Stress Kills

People – real children, adolescents,and adults with disabilities are dying by the hands of mothers, fathers, and trusted caregivers.

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!


We cannot stop the madness, however, without first having a conversation about a system failure. But that broken system may not be about what you think it is.

  • It is not about finding better treatment for disabilities. 
  • It is not about finding cures for disorders. 
  • It’s not even about finding better supports for the disabled.
  • It is certainly not about pity for caregivers.
Mental health and social supports for managing stress are missing or inadequate, especially in the United States, and that needs to change. 

Mismanaged stress is causing caregivers to kill their loved ones; it is not really about the victim at all.

“Care recipients may also be at risk for encountering abuse from caregivers when the recipients have pronounced need for assistance and when caregivers have pronounced levels of depression, ill health, and distress” (http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq/well-being.aspx).

Stress is not always a bad thing, despite public perception. A little bit of anxiety can actually improve performance, for instance. It is when stress hits a certain threshold that it becomes detrimental to our health. When stress becomes chronic our health and well-being are in trouble.
US culture ingrains that we should be autonomous – self reliant and sufficient. Add to this mess a stigma applied to mental health issues. US culture uses the word “stress” like we use ketchup – it’s applied to everything. But when someone is chronically stressed, the subject suddenly becomes taboo.
So what do we do? Do we continue to blame the victim – a very disturbing current media trend? Do we continue to blame the non-specific “system” for failing to prevent the murder? No, we need to take ownership of the problem – we ARE the system.
We (you and me) aren’t doing enough to learn how to manage stress and care for our own health.

Ineffective “sedentary behaviors like listening to music (48 percent), reading (40 percent) or watching television or movies for more than two hours per day (34 percent) are strategies used for managing stress” (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/02/stress-management.aspx).

“…caregivers are less likely to engage in preventive health behaviors than non-caregivers and thus neglect their own health” (http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq/well-being.aspx)

Health care professionals are not doing enough to help identify and treat those with chronic stress.

“Overall, 53 percent of Americans say they receive little to no support from their health care provider in managing their stress” (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/report-summary.aspx).

Health care insurers aren’t doing enough to ensure people have realistic access to care for managing stress. Some insurers are skirting the new Affordable Care Act’s Parity Laws (http://www.apapracticecentral.org/update/2011/03-31/parity-law.aspx).
And our country, as a whole, isn’t doing enough to ensure it’s people have access to social supports.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22824248).
It is time to change the conversation to one of which is about all of us. It is time to take ownership of our own stress as well as the “system” in which we all play a part.

Only then, will the madness cease.

How Not to Abuse the Abused

It’s my day off. I need to get away from this bleepity-beep computer. But more importantly, I need to write something about a situation I have been observing. It is a situation where people are locked in an endless battle because of impositions about how someone with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) should behave (feel, really) regarding a situation.

Imposing values or feelings on someone is a dangerous business if one wishes to maintain any semblance of a peaceful relationship. It is even more dangerous, however, when someone attempts to impose feelings or behaviors on a person with PTSD.

These are some rules I believe we should all attempt to live by in general, but especially when we are interacting with someone who has experienced trauma.

  1. We do not get to determine how someone should behave or feel regarding a situation.

    We get to try to control our own feelings and actions regarding a situation. We can never presume, however, what it feels like to be another person in that person’s situation. Applying our own logic, values, or feelings to the situation is passive-aggressive abuse of a person with PTSD.

  2. Winning an argument is unimportant.

    Every person subjectively views their world. Our memories are tainted by perspective and individual experience. It is a fallacy that there are “always two sides to every story.” There are actually as many sides to a story as there are people who tell it. There is no universal truth.

  3. If someone with PTSD feels harmed, apologize!

    Express real remorse. Even if we did not intentionally hurt the person, the person is hurting. Defending our actions based on principle is going to continue to hurt the other person. So even if we don’t fully comprehend how our original actions hurt someone, continuing to defend those actions are blatantly harmful.

  4. Helping someone with PTSD feel safe is the only thing that matters.

    People with PTSD live in a world that is viewed as threatening. Simple tasks most view as benign or take for granted are considered high-risk situations for the person with PTSD. For example, walking across a large parking lot, though does have some risk, is considered safe by most people. For someone with PTSD, this action can be viewed as an inherently dangerous act. Reassurance in the form of understanding and empathy helps – do it! Arguing that the situation is safe or benign is harmful – just don’t!

I truly don’t know if those who need to see this will. But it is good practice for all of us to follow. Perhaps this can even be applied to the political climates in the world. A little understanding and humility go a long way.