Thank You For Your Service

Have you ever had a stress reaction?

Have We Defined Stress Incorrectly?

Maybe our recent wars did not create an apocalypse for our nation, but we’re now facing some consequences of the wars. An apocalypse is ongoing for many of the residents of the Middle East but there is also significant distress among some people in our nation.

Some of that distress will be referred to as mental illness. I am not a huge fan of the medical model as it relates to mental and emotional functioning because I think there are often other more useful ways to look at some of the things that happen to us. We created the concept of mental health so that we could remove mental and emotional suffering from the hands of the church. It is no longer common to describe people as being possessed by the devil or demons. But sometimes viewing something as an illness is not useful either.

World War II Is Still With Us

Long before there was the currently popular Post Traumatic Stress Disorder we had war related stress problems but they were not diagnosed nor helped very effectively. We hear a great deal about PTSD currently. It almost sounds like it is a new problem.

I had a couple of awakenings in my practice over the years. In one instance a man came to see me about an ill-defined depression which had been nagging at him. We talked for several sessions until at last he said, “I think you need to meet my father”. His father had been a bomber pilot in World War II and had flown on both missions to destroy the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. In each attack they lost 90% of the planes. His father had passed survivor guilt on to his son.

In another instance I was dealing with a young Jewish woman. Again, we were getting nowhere until she asked to bring her grandmother in. Her grandmother was a survivor of the Aushwitz concentration camp and had passed on this heritage within the family.

More Recent Events

It should not surprise anyone that we have similar problems for people who served in Vietnam and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq and we will see what will be the outcome of the current troop withdrawals. The revelations have been ongoing. From time to time I have occasion to talk with veterans. In one instance when I told a man that reactions to this stress were essentially normal there were tears in his eyes. He was grateful and said, “I thought I was mentally ill.”

Normalizing the Experience

The military is beginning to work to drop the D from PTSD because calling it a disorder is serving as a bar to seeking help. People don’t like being called mentally ill. The fact is that the types of reactions we are seeing should be characterized as normal reactions to prolonged stress. Exactly how is a person to feel when they spend every day killing people and having people trying to kill them? Since we don’t have a draft we have sent people back for multiple tours of duty which is utterly irresponsible.

Thank You For Your Service

Yes, we should thank them for their service but we are too often not giving them service in return. I used an image of a homeless man on the street for this post because it exemplifies the service we are not giving. They should not be suffering. Too often the wait times for those seeking help is much too long and there should be no veterans homeless on the street.

We are failing to step up to our obligations. Politicians are threatening more war and few are really responding to and supporting the response to real need created by past wars. The fact is that there are understandable reactions to prolonged stress and they can be dealt with.

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Don’t Miss My Developing Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

I refer to it as a work of magical realism. It is a series with a strong mythological element and a real world setting in this time when women are being empowered at last. It is a time of wonder and awakening for all of humankind.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power – Book 1

Avery had dedicated her life to work for the future of third world women. Her life was enhanced when she met the man who became the love of her life. They could not know that they shared a destiny and that a mission set long ago by our Earth Goddess was to be revealed before 

them. 

Available Now in Kindle and Paperback on Amazon

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called

Gaia’s Majesty-Challenge: The Chosen Rise – Book 2

These people, called Tethyans, live in cities in the sea but can morph into fully human form and come to land to form families. They join with the warrior women called the Andromeda to fight against the forces working to impair the future of humankind. Avery has found her birth name of Chantia and she and Beck find there is soon to be a child of seeming great import just as the world falls into terrible strife with millions already dead. 

Available Now in Kindle and Paperback on Amazon

Orlando! The Meaning and Impact of Mental Illness IV

 

 

Dealing with Life

Each of us can be placed on dimensions of a set of behaviors and processes. When there is mental illness is a matter of dispute and fashion. When mental illness is defined, too often it is a function of funding and professional achievement. That sounds obscure, but think about it for a moment.

When community mental health blossomed, we learned, at least in inner city poverty, that poverty is stressful (seriously?) if not just plain overwhelming. The social workers were closest to the truth and saw our intervention as “case management”. People get depressed and anxious when they are overwhelmed and when we helped them manage their difficult lives they became less anxious and less depressed. In a poverty environment it is appropriate to be deeply concerned or even terrified regarding the future of your children.

The senior professionals above us wanted the grant money, the status and wanted to perpetuate the establishment. The young staff saw things very differently.

Guidance and Management

Through all my professional experiences I have come to see humans as functioning on a series of dimensions which instructs our personal development, defines, guides or disrupts our functioning. Stress exists and causes serious functional problems. Somewhere in there are biologically based issues and without a doubt most of us need guidance from time to time. And some people benefit from exploration of the self which they may find in some form of what is called insight therapy.

Sorting Out Reality 

Overall, I would like to see us dismiss the concept of mental illness entirely. We can focus on problems associated with biochemical processes when essential and detach severe reactions caused by trauma. It would take time to reformulate the field but we certainly could become more effective and husband our resources. Problem solving and management are basic parts of all human endeavors. What do you think would happen if we started to diagnose corporations or political candidates? I doubt there would be much approval by the objects of such activities.

What happened at Orlando was a terrible tragedy but also opened a door where we find the opportunity for reevaluation on a variety of fronts. I know I’m crying out in the wilderness because there is a huge investment of various kinds in maintaining the status quo. But I can dreams can’t I? There might be a world where we are honest with ourselves, where we can be more efficient and effective and accept our complexity and variety of potentials.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Orlando! The Meaning and Impact of Mental Illness III

 In the Private Sphere

The story is long and detailed and over the years I saw so many dysfunctions related to how the mental health field was constructed. In private practice later I had to confront the insurance industry. In the end they were successful in virtually destroying much of the “mental health” field. They required ever more serious diagnoses if they were to grant payment. Often my decisions as a doctoral level psychologist were at the mercy of someone with a two year general college degree.

Stepfamilies at Risk

In work with stepfamilies we recognized that they weren’t pathological but were stressed family units in flux. Families in deep crisis were coming into our practice and we learned that it was essential to stabilize the stepcouple. Insurance would pay for therapy for the stepmother (to them it seemed women were usually the focus if not the origin of the problem), or they would pay for therapy for a child. We saw the need to stabilize the couple and when they were out of crisis the children realized this was their new family and went from crisis to return to their friends and schoolwork. Using a couple’s focused episodic model we were able to stabilize these families in an average of just seven sessions. They weren’t pathological. They were suffering stress from a major life change and needed management help.

The insurance companies were willing to waste money on individual therapy for women and children if we would declare them “sick” enough but weren’t interested in functional work. Their number one goal was obstruction in the interest of profit.

Corporate Dysfunction

People in the field have to face inappropriate “mental health” and diagnosis problems along with a health care industry which is not highly functional. 

And so we come back to the myriad of issues in something like the attack in Orlando. A political system failed to help protect the citizens and we cannot know what the course of the perpetrator was. He probably began with much less serious concerns or impulses and moved on to an ever deepening and more complex crisis. If we had detailed information all along the way we would seen a series of effects and crises that would not lend themselves to a firm diagnosis. And therein lies the problem. We need a wholesale revision of our thinking, description and approach not to mention the system for availability of help for our citizens and dealing with corporate obstruction in the interest of profit.

Coping Versus Disease

As I’ve said before, emotional and cognitive disturbances were moved over to medicine so that we could remove the influence of the church. We no longer believe in demonic possession although at times it is tempting to believe there are demons in human affairs such as in this election.

It was good to remove the demons from our thinking but defining our mental and emotional variations as illnesses was also a mistake. Over time I’ve seen the fads and the missteps. When I was in graduate school I saw not one child who was termed autistic. I had heard they existed but never saw one. Now we have an “epidemic”.  And now we learn it may be related to the use of chemicals which find they way into our food. That makes it an environmental issue and not a mental health issue at all. We have a lot of sorting out to do.

To be continued.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt