Category Archives: Newsworthy

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

Dr. Robert K. Ross giving a Tedx Talk at Ironwood State Prison. In it he talks about the long lasting effects, physical and emotional, of repeated childhood trauma. He also talks about courage and resiliency that can not only overcome the trauma, but better ourselves through it.

I have to admit, some survivors are some of the most courageous and resilient people I know. Others are the most self-destructive people I know, and some of those turn into the former category. This helps explain what is really going on.

Going Beyond Prosecution

I found myself nodding along as I read a recap of a presentation given by Connilee Christie, who works with children who report being sexually abused. Especially, this part:

Success often is measured on prosecutions, she said. In part, she said, because it is easily measured.

But that is not how the Children’s Advocacy Center in St. Louis measures it. The center abides by what is called the “Child First Doctrine,” which states:

“The child is our first priority. Not the needs of the family. Not the child’s ‘story.’ Not the evidence. Not the needs of the courts. Not the needs of police, child protection, attorneys, etc.”

“Sometimes that means no prosecution,” she said.

I’ve written before about the difference between “justice” and healing. Just because your abuser didn’t go to jail, or didn’t go to jail for as long as you thought they should, has no bearing on your ability to heal. I see the same sort of thought pattern in what they are doing for children in St. Louis. Yes, it would be wonderful if justice could be served in every case, but that’s never going to happen. We can do as much as we can to try and carry out justice in these cases, but getting a guilty verdict is dependent on so many things that are out of our control, as survivors, or those who wish to help them. It depends on being able to take the stand, having others do the same, having a jury believe you versus the person you are accusing, etc.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue justice, but that can’t be the only goal, and the only definition of success. Success, when dealing with victims of sexual abuse is in getting them the help they need, keeping them safe, and getting them on the path to healing as soon as they are able. The best part, is that we can do that without waiting to see what the criminal justice system comes up with, and we can do it regardless of the results.

A survivor overcoming their childhood and learning to life a full life is just as much of a success as seeing their abuser convicted. But the two are not the same thing. Healing can happen regardless.

Mental Health Stigma in the News

Sure enough, last week, one of the first tidbits of information that was given by the military, thus becoming the focus for the tragic shooting at Fort Hood was that the shooter, Ivan Lopez, had been treated for “mental health issues”.

John Grohol has the run down of the various news stories that came out in the wake of that information, blaming these mental health issues, or the lack of proper mental health care, as the reason for the shooting, when in fact, that probably had nothing to do with it. He also explains that the issues he had sought help with, probably had nothing at all to do with this.

We talk a lot about encouraging people to get help when they are suffering from PTSD, depression or any other form of mental health problem, but then we turn right around and make these connections between those who might have mental health problems, and violence.

Imagine if we told people that they should speak out about being victims of abuse so that they can get help in healing, and then every time a violent act occurred, we proclaimed that it must have been a result of them being abused as children, because “you know how those people are”. Would any one want to come forward and admit that they are, in fact, one of “those people”? Yet the media does the same thing with mental health issues all the time. Sure Ivan Lopez spent time in Iraq, and had sought treatment for some sort of mental health issues. So do thousands of other people, every day. Are they all just a mass shooting waiting to happen?

I don’t think so.


Rewind to Fast Forward Movie

I’m going to just go ahead and admit, I was really moved by this clip. I think this is going to be a very interesting, and powerful movie about a survivor, and a family dealing with the effects of child sexual abuse. I’m even more impressed that it will be tackling it by looking at a family where there are male survivors. More male survivors need to know that they are not alone.

You can learn more, and support the project on the Kickstarter page.

Healthy Place Looking for Mental Health Bloggers

The Healthy Place website is looking for some freelancers to work on mental health blogs over on their site.

Like they say on the tv show America’s Got Talent: “So you think you have talent?”

If so, we hope you’ll consider blogging for us. We are looking for mental health bloggers (paid freelance positions) in the following areas:

  1. Abuse Issues
  2. Addictions
  3. Anxiety Disorders
  4. ADHD in children (parent of a child with ADHD)
  5. Adult ADHD
  6. Borderline Personality Disorder
  7. Depression
  8. Eating Disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating/overeating)
  9. LGBT (relating to mental health and relationships)
  10. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  11. Parenting a child with mental illness
  12. Narcissism
  13. Relationships
  14. Schizophrenia
  15. Self-injury
  16. Sex Issues

If you want to write a blog or do a video blog on another mental health topic, we’ll be happy to consider that.

It seems like a good way to share your thoughts on any of these issues, for those they choose to work with. If you’re interested, head over and check out the requirements!

Personally, I have enough trouble keeping up my own blogs to start another one over there, but it is tempting to be part of that network. ;-)

Avoidance Does Not Help

Given the recent post I made about the power of shame to lead people to all sorts of behavioral problems, I wasn’t at all surprised to find a recent study that claims that kids who talk about their abuse and neglect are less likely to suffer from PTSD.

A Penn State researcher finds an interesting differential among kids who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of child abuse, and those who did not.

Chad Shenk, Ph.D., and his research team found that adolescent girls who experienced maltreatment in the past year and were willing to talk about their painful experiences, their thoughts and emotions, were less likely to have PTSD symptoms one year later.

So that tactic of not talking about and telling kids to put it behind them and move forward and forget it? Yeah, not so good.


Scary Misuse of Information and Power

The full story is over on the Pysch Central blog, but the gist of it is this. Canadian woman books a cruise that boards in the US. Upon entering the US at border control, they border agent does a routine check of shared police records between the two countries. Agent notices police record tied to possibly suicide, or depression that refers to hospitalization for mental illness in 2012, and refuses entry based on a broadly written rule about denying entry based on a risk of danger to yourself or others.

The problems with this situation point out some of the larger problems of both our views of depression and mental illness, and our overzealous collection of information about people’s lives.

First off, let’s talk about those police records. They do get generated when the police are called to intervene for someone who might be a risk to themselves. They are not protected in the same way medical records are. In my experience these types of records are not the kind of thing that officers take great pains to be highly detailed and nuanced about. Having someone with no medical background access those records and make decisions based on them is a real problem. This is a great counter point to those who say we shouldn’t worry about increased surveillance because “I have nothing to hide”. Any detail that is recovered can, and will, be used by people of various levels to make decisions. Some of those decisions will be based on wholly inaccurate interpretations of that information. You may not have anything to hide, but you surely have things that could be interpreted quite differently by others who have the power to make them matter quite a bit.

The other thing that concerns me is this view that having a bout of depression somehow makes you a danger. I think this is a byproduct of our oversimplification of suicide and violence. Whenever we hear a news story involving suicide or a mass shooting, we always hear about the lack of mental health care and how access to mental health care could have helped avoid this. Look, I’m a huge advocate of mental health care, but we need to stop talking this way. They whys of suicide or mass violence are very complex and difficult to truly understand. We’ve made it too easy to view anyone who actually does attempt to get some sort of treatment for depression as a ticking time bomb. Any teen who needs anti-depressants is one mean text message away from suicide, any early adult male who happens to struggle with social skills or childhood abuse and seeks counseling is surely on the verge of shooting up a school. Mothers seeking help for postpartum depression? Get their kids away from them!

Surely those types of attitudes are not encouraging people to seek out help when they need it. More than that, they aren’t true. Yes, there are some people in need of mental healthcare who are actually a danger to themselves or others. Most are simply people who need some help in order to fully live their lives, get through difficult situations or learn to heal from traumatic events. We shouldn’t be forced to choose between seeking help and being labeled a risk and treated as such, or living in silent misery.

Was this woman truly a danger that required her to be refused entry to the US? I have no idea. I don’t know her and have no idea why she was hospitalized in 2012 and whether she is medicated now, or otherwise in a better place. The point, however, is that a random border control agent doesn’t know either. Simply having been treated for depression should not be a deciding factor in our ability to travel or have the same rights as those who haven’t had to be treated for depression, and until we see that as a normal part of life, those of us who have had to be treated will always be on the outside.

Have you ever been treated differently professionally, or by other establishments, because of your mental health history?