fighting ALS. He is leaving his job.


Freakonomics Radio says America’s economic growth may be over…

The New York Times today confirms a suspicion: the world of business doesn’t need as many people as it once did. It looks at start-ups, which are leaner than they used to be…

In 1999, the typical new business had 7.7 employees; its counterpart in 2011 had 4.7, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by E. J. Reedy at the Kauffman Foundation, a research organization focused on entrepreneurship.

The lean model bodes well for companies like Leap2 that hope to become power players with much less manpower. With a work force of contractors, Mr. Farmer said Leap2 could “dial it up and dial it down” as business demanded without having to spend money unless it was necessary, improving the company’s chances of survival.

But the implications for the American work force are worrisome, and may help explain why economic output is growing much faster than employers are adding jobs. On Friday, two days after the issue dominated the first presidential debate, the Labor Department will release the unemployment rate for September along with payroll gains, which economists predict will barely keep pace with new people joining the labor force.

But a new study says 80 percent of people surveyed are planning on staying put at their jobs. That’s a big jump over previous surveys, and that may not be good news for business because the people staying may be less valuable than the people leaving.

Want to be a teacher? Just one question: Why?

That’s the head-shaking question that runs beneath Marketplace’s interview with Michael Kate of Port Clinton, Ohio. He and his teacher wife have moved back in with his parents. He’s been tossed out of work in budget cuts. Substitute teaching gigs are hard to find because there’s a glut of out-of-work teachers on the market.

When you have a dream for 20 years — and when parents come to you at conference night and they tell you, “We just wanted to meet you because our son or daughter comes home every night and talks about what they learned in your class today and they’re so excited about your class” — it is very frustrating to then say I now have to go look for something else just because of the economic situation of it.

My wife hasn’t taught yet, and so she’s looking to get her foot in the door in education, and I’m ready to leave. I try and talk her out of being a teacher on a weekly basis, but she has such great skills with students I don’t think there’s any way I could dissuade her — and I don’t think I’d want to.


What’s it like to walk into a place where someone — you don’t know who — is shooting and killing workers? An officer involved in helping people escape last week’s Minneapolis mass shooting comes forward


It’s not quite the way I remember it but, as usual, the Taiwan animation firm — NMA — hits the high points:

The reaction to the reiteration that Gov. Romney would defund PBS has been troubling, not so much because he said it — that’s been GOP red meat for years — but because pundits apparently can only equate Big Bird with what PBS does.

Related: Why do we pay for Public Television? (WCCO)

And this should get people worked up: A claim that political moderates and independents aren’t as smart as the deep thinkers on the edge.


Count us as big fans of the United Way of Duluth’s ad campaign this year, which nails fairly perfectly the quirks of “Minnesota Nice,” at least as how Minnesotans envision it.

But, really, what’s the deal with the whole “last piece” thing?

Bonus I: The saddest days of the year are the first ones after the baseball season ends…

The Twins are acknowledging a reality in cutting out a section of bleacher seats at Target Field: The best way to handle watching a bad ballclub is to stand and drink.

Bonus II: Hundreds of trees were cut down in Los Angeles a few weeks ago along the “parade route” to be taken by the space shuttle on its way to its new museum home. Now, officials have closed most of the route to spectators.

Bonus III: The aerial lift bridge in Duluth will be pinkified tonight.

Bonus IV: Mankato’s Punk Rock Freddie has died.


For some of those running the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend, the race will be the fulfillment of a goal that once seemed unattainable. Today’s Question: What long-term goal have you pushed yourself to reach?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A conversation with explorers Lonnie Dupre and Ann Bancroft. (Rebroadcast).

Second hour: Novelist Adam Johnson on his book “The Orphan Master’s Son” (Rebroadcast).

Third hour: Nancy Mullance discusses her book “Life After Murder,” the story of five convicted murderers and their struggle for redemption (Rebroadcast).

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A program from On Being’s “Civil Conversations Project.” “Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Dialogue.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in trouble? Join Ira Flatow on the next Science Friday for a look at the state of the world’s largest coral reef system. Plus, how our body’s own genetic modifications may influence how we make memories.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Dick Kimmel came to Minnesota decades ago to help restore wild turkey populations for the Minnesota DNR and brought his mandolin with him. Kimmel lives in New Ulm and is an accomplished bluegrass musician who tours widely, with numerous CD’s, writes a blue grass magazine column… and can still call turkeys. MPR’s Dan Olson will provide the profile.

MPR’s Tom Scheck reports that GOP state Rep. Keith Downey is making a push to move up to the state Senate this year. He’s a conservative who has pushed measures that would cut back on public union power and cut state spending. He’s being opposed by DFLer Melisa Fransen, an attorney who works for Target. The race highlights some of the key issues that could determine which party controls the Legislature next year.

Before they can “get out the vote,” political parties and others have to get voters registered. This year, it’s a dash. Activists say that a slower start than they had in 2008 has them up against deadlines just as interest in registration is starting to spike. NPR will have the story.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Re: voter registration. In Minnesota, the deadline for preregistering to vote is Tuesday, October 16. You can still register to vote on Election Day, provided you meet the state’s requirements for identifying who you are and where you live.

  • Harold A Maio

    “When I was standing up there, I was thinking, these people came here to end the stigma of mental illness, and I’m up here living one — I’m afraid of this stigma,”

    Bob Collins, and MPR, seem to have a penchant for this particular “stigma,” he enters it into MPR’s reporting far too often. His face smiles at me on his web page, his words however do not. (Nor does he respond to e-mails, though he has asked me online to continue a conversation with him.)

    I would like to have a conversation with anyone at MPR to find out which “stigmas” you validate by repeating them and which you do not.

    This from the head of NIH:

    Dr. Insel seems to agree that (claims of) stigma has hampered research, but he takes issue with the term stigma:

    “It’s sort of a victim(izing) word,” says Dr. Insel. “I think what we’re trying to do is get more people empowered and trying to talk about this more as discrimination or injustice.” (parentheses mine, HM)

    Yes I believe you are discriminating against me with your penchant.

    Harold A Maio,. retired mental health editor

  • Bob Collins

    You’ll note, Harold, that I no longer use the term “stigma” in deference to your point. If the Pioneer Press and a gentleman who apparently thinks there is such a thing, you should probably take it up with them.

    The quote is significant because Mr. Barlow was relating why he felt it necessary to speak about his illness at the time and place he did. I’m sorry you are insulted by those words, but I really don’t think it’s my job to sanitize his personal feelings any more than it’s my job to sanitize yours.

    He has every right to make his point just as you have every right to make yours.

  • jon


    Big bird is universally known, and generally universally loved.

    While we appreciated you folks in public broadcasting Bob, few of us grew up with you, and I think it’s rare that most of your listeners would attribute any of their abilities to read or count to you, or your programming.

    What is interesting is that Elmo is probably a much bigger part of Sesame Street at present then Big Bird, but Big Bird is getting the meme, implying to me that the driving factor behind this meme are people in their 20’s and 30’s who remember big bird as a focal point of sesame street (and probably remember Mr. Whooper) which I guess makes sense given that those who are much younger wouldn’t be able to vote.

    To sum it up, draw yourself a venn diagram first circle is people who grew up watching sesame street, second circle is people whose kids grew up watching sesame street, and the finial circle is people who are receiving medicare benefits. Now try to draw a circle around Romney supporters.

  • Bob Collins

    Your third circle could easily be renamed, “people who grew up watching Mister Rogers.”

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re mental health:Yikes. Isn’t it nice that we live in a world with so many things to be offended by? Reminds me of the story of the guy who couldn’t take “yes” for an answer…

    Kudos to all those who have the courage to potentially risk their reputation in order to speak the truth about themselves and possibly empower others by doing so.

    ( What pathology is eating pop tarts while reading News Cut symptomatic of? 🙂

  • BJ


    I don’t get it. Watching people eat all but one slice of pizza is supposed to make me donate?


    Penchant – a strong and continued inclination.

    I’ve learned to read very carefully and note what is quoted, linked and what is written by this blogs author. It seems the author has a penchant for remembering what he wrote and what he did not.


    nice note – I happen to have pop tarts at my desk today, I think I will save them until 4PM. 🙂


    baseball – Bob at least your Indians won 2 more games than the Twins. You have that till next spring.

  • CHS

    Bob, congrats on checking on more thing off the bucket list today! (at least I think this is your first on-air drive with Mary)