It hit me hardest this past week as I watched the news and began to imagine how the healing of the three girls who were abducted would unfold. So much has been shared about it, how teams of specialists have moved in quickly to provide, safety, privacy and mental health clinicians. I don’t want to be negative or leery but I guess I am. I know from both personal and professional experience that trauma of this sort takes way more than a team of experts. Those traumatized young women and their families have a long, long road ahead of them. The journey will be agonizingly hard and painful. It will take many leaps of faith and perhaps moments of helplessness, guilt, perhaps an urge to run away from both the interpersonal pain and the helplessness that comes with watching this type of pain and agony.
So how are families to help loved ones who are often tortured by their mental illness? How do we help the people who long to see the healing journey through but can barely get themselves up off their knees?
First we have to understand what the person in pain needs because many of us don’t and the reasons for this are too numerous to explain here in this blog entry. One of the things that Hillary Clinton spoke of during her presidential campaign in 2007 set off a bell in my head, “I still believe it takes a village to raise a child.” … I didn’t believe she meant just on the campaign trail.
I believe that it also takes a village to get through the challenge of mental illness.
Watching pain is not for the faint of heart and many disorders are chronic—PTSD can be chronic, eating disorders and addiction will always need to be monitored and the biologically based disorders like bi-polar disorder, depressive disorders, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, etc. are very often here to stay, sensitive to medication failures and the general ups and that tend to arrive with regularity.
I am not trying to paint a negative picture but to offer one that is colored with reality. These disorders are not ones that are brought on by the sufferer, they are disorders of biology and tragic circumstances. We need to understand. We need to build a village. We need to teach people how to build one.