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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  December 14, 2014 7:00pm-8:02pm PST

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captioning fundd by cbs and ford >> pelley: two years after the tragedy at sandy hook, are some seriously mentally ill patients being denied long-term care by their insurance providers? our investigation found parents and doctors who say so, and we've documented cases where patient care was cut short by insurance company doctors who never actually see the patient. >> some nameless, faceless doctor is making this decision. and i'm furious because basically, to me, he was playing god with my daughter's life! >> simon: syria's civil war started peacefully almost four years ago as a protest against a brutal dictatorship. this 19-year-old became one of its leaders, adored by the crowds for his charisma and
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courage. he soon became a target of the regime and was transformed into an armed revolutionary. this is what became of syria's third largest city, and the only way we know that is because the war has been filmed by its citizens, who have to fight every day just to stay alive. >> ( translated ): my camera and everything i've filmed are more valuable than my life. >> cooper: our lives are filled with distractions -- email, twitter, texting. we're constantly connected to technology, which is probably why there's a growing movement in america to train people to get around the stresses of daily life. >> there are a lot of different ways to talk about mindfulness, but what it really means is awareness. >> cooper: is it being present? >> it is being present. that's exactly what it is. >> cooper: i don't feel i'm very present. i feel like, every moment, i'm either thinking about something
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that's coming down the road or something that's been in the past. >> so, ultimately, all of this preparing is for what? we're only alive now. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes".
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since then, we've learned that the killer suffered profound mental illness. his parents sought treatment, but at least once, their health insurance provider denied payment. because of recurring tragedies and an epidemic of suicides, we've been investigating the battles that parents fight for psychiatric care. we found that the vast majority of claims are routine, but the insurance industry aggressively reviews the cost of chronic cases. long term care is often denied by insurance company doctors who never see the patient. as a result, some seriously ill patients are discharged from hospitals over the objections of psychiatrists who warn that someone may die. in the pictures, there's no sign of the torment of katherine west. but by the age of 14, she was wasting away, purging her food. nancy west, katherine's mother, was told by her doctors that the bulimia was rooted in major
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depression. >> nancy west: in fact, prior to the eating disorder, she was cutting, so there were self- harming behaviors from, i would probably say, at least 12 on. >> pelley: to stop purging, she had to be watched around the clock. her doctors prescribed treatment that could cost more than $50,000 at a hospital for 12 weeks. the insurance company stopped paying after six weeks? >> west: six weeks pretty much was it for them. they were done. and if you know about a mental illness, you don't cure a mental illness in six weeks. >> pelley: the health insurance company was anthem, second largest in the nation. an anthem reviewer found katherine should leave the hospital because she had put on enough weight her doctor warned that she was desperate to shed those pounds. >> west: they were telling the insurance company, "she needs to stay here. she needs more long-term treatment. she isn't ready for this." >> pelley: the insurance company overruled the doctor. katherine west came home as an outpatient.
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>> west: i was texting her-- no response. i got home at 12:30 that day and i found my daughter in bed. she'd been gone for hours. and i just remember running through the house screaming. i couldn't believe it. my beautiful girl was gone. she was gone. >> pelley: katherine was dead at the age of 15. as her doctors predicted, she'd been purging again, which led to heart failure. did it make sense to you that a doctor at the insurance company was making these decisions based on telephone conversations? >> west: no, no, they didn't observe my daughter. you're talking about a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, a therapist who observed my daughter on a daily basis. but some nameless, faceless doctor is making this decision. and i was furious. because, basically, to me, he was playing god with my daughter's life. >> pelley: the kind of review that resulted in the discharge
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of katherine west works like this: after a patient is admitted, an insurance company representative starts calling the doctor every day, or every few days. if that representative decides that the patient is ready for a lower level of care, then the case is referred to an insurance company physician who reads the file, calls the doctor, and renders a judgment. we have found in these chronic, expensive cases that judgment is most often a denial. how often the results are tragic, no one can say. but we have found examples. in 2012, jacob moreno's further hospitalization was denied, even after a doctor warned, "the patient states that he wanted to kill other people, many people." the next day, moreno was naked in the street, swinging at strangers and attacking a police officer. they used a taser to take him down. the state ordered him back to the mental hospital. richard traiman's hospital stay was also cut short.
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as he was being discharged, he said he would throw himself off a bridge. he didn't. he hung himself the next day. >> harold koplewicz: they're called managed care, but it's really "managed cost." >> pelley: dr. harold koplewicz knows insurance review calls well. he's a leading psychiatrist and founder of a research organization, the child mind institute. >> koplewicz: when i was running an inpatient unit, i would have to literally speak to a clerk on the phone to say, "i need approval for this patient to stay here another five days." and they would say to me, "well, is the patient acutely suicidal or acutely homicidal?" "well, not right now because he's in the hospital. we took the knife away. we took the gun away. we took the poison away." and they would say, "well, then why does he have to be in the hospital?" you think to yourself, "am i in... is this oz?" >> pelley: the insurance company wants to send them home. >> koplewicz: well, it's a lot cheaper, in the short run. and if you're managing costs on a quarterly basis, you can understand why, from a business point of view, for that quarter, it makes sense.
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for the sake of the child, for the sake of our society, for the sake of the child's future, it doesn't make any sense. >> pelley: of all the cases we looked at, one of the most revealing was ashley's. she suffers from bipolar disorder. >> ashley: in 2012, i had had a suicide attempt. i couldn't find a way out. >> pelley: was this a cry for help, or did you want to die? >> ashley: this one was real. i was alone. i tried my best. >> pelley: ashley's mother, maria, asked us not to mention the family name. >> maria: one of the doctors told me on the phone, "i'm really sorry, but you will probably bury your daughter." >> pelley: in 2012, ashley was in the hospital for the fourth time that year. they thought they had taken away everything that could hurt her. but she smashed her cell phone
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and cut her wrists with the glass. what did that tell you, in terms of the treatment that she needed? >> maria: it told me that she needed long-term treatment to survive. >> pelley: maria says that anthem recommended treatment at timberline knolls, a residential facility. a doctor said ashley needed 90 days. but after sending her to illinois from california, anthem denied payment after six days saying that ashley could be "safely treated with outpatient services." did the people at timberline knolls believe that...? >> maria: no, they didn't. >> pelley: that she was well? >> maria: no. they absolutely didn't believe it. they gave us the option of paying $22,000 for... to complete the 30 days. and at that, we... there wasn't a chance that we could do that. >> pelley: now, look at how ashley's care was denied. this log shows dr. tim jack, a psychiatrist working on behalf of anthem, called ashley's
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doctor three times in 32 minutes. one call was disconnected. he left two messages. dr. jack waited 22 minutes for a call back, and then denied coverage. from the first call to denial-- 54 minutes, speaking to no one. why so fast? well, it may be, in part, because many insurance doctors are paid by the case. dr. jack is a contractor who gets $45 per patient. in court records, dr. jack says he does 550 reviews a month. so, working from home, that comes to $25,000 a month. we spoke to 26 psychiatrists from across the country, and every one brought up dr. jack's name. some called him "dr. denial." this is a recording of dr. jack telling a physician that a patient's level of care should be lowered. >> tim jack: because given what his current progress is and his
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current symptoms are, he can be managed at a lower level of care as effectively as in an intensive outpatient program. >> you know, doctor, i just want to say that i have spoken to you on so many different occasions, and with so many different clients, and i've never really had a positive outcome as far as authorization from you, so i just needed to bring that to your attention. >> jack: this is not a personal matter. >> i understand, sir, but the client appears to meet the criteria, so... >> pelley: we found dr. jack's denial rate averaged 92% in one six-month period in 2011. but that was typical among 11 reviewers contracted by anthem. some of them had denial rates of 95% and 100%. what's the impact on a family after a phone call like that? >> kathryn trepinski: devastating. >> pelley: kathryn trepinski is a lawyer who represents patients. she does not represent ashley's family, but she has filed suit against anthem and other insurers.
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>> trepinski: there's untold suffering, and the family is usually left in the very difficult position of either paying for the care out of pocket, which is tens of thousands of dollars, or they say no to their loved one, to their child. >> pelley: anthem says that reviews are checked by a supervising doctor, but when we obtained ashley's denial letter, we found her review by tim jack, m.d., was supervised by timothy jack, m.d. so, he signs the documents twice? >> trepinski: yes, except that he doesn't actually sign them himself. it's a robo-signature. >> pelley: dr. jack has acknowledged an anthem computer put his name to letters he doesn't see, and on cases he didn't review. >> trepinski: it suggests a layer of review that's not there. because the signing doctor is described in the letter as having made that coverage determination and he didn't.
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>> pelley: we tried to reach dr. jack in calls and a letter. we stopped by his home. but he declned to speak. katherine west's and ashley's parents gave us permission to ask anthem about their cases. anthem declined an interview, but its chief medical officer wrote that they "explored and provided the families numerous care options that went beyond their covered benefits." he goes on to say, "successful outcomes require a partnership between patients, families, medical professionals, and health plans." for the insurance industry's view, we found anthem's former california medical director, dr. paul keith. he retired in march after years supervising anthem reviews, including those of dr. jack. he told us that, too often, insurance companies are abused by care providers. >> paul keith: doctors will spin the clinical information. they will make things appear
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more serious than, perhaps, they are, because they feel strongly the patient needs this level of care for a little longer. so you do have a somewhat adversarial relationship between the reviewer and the attending physician. >> pelley: you're saying the... the doctor will overstate the case to get the insurance company to approve the client? >> keith: unquestionably, that happens-- not all the time. and i've been doing this for, you know, over 30 years. >> pelley: you describe these conversations as "adversarial." is that best for the patient? >> keith: well, it's like our legal system-- if you... each side does a good job in presenting their case and asking the right questions, you ultimately arrive at the truth. >> pelley: but these can be life and death decisions, and you don't know till it's too late. >> keith: i cannot, offhand, think of a situation where a decision was made to discharge a patient from a hospital and some terrible consequence occurred soon thereafter. i'm sure it happens, but...
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>> pelley: we found quite a few. >> keith: i'd have to look at them to see. there's one that occurs to me that i was involved with where the child left the hospital with his parents, escaped from his parents, drove cross-country to another state, and days later, committed suicide. keeping that individual in the hospital longer is not likely to have made any difference. >> pelley: i would have to imagine that the parents would say, "if you'd kept him in the hospital, he wouldn't have been in another state killing himself." >> keith: parents become fearful that, if they leave too soon, the same thing's going to happen that may have happened in previous occasions, but you can't keep an individual in the hospital forever. >> pelley: so, to the parent who says the insurance company is just trying to get my child out of the hospital, you say what? >> keith: it's half true-- the
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insurance company may very well want that child to go to a lesser level of care, but money is not the basis for the decision. >> pelley: a lot of people watching this interview are going to have trouble with the idea that insurance companies are not trying to save money. >> keith: of course, your insurance companies are trying to save money. there's a lot of treatment that is not medically necessary that is provided, and that is a waste of healthcare dollars, and the resources are scarce. >> pelley: ashley's family hired a lawyer and appealed to the california insurance board, which overturned anthem's denials. now, she is in treatment for bipolar disorder, treatment that may last a lifetime. katherine west was buried a year ago this month. her mother has filed suit against anthem. after the mass murder at newtown, the state of connecticut's sandy hook commission studied mental health. a draft of its upcoming report calls the insurance review process a "formidable barrier to care" and recommends a state agency review all denials.
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now you can have a good night and a... good morning! new aleve pm. for a better am. >> simon: mention syria today, and most people will conjure up images of isis militants.
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but what has been a brutal and bloody civil war began almost four years ago as a peaceful struggle for basic freedoms. since those early days, a small group of filmmakers has been documenting the country's descent into chaos. they've focused on the city of homs, a cradle of the syrian uprising and a place that has suffered more devastation than anywhere else in the country. the films paint a picture of the conflict that is more raw and revealing than anything you'll see on television news. and we warn you-- some of what you're about to see is difficult to watch, but it's a reality millions of syrians have to live with every day. the film "return to homs" begins in the city streets in the heady days of the arab spring in 2011. after decades of oppression, syrians were rising up against
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the brutal dictatorship of bashar al assad. the young man chanting is abdul basset al-saroot, a charismatic 19-year-old star goalkeeper for the syrian youth soccer team, a local hero. "the age of oppression will end," he cries. "the people shall overcome." basset became the pied piper of the homs uprising. he was the son of a poor blacksmith, and his infectious charm inspired thousands to follow him. what was it about him that drew people towards him? >> talal derki: the songs, his songs. >> simon: as soon as talal derki, the film's director, heard basset in the streets of homs, he knew he had found his subject. we spoke to talal in istanbul. he was 19 when you started filming it. >> derki: yes, 19. >> simon: and he had no fear. >> derki: no fear at all. >> simon: like the day basset stood above the crowd and
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started taunting the regime's snipers, who had him in their crosshairs. >> derki: he start to shout, "listen, sniper, this is my head and this is my neck," that "i am a clear target if you want to... to shoot me, but i will not be afraid." >> simon: the snipers didn't shoot basset that day, but soon, all across syria, the regime began meeting the protestor's chants with bullets, tanks, and bombs. makeshift field hospitals sprang up in garages and storefronts. basset became a marked man, but try as they might, they couldn't get him, so they took out his brother, his cousins, his friends. >> orwa nyrabia: they were all killed in his family's apartment. it was a very difficult moment.
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>> simon: orwa nyrabia, the documentary's producer, also filmed parts of it. we met him near the syrian border in turkey. >> nyrabia: so, his mother was forced to make tea to the soldiers while they were killing her son. and that was the moment when he said, "peace is not going to work." >> simon: basset was soon transformed from protester to armed revolutionary. his small band of fighters began taking neighborhoods controlled by the regime. assad's soldiers struck back, slaughtering thousands. every funeral prompted more fury. homs, syria's third-largest city, started to look like something out of world war ii, or worse. and all that time, the cameras were right there with basset and
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his men, capturing everything. they were with him when he saw what was left of his old apartment. "this is homs," he says, "but i don't know where i am." still, basset never forgot how to laugh. "do you think i'll have time to shave before i die?" he asks. maybe we'll find a barber at the battlefront. let's hope he's good." he was always leading from the front, but losing men every day. and when it came to burying them, even the cemetery was a target. basset was exhausted, demoralized, desperate. the city was besieged for two years. basset was shot three times. each time, he returned to the fight.
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the last battle in the film was the fiercest, and when he was shot this time, it left him pleading to become a martyr, begging allah to take him away. he survived, but his few remaining fighters were starving and running out of ammunition. so, when the u.n. brokered a cease-fire last spring, they left the city, along with homs' remaining residents. they had pleaded with the west for help, but none ever came. and according to orwa nyrabia, basset and his men turned to the islamists. it was happening all over the country. basset starts out... in the film, we see him, this football player. he seems like a pretty secular guy. >> nyrabia: he was. >> simon: and then, in the course of the film, we see him turning to islam. >> nyrabia: if you have this
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dream of defending your city, you need money, you need food, and you need weapons or ammunition. >> simon: and it wasn't coming from anywhere. >> nyrabia: you have to get it from somewhere. and if it comes with a few conditions, then you'll have to adapt. >> simon: so the choice was between islam or nothing. >> nyrabia: entirely. >> simon: there were long periods when orwa didn't think they could finish the film at all. just getting cameras past army checkpoints and getting film out was becoming increasingly risky. eventually, it became so dangerous that they had to flee the country. they continued making the film remotely, using skype to train basset's men to use the cameras. it was a new way of making films, and it worked. orwa would go even further in exposing the horrors of homs in his next film, "silvered water." it weaves together grainy cell
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phone footage that syrians had been uploading onto youtube. he made the film with syrian director ossama mohammed, who was in exile in paris. >> ossama mohammed: i felt that the tragedy of syrian people, written by the syrians themself, filmed by the syrians themself, it can build a extraordinary film. >> simon: in this video taken inside an interrogation room, a teenage boy is seen cowering in a corner, then forced to kiss the foot of his torturer, then badly beaten. but who could have gotten into an interrogation room with a camera? ossama says that the soldiers filmed these scenes themselves, then put them on the internet as a warning-- stop protesting or else! >> mohammed: when you are beating a young boy, you are
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telling everybody that if you want freedom, if you will demonstrate, you will be in his place in the next sequence. >> simon: one day, as he was putting all this together, he received a message on facebook. it was from a young kurdish woman named simav, who was suffering through the siege of homs. she had a video camera and wanted to use it. she asked ossama, "if you were in my position, what would you film?" "everything," he wrote back. did you feel that you were his eyes? >> simav ( translated ): i was also his heart, his hands, and his soul. not only for him, but for all syrians who were far away. >> simon: for two and a half years, she filmed, capturing the terror experienced by syrians every day. and not just the people. ( cat meowing )
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the film showed the lengths to which syrians went to defy the snipers and leave no man behind. simav used her cell phone to send ossama her videos. sometimes, it took days to upload a single clip. when he didn't hear from her, he feared the worst. were you afraid for her? >> mohammed: of course. i was crying a lot of time. i was sitting in paris and crying. >> simon: but for simav, just staying alive during the siege was a battle. there was no electricity, no running water, no food. >> simav: i remember, on my third day without food, i was ready to collapse. i walked into an abandoned house, into the kitchen. there were sugar containers, and
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i started licking them like a wild animal. then after that, we started eating grass and tree leaves. >> simon: you were eating grass? >> simav: it was delicious. i would go out looking for grass because our days were full of shelling and hunger and frustration. i would try to look at it in a positive way, to forget the pain. sometimes, the only way to go on living is to forget. >> simon: to help the children of homs forget, simav opened a school. she tried to make the kids laugh. when children didn't show up for class, she knew what it meant. >> yassim and miriam. miriam and yassim. >> simav: like so many other things in this war, i didn't want to believe that they were actually under the ground.
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i often imagined myself telling them, "stop this cruel joke. you can't possibly be dead. death does not take away such young children." but it wasn't a joke. >> simon: how did the children make sense of what was happening? >> simav: they didn't make sense of it. the children got used to death the same way they were used to life. for children in syria, death has become just as normal as life-- difficult, but normal. >> simon: one little boy in her class named omar knew that all too well. he'd lost his father in the siege. "how are you, papa?" the boy asks at his father's graveside. "i miss you. i brought you the nicest roses to make you happy." like all the children in the
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siege, the battered streets of homs were omar's playground. he knew his way around. "there's a sniper that way," he says, and remember, he is, after all, a four-year-old boy. "do i have to run with all my toys?" he asks. omar got out of homs, but is now in another town under siege. simav got out, too. what was more important to you during the days you were filming, saving your life or saving your camera? >> simav: the camera. of course, the camera. >> simon: of course, the camera? >> simav: without any hesitation, my camera and everything i've filmed are more valuable than my life.
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because if the camera survives, someone else can always continue the work. >> simon: simav is now in turkey, but is determined to go back to syria as soon as she can. and basset, the soccer player turned revolutionary? he and a new band of rebels are near homs, still fighting the assad regime. >> welcome to the cbs sports update presented by pacific life. i'm james brown with scores from around the nfl today. the patriots clinch the a.f.c. east and indy takes the a.f.c. south. buffalo upsets green bay, snapping the pack's five-game win streak. the steelers and ravens keep their hopes alive. johnny manziel comes up empty in his first browns' start. k.c. stays in the playoff hunt. denver wins to clinch the a.f.c. west. denver wins to clinch the a.f.c. west. for more sports news and
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,,,, my nai'm a lineman for pg&e out of the concord service center. i have lived here pretty much my whole life. i have been married for twelve years. i have 3 kids. i love living here and i love working in my hometown. at pg&e we are always working to upgrade reliability to meet the demands of the customers. i'm there to do the safest job possible - not only for them, but everybody, myself included that lives in the community. i'm very proud to do the work that i do and say that i am a lineman for pg&e because it's my hometown. it's a rewarding feeling. >> cooper: our lives are filled
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with distractions -- email, twitter, texting. we're constantly connected to technology, rarely alone with just our thoughts, which is probably why there's a growing movement in america to train people to get around the stresses of daily life. it's a practice called mindfulness, and it basically means being aware of your thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings. tonight, we'll introduce you to the man who's largely responsible for mindfulness gaining traction. his name is jon kabat-zinn, and he thinks mindfulness is the answer for people who are so overwhelmed by life, they feel they aren't really living at all. >> jon kabat-zinn: there are a lot of different ways to talk about mindfulness, but what it really means is "awareness." >> cooper: is it being present? >> kabat-zinn: it is being present. that's exactly what it is. >> cooper: i don't feel i'm very present in each moment. i feel like, every moment, i'm either thinking about something that's coming down the road, or something that's been in the past.
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>> kabat-zinn: so, ultimately, all this preparing is for what? for the next moment, like the last moment, like, and then we're dead. ( laughs ) so, in a certain way... >> cooper: oh god, this is depressing. >> kabat-zinn: are we going to experience while we're still alive? we're only alive now. >> cooper: jon kabat-zinn, is an m.i.t.-trained scientist who's been practicing mindfulness for 47 years. back in 1979, he started teaching mindfulness through meditation to people suffering from chronic pain and illness. that program is now used in more than 700 hospitals worldwide. so, how can you be mindful in your daily life? >> kabat-zinn: when your alarm goes off and you jump out of bed, what is the nature of the mind in that moment? are you already like, "oh, my god," your calendar pops into your mind and you're driven already, or can you take a moment and just lie in bed and just feel your body breathing. and remember, "oh yeah, brand new day and i'm still alive." so, i get out of bed with awareness, brush my teeth with awareness. when you're in the shower next time, check and see if you're in the shower. >> cooper: what do you mean, "check and see if you're in the
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shower"? >> kabat-zinn: well, you may not be. you may be in your first meeting at work. you may have 50 people in the shower with you. >> cooper: kabat-zinn says mindfulness takes practice. a lot of people start with a training class to learn how to meditate. he agreed to teach us at a weekend retreat on a remote mountaintop in northern california. when we arrived, we were told there would be no television to watch, no internet, not even an alarm clock. >> tim ryan: so, i'm checking in. >> cooper: the retreat was full of professionals-- neuroscientists, business leaders, silicon valley executives. before we began, we all had to surrender our last ties to the outside world. >> kabat-zinn: put your devices in the basket. i'm contributing my macbook air and my iphone, happily. >> cooper: i wasn't exactly happy to give up my phone. i usually check emails several times an hour. ( bell rings ) >> kabat-zinn: so let's take a
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few minutes and just settle into an erect and dignified posture. >> cooper: the retreat lasted three days, and most of that time was spent just sitting there, silently meditating, with occasional guidance from kabat- zinn. >> kabat-zinn: there's no place to go. there's nothing to do. we're just asking you to sit and know that you are sitting. >> cooper: knowing that you're sitting may sound simple. turns out, it's not. the mind constantly wanders. >> kabat-zinn: the mind has a life of it's own. it goes here and there. >> cooper: to not get lost in thought, kabat-zinn recommended focusing on the sensation of breathing in and out. >> kabat-zinn: can we actually ride with full awareness on the waves of the breath-- at the belly, at the nostrils and the chest. and then, simply rest here in awareness. >> cooper: "resting in awareness" is one of those
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phrases used a lot by people who practice mindfulness. but when i tried to do it, it wasn't restful and i worried i wasn't doing it right. i kept thinking about work. i miss my cell phone. ( laughs ) i'm having a little withdrawal, i must say. kabat-zinn, who has written ten books on mindfulness and led nearly 100 retreats, describes meditation as a mental workout. >> kabat-zinn: the mind wanders away from the breath, and then you gently and non-judgmentally just bring it back. >> cooper: so, it's okay that the mind drifts away, but you just bring it back. >> kabat-zinn: it's the nature of the mind to drift away. the mind is like the pacific ocean, it waves. and mindfulness has been shown to drop underneath the waves. if you drop underneath the agitation in the mind into your breath deep enough-- calmness, gentle undulations. >> cooper: after hours of meditating in 30-minute sessions, it does get easier. those waves of thought kabat- zinn described-- they're still there, but you get less distracted by them.
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at breakfast, we spent time relearning some of the very basic things in life, including how to eat food. eating a meal in complete silence is a little awkward, but without conversation as a distraction, you taste more and eat less. this is something called "walking meditation." the goal is to learn to be aware of each and every movement and feeling. i know it seems ridiculous, but it does change the way you experience walking. >> kabat-zinn: the zen people from ancient china-- "when you're walking, just walk." it turns out to be the hardest thing. >> cooper: that's an ancient saying? >> kabat-zinn: when you're walking, just walk. when you're eating, just eat-- not in front of the tv, not with the newspaper. it turns out, that's huge. >> cooper: congressman tim ryan, an ohio democrat, says mindfulness might look a lot like nothing, but he really believes it can change america for the better. he attended his first meditation retreat in 2008, just days after winning a grueling re-election
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campaign. but being mindful at a retreat is one thing. we wondered if, back in washington, congressman ryan ever worries about how all this looks. >> ryan: well, you know, i can see myself in high school going, "whoa, stay away from those guys." ( laughter ) >> cooper: so, how do you use it here on capitol hill? >> ryan: i'm on the budget committee, for example. there's a lot of conflict, and people say things that get you ramped up. i find myself, as my body clenches up when somebody says something that i know is wrong or i... i want to catch them in a lie or whatever, that just, "calm down. when it's your turn, you make your point." hey, man... >> cooper: you don't hear the words "calm" and "congress" together very often, but ryan is trying to change that. he hosts weekly meditation sessions open to members and staff of both parties. >> now, shifting the attention to take in the entire body. >> cooper: have you gotten any republican congressmen in to meditate with you yet?
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>> ryan: no. ( laughs ) we're working on it. >> cooper: he's written a book about mindfulness, and obtained a million dollars of federal funding to teach it to school children in his ohio district. >> i feel like we are calm right now. >> ryan: yes, you are. i've seen it transform classrooms. i've seen it heal veterans. i've seen what it does to individuals who have really high chronic levels of stress, and how it has helped their body heal itself. i wouldn't be willing to stick my neck out this far if i didn't think this is the thing that can really help shift the country. >> cooper: to some people, though, this may sound like kind of new-age gobbledygook? >> kabat-zinn: there's so many different compelling studies that are showing that this not new-age gobbledygook. this is potentially transformative of our health and well-being, psychologically, as well as physically. it can be useful for anxiety, depression, stress reduction. >> cooper: there have been a
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number of studies that show mindfulness can lead to those benefits, as well as improvements in memory and attention. and at the university of massachusetts, judson brewer, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, uses mindfulness to treat addiction. >> judson brewer: this is just the next generation of exercise. we've got the physical, you know, exercise components down. and now, it's about working out how can we actually train our minds. >> cooper: dr. brewer is trying to understand how mindfulness can alter the functioning of the brain. he uses a cap lined with 128 electrodes. >> brewer: we're going to start filling each of these 128 wells with conduction gel. >> cooper: the electrodes are able to pick up signals from the posterior cingulate, part of a brain network linked to memory and emotion. >> brewer: this is all just picking up electrical signal from the top of your head. >> cooper: since attending the mindfulness retreat, i'd been meditating daily and was curious to see if it had an impact on my brain. >> brewer: we're going to have you start with thinking of
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something that was very anxiety provoking for you. >> cooper: okay. when i thought about something stressful, the cells in my brain's posterior cingulate immediately started firing, shown by the red lines that went off the chart on the computer screen. >> brewer: just drop into meditation. >> cooper: okay. when i let go of those stressful thoughts, and e-focused on my breath, within seconds, the brain cells that had been firing quieted down, shown by the blue lines on the computer. that's really fascinating to see it like that. dr. brewer believes everyone can train their brains to reach that blue, mindfulness zone. but he says, all the technology we're surrounded by makes it difficult. >> brewer: if you look at people out on the street, if you look at people at restaurants, nobody's having conversations anymore. they're sitting at dinner looking at their phone, because their brain is so addicted to it. >> cooper: you really think there's something in the brain that's addicted to that? >> brewer: well, it's the same reward pathways as addiction, absolutely. >> cooper: i'm, you know, on mobile devices all day long, and i feel like i could go through
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an entire day and not be present. >> brewer: and what's that like? >> cooper: it's exhausting. >> brewer: ( laughs ) yeah, so all of this is leading to a societal exhaustion. >> cooper: the irony is, many of the people responsile for creating the gadgets that distract us are themselves practicing mindfulness. more than 2,000 people from companies like google, facebook, and instagram showed up earlier this year in san francisco for a mindfulness conference called "wisdom 2.0." >> please welcome our guests. >> cooper: karen may is a google vice president, and that's chade-meng tan, a former engineer who's become kind of a mindfulness guru. and as could only happen at a place like google, his actual title is "jolly good fellow." >> chade-meng tan: which nobody can deny. ( laughter ) >> cooper: so, what does a jolly good fellow do? >> tan: my job description is to enlighten minds, open hearts, and create world peace. >> cooper: that's your job description? >> tan: that's my job description. >> cooper: i've heard that, at some meetings at google, you actually start out with moments of silence. >> karen may: we do.
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>> cooper: how long do sit there quietly for? >> may: it's literally a minute or two of noticing your breathing, calming yourself down, being present. and then, you're able to go into the meeting, the business at hand, with a little bit more focus. >> cooper: does it make people more productive? >> tan: yes, it does. when the mind is un-agitated, when the mind is calm, that mind is most conducive to creative problem solving. >> cooper: to innovate? >> tan: correct. and one of the powers of mindfulness is the ability to get to that frame of mind on demand. ( bell rings ) >> cooper: so, along with their free health clubs and other company perks, google now offers their 52,000 employees free lessons in mindfulness. >> tan: in the middle of stress, when everything is falling apart, you can take one breath. >> cooper: you know, i can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying, "oh, come on, of course, at google, you guys have tons of money, and there's massage therapists walking around and all sorts of nice things for employees, but it just doesn't seem practical." >> may: the advantage of this is it actually doesn't cost
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anything and it doesn't take much time. >> cooper: and you believe it really works? >> may: i absolutely believe it works. >> cooper: after nearly four decades of teaching mindfulness, jon kabat-zinn is happy to see it hitting the mainstream. but if you're starting to think mindfulness is something you should start practicing, he says you may be missing the point. >> kabat-zinn: it's not a big "should." it's not like, "oh, i've got to... now, one more thing that i have to put in my life. now, i have to be mindful." >> cooper: and if it becomes that one more thing they got to do after they take the yoga class? >> kabat-zinn: they shouldn't do it. just don't do it. don't do it. it's not a doing at all, in fact-- it's a being. and being doesn't take any time. >> anderson cooper tells how mindfulness changed his life. go to sponsored by pfizer. feet...tiptoeing. better things than the pain, stiffness, and joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. before you and your rheumatologist decide on a biologic,
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