Tag Archives: trauma

Patty Duke

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Patty Duke

Patty Duke, March 2016

We lost an advocate fighting the stigma of mental illness this week. Patty Duke died at the age of 69. She suffered with bi-polar disorder.

Long before celebrities shared their private struggles with mental illness on talk-show couches and social media feeds, actress Patty Duke broke a Hollywood taboo by speaking publicly about her personal struggles.

Duke, who died on Tuesday morning at age 69, was diagnosed with manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) in 1982. Known at the time as the goody-two-shoes child star of “The Miracle Worker” (for which she won a best supporting actress Oscar at 16) and “The Patty Duke Show,” Duke revealed revealed a much darker reality in her 1987 memoir, “Call Me Anna,” written with L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan. In the book, she graphically detailed her turbulent life, drug and alcohol abuse, and childhood mistreatment at the hands of cruel managers.

In talking candidly about her mental illness, Duke took on the stigma long attached to the issue. In the years since Duke’s disclosure, actresses such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Carrie Fisher, Rene Russo and Kim Novak have spoken publicly about their own bipolar diagnoses, while countless other public figures have talked about their depression.  Many celebrities such as Glenn Close advocated for loved ones suffering from mental illness and helped the fight against stigma.

The text above is excerpted from “How Patty Duke broke a Hollywood taboo and became a mental health pioneer” by Rebecca Keegan in the LA Times. Downloaded March 31, 2016.

We’ve talked before about what a stigma is or is not. A stigma is extreme social disapproval of some type of personal characteristic or a belief that is not considered socially “acceptable.” People who have a particular attribute considered unwanted by society are rejected or stigmatized as a result of the attribute. People who have experienced traumatic events in the past are often judged unfairly to be crazy, violent, unpredictable, explosive, aggressive and/or unstable. These judgments, or social stigmas, can cause people who experience these issues to feel devalued as human beings. They are often ostracized from activities, rejected in social situations, stereotyped, minimized in the workplace, and shunned by others. People experiencing the stigma of reactions to traumatic events often feel extreme physical, emotional and psychological distress.

People who stigmatize and/or stereotype others bring about unfair treatment rather than help. This unfair treatment can be very obvious. For example, people make negative comments or laugh. On the other hand, this unfair treatment can be very subtle. For example – people assume that a person who experiences trauma and or mental health issues is detached, emotionless, irritable or grumpy and they avoid or shun that person.

Stigmas affect a large percentage of people throughout the world. Some of the more common stigmas are associated with physical disabilities, age, body type, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, family, ethnicity, race, religion, financial status, social sub-cultures, and conduct. Stigmas set people apart from society and produce feelings in them of shame and isolation. People who are stigmatized are often considered socially unacceptable, and they suffer prejudice, rejection, avoidance and discrimination.

What Can Be Done to Combat Stigma?

Fear of judgment and ridicule about suffering from a traumatic experience or mental illness often compels individuals and their families to hide from society rather than face the criticism, shunning, labeling and stereotyping. Instead of seeking treatment, they struggle in silence. Here are some ways you can combat stereotypes and stigmas.

  • You and your loved ones have choices. You can decide who is to know about your trauma and what to tell them. You need not feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed.
  • You are not alone. Remember that many other people are coping with a similar situation.
  • Look into or start a support group to meet others who experience what you do.
  • Seek help and remember that the activities in this workbook and treatment from medical professionals can help you to have a productive education and career, and live a satisfying life.
  • Be proactive and surround yourself with supportive people – people you can trust. Social isolation is a negative side effect of the stigma linked to reactions to traumatic events. Isolating yourself and discontinuing enjoyable activities will not help.

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity.  ~ Thomas J. Watson

If we stamp out the stigma attached to mental health issues, shed the shame and eliminate the fear, then we open the door for people to speak freely about what they are feeling and thinking.   ~ Jaletta Albright Desmond

“The most powerful way to change someone’s view is to meet them … People who do come out and talk about mental illness, that’s when healing can really begin. You can lead a productive life.”  ~ Glenn Close

The material above is excerpted from the Managing Trauma Workbook by Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD.

Our veterans are coming home

Our veterans* are coming home. We are called to help them heal.Welcome Them Home, Help Them Heal

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not yet over, but our veterans are coming home.

  • Some have completed their military duty.
  • More will return to Iraq or Afghanistan for another tour.
  • 4,865 have died as of March 2009 and will not return home alive.
  • 32,000 have sustained war injuries, and 20,000 are
  • returning with Purple Hearts.
  •  500,000 carry within them deep, invisible, emotional wounds—unknowable to others, often unknown even to themselves.
  • Many have lived through life-altering spiritual trauma and will find the quest for peace and reconciliation more difficult than fighting the war.
  • Too many will commit suicide in the coming years—
  • probably more than the numbers killed in battle.
  •  All—yes ALL—returning service members will experience the challenge of re-entry as they leave the war zone behind and begin to put their lives back together.

*In this book we use veterans, service members, and soldiers as generic terms. We refer to specific branches (marines, reservists, etc.) only in relation to specific studies. To reflect the growing prominence of women in the military we have tried to strike a balance on the use of gendered pronouns.

When they come home, excitement is in the air! . . . at first.

Anyone who has seen a typical welcome home event understands the public expressions of joy and relief felt by family members. Young children sit on relatives’ shoulders to catch a first glimpse of their father or mother. Parents breathe a palpable sigh of relief when they see their son or daughter march onto the tarmac, armory, or gym floor. Prayers have been answered, and everyone anticipates that life together can begin once again. Over a few months and with hard work, many veterans and their family members do find a new “normal.”

Behind the jubilant homecoming celebrations, however, many returning veterans hide invisible wounds.

Upon returning home, many veterans face the biggest challenge of their lifetime and begin fighting a personal, hidden war in earnest. Often well concealed at first, for many the signs and symptoms of post-war trauma and stress—depression, anxiety, domestic problems, substance abuse, isolation, suicide, and homelessness— eventually appear. According to the U.S. Defense Department, of the 96,000 National Guard members and reservists who have completed health reassessments since October 2006, half have reported health problems unrelated to combat wounds.

Providing attentive care in the first few months after a veteran returns home is important for several reasons. First, early detection usually results in more effective treatment and better outcomes. Second, early treatment can prevent a cascade of interrelated problems stemming from unaddressed physical, emotional, and spiritual post-war trauma and distress. Loved ones, friends, and close work associates are often the first to notice emerging problems and also become the key people through whom difficulties are initially addressed.

America faces a crisis of care.

Service members and their families face deep spiritual crises not generally in public view. Sufficient resources have not been committed to help returning veterans recover from the traumas of war. To be sure, many good programs are already in place and actively serving returning veterans. Existing governmental programs, however, are stressed to the limit. Adequate numbers of programs, policies, and personnel are not available to meet current needs—and the largest surge of returning veterans has not yet peaked. America, having put forth its best to fight these wars, must now match that effort in helping our sons and daughters heal.

Welcome Them Home, Help Them Heal, pp. 7-8

Children can overcome abuse, deal with trauma

Victims of sexual assault struggle

In recent articles (http://stressforsuccess.blogspot.com) I’ve covered how vulnerable children are lured into sex-trafficking due to their desperation. S/he’s:
· Likely running away from an abusive home, therefore homeless;
· Alone and frightened;
· Just a kid.
A seemingly protective man, and sometimes a woman, offers to protect them. What would you do?

Beyond predatory traffickers/pimps who are preying on vulnerable kids, there’s a sad reality that makes them more vulnerable to this nightmare: early and repetitive childhood sexual trauma.

Sexual abuse harms victims’ mental, emotional, spiritual and physical development. The following description is adapted from “Childhood and Adult Sexual Victimization” by Parson, Brett and Brett.

A victim of repetitive childhood sexual abuse undergoes damage to her still-developing personality. The abuse shatters her very spirit, which is much more difficult to heal than mental and physical damage.

“Mind, body, and spirit” implies that spirit is part of the total self. Rather, spirit permeates all. It represents her essence. It holds the fabric of the self together. Spirit:
· Provides her with a healthy self-centeredness: a sense of her unique self;
· Is the natural belief that her self is her priceless, personal possession, worthy of protection and respect;

Sexual assaults devastate his spirit and self-respect. His natural social tendencies are haunted by constant vulnerability, resulting in blameless availability for adult abuse. The child goes from being spirit-filled and alive to essence-defused and empty. The degraded self may be drained of most traces of feeling human.

Contributing immeasurably to the child’s helplessness is the blaming the child for the incest while the adult denies responsibility. The abuse is committed on someone who is least able to protect himself from immoral adult power.

After repetitive abuse the child’s changed view of self is the essence of his stress. He’s robbed of his free will, spontaneity, and autonomy. His patterns of perceiving, trusting, and acting are drastically altered based on many secrets too terrible to face. He’s forced into secrecy with threats of exposure, abandonment, fear of repeated sexual injuries, and further humiliation. He’s constantly wary around adults.

He’s forced to grow up fast, learning how to survive. To survive he navigates his dangerous terrain through hyper-vigilance to adult mood and behavioral cues of impending abuse. He maneuvers around them. He de-activates the mines before they explode through good behavior and an appeasing manner to avert adult depravity. Running away becomes a viable option.

His spirit dims; her laughter is extinguished. Their environment is a place where no joy, hope, and love are allowed to flourish. There’s only emotional and spiritual darkness, helplessness, and buried rage to be resurrected at a later time, and unleashed suddenly on unsuspecting targets, including the self.

They live in a persistent state of stress-induced burnout due to near-constant paranoid expectations of attacks. Being chronically revved-up is akin to living in an internal police state.

What’s profoundly remarkable is that these children find a way to survive. Their strength and ingenuity are integral parts of trauma therapy, which can help. To find trauma therapists in our area go to http://www.mhaswfl.org/.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at https://wholeperson.com/x-selfhelp/selfhelp.html#Anchor-Let-11481.