As the attention in our country continues to circle around Mental Illness our media has increased their reporting on these issues. This morning my local news, KMOV News 4 Awake Reporter Laura Hettiger provided such a report. In her most excellent talent, she shared the St. Louis County Police Department’s actions to develop a special team; Crisis Intervention Team. This details at least one officer on every shift in St. Louis County is undergoing a special training course directly related to defusing a situation they respond to that involves a person with mental illness.
The C.I.T. program provides direct training for intervention to communicate and talk with a person to get them help. This was actually influenced by the escalation of shootings and such occurring in our area. The officers are trained on how to talk with the person in an attempt to calm them and prevent escalation into a more serious or deadly act of violence. The person is then taken to area hospitals where they can be seen and treated before a determination is made. Truly I think this is a wonderful step in preventing the outbreak of serious crimes as our warmer months begin and the tempers escalate into something much more dangerous. As many advocates & centers are aware, the heat has a very adverse reaction on tempers especially within our own families.
I’ve done a few write ups about mental illness and the direct relation to abuse or violence. There is more and more data being shared about mental health and the correlation with these forms of direct traumatic personal violations. Since I suffer with some of the mental health problems myself; P.T.S.D., Generalized Anxiety, and off and on Depression; I wanted to address this once again. I also personally know a few people who were perfectly fine until traumatic sexual assault or abuse was inflicted and now they suffer with some of these same illnesses, but also a few others have gone into extreme cases where Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Clinical Depression have been diagnosed a few months or even a few years after the attack.
The National Institute of Mental Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention both have studies on this topic abuse and violence directly impact our brain function and the trauma of survivors. The recent attention on mental health has prompted new studies to begin by advocacy organizations as well. I do believe the ongoing attention of our mental health and faulty healthcare system will hopefully provide updated reports to better enhance services within the next few years.
The direct impact of abuse or violence has a high relation to the many diagnosis of mental health prominent in society today. In her report Ms. Hettiger shared alarming numbers of statistics known at this point; 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. This is 20% of our society, which means most of us know someone who is suffering with some form, even a slight form of mental health issue. I’m not saying that all diagnosis are related to abuse; I’m merely pointing out the direct impacts of abuse and violence proven related through various studies today.
One way for me to explain this better is for you to think about our military. Our men and women have to undergo exams for physical and mental health before being accepted into our armed forces. Once determined they meet the guidelines, they are then sent into war zones and will serve anywhere from 3 months to a year or more in constant high alert and life threatening situations. In these battle zones they hear gun fire, watch their team members get blown up by buried bombs; many loosing limbs or even their lives right in front of them. As we are realizing today, more and more of our veterans are coming home with deep emotional trauma resulting in their difficulty settling back in with general society and the ‘norm’ of daily behavior. Many have rage outbreaks because of the flashbacks and nightmares. Many are constantly haunted by the visions of what they endured. This is a concern for all of us, especially those many millions directly related to these incredible soldiers and war heroes. Our society consoles them, we offer friendship, support, any praise we can to let them know we want to help them and give them great honor for the battles they’ve fought to protect our freedom and the rights of humans in other countries; which of course I feel is exactly how we should honor them..
Sadly however, there is one war zone of constant high alertness and life threatening situations which general society hasn’t been so easily acceptable to understanding yet. This is the war zone that exists within our own homes every day. Men, women, and especially children are living in this same intense threat of being harmed, beaten to death, raped, tortured by those who should guide and protect them; those these victims love most in the world become the repeated violator of their personal wellbeing. Our homes become the most dangerous place in the world as relative to our lives.
According to the Children’s Bureau report for FFY 2011; 80.8% of reported cases of child harm violators are the child’s parent or parents. In only 2.1% of the reported cases is it a stranger who has harmed or murdered them. Even more grave is the fact that 78.3% of Child Death is directly related to abuse from a parent; calculating to be 906 DEATHS BY A PARENT for that one year alone. Keep in mind this is reported stats only when it is clearly documented on the death certificate as to the related cause of death. Many of these murders, like with Domestic Violence, are not properly documented. Also to note that 85% of abuses against children and in relationship violence is NEVER reported.
Along with this report and the studies by N.I.M.H. and the C.D.C., we have proof updated as early as two years ago as to the growing severity of abuse and violence within our homes and the extreme emotional trauma as a result of these epidemic crimes. If we are willing as a society, to accept the emotional wounds of our war heroes, veterans, then we must also accept the studies for the extreme trauma of the abuse and violence; supporting those who have survived these battle zones.
Throughout centuries we have ‘TAUGHT’ silence and acceptance to our kids and the victims of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault. We’ve shamed them and shunned them; blamed them and silenced them because we could not accept our own refusal to help them and place the shame on the perpetrators; most often because it brought shame to the family. Let me ask you this; if we tell our kids they deserved the extreme beating as discipline or that sex between a parent and child is normal, then why is there so much shame and silence placed on the victim? Is this because we cannot accept our own guilt in the acceptance of these actions? Since we as family members and close friends cannot see that our own blindness and our ‘TAUGHT’ acceptance of these actions result in a greater emotional trauma on the victims, then in a sense we have to accept our portion of blame for the growing rate of mental illness related to these crimes in society today.
There are five easy steps we can take to be pro-active in the measure to help ourselves, or a family member or close friend cope and rebuild from the impact of these attacks:
1) Accept the truth of how the acts of physical and sexual abuse against ANYONE at any point in their life impacts their emotional and mental wellbeing; specifically the severe after-affects of these crimes and the cross-wiring of our normal brain functions and emotional responses.
2) Understand how PTSD, Anxiety, Depression directly affect our emotional behaviors. This allows you to pick up on the subtle signs of an action or reaction, which enables you to better help that person through the moment or guide them to resources of counseling or medical care.
3) Always report an act of this type. Encouraging victims to get help or call the police, rather than enforcing silence and acceptance.
4) Ask our healthcare system to provide not just a pill for the primary diagnosis, but to research the root problem and help provide services for healing and rebuilding.
5) Most importantly DO NOT SHAME THE VICTIM!! Do not say or ask inappropriate things in which places blame on the victim. These acts themselves have a long centuries old enforcement of blaming and shame, so its imperative for us NOT to act or react in this manner; but instead show compassion, empathy, understanding of the deep trauma caused and the suffering of the victim.
It is possible for society to help change what has always been TAUGHT in the silence and acceptance of these crimes, which they are indeed crimes. If we encourage those harmed to begin healing by releasing themselves from the burden of secrecy about past acts against them; teaching talking because this is always the first step to recovery from any form of trauma.
Also teach children today that no matter who is harming them, extreme acts of ‘so called’ discipline or any form of sexual contact by an adult, their parent, a sibling , or any uncomfortable touching by another child or adult, is never a secret and is never acceptable. Teach them they are allowed to tell someone; even when the abuser tells them it is a ‘special’ secret or threatens harm against them. The only way we will ever be able to battle against the pedophiles in our society is to be sure it is prosecuted as a crime and that the victims feel encouraged to tell someone rather than be manipulated into secrecy. The secret is what helps hide the pedophiles and beaters in society today. They attend our churches, teach our children, they babysit for us; they are most commonly the parents of these harmed children!!
Empowering society to become involved and better able to be the supportive person needed, we can begin to change our world and the pandemic rates of abuse and violence throughout our families. We do not have to accept these actions any longer. We can learn from the generation of present day society, and the past generations of silent victims, letting their experiences be our teaching guide. This allows us to help rescue and reduce the impact of this trauma by providing early intervention; thus reducing, at least on some level, the continued growth of mental illness in the United States today.
If you or someone you know has just been physically or sexually assaulted:
1) Do not shower or change your clothing, there is crucial evidence on your person.
2) Call 911 or your local emergency response right away. It is necessary to report the attack and have the formal charges brought against your abuser.
3) Go to the hospital and get a physical exam, which may require a Rape Kit. The hospital will document the attack, photograph and provide necessary medical care.
These 3 STEPS are difficult at best, I understand that, but they are necessary to prevent another attack and to allow for the victim to be provided the proper resources and intervention needed to help them recover. Please be a friend and help these homeland war heroes who endure vicious attacks every moment of every day right here in our own country. Thank you
©Patricia A. McKnight
Author: ‘My Justice’
Founder: Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery
Advocate/Speaker/Talk Radio Prod & Host/Survivor