By Marvin Ross
I just read an excellent article in Psychology Today called Schizophrenia and Trauma: My parents did a great job, I still developed schizophrenia I highly recommend the article and it has spurred me on to refute once again the nonsense of trauma causing serious mental illness. Trauma is actually something that the parents and the families of those who are ill suffer with.
David has touched on this a couple of times and stated that
“People with psychotic illness do not need someone probing the wells of their psychic discomfort; they do not need (no matter how well-intended) a therapist scouring their childhood memories in search of an unhealed wound. They need support, safety, security, grounding, and satisfying routine before they can get better. And good medical treatment.”
That actually happened to the person who wrote the article I recommended.
I also recommend a second blog that he did when he was criticized for his view that trauma does not cause serious mental illness.
Another recent good article on the topic just appeared in a UK paper by Alastair Kemp and Ruth Hunt called the Traumatic Power Struggle Within Mental Health. They argue that ideological differences are being used to cut services. If the problem is simply trauma and not biological then the sick need to take responsibility for their problems and their failure to get well. If they don’t, why give them government supports?.
Another good paper is by Dr Boris Vatel, a psychiatrist at the Indiana State Hospital in Evansville, IN called Unmasking trauma-informed care which appeared in Current Psychiatry Archives, October 9, 2015. He points out that:
trauma-informed care has no language for dividing pathology from normality and because everyone’s experience and pain are seen as equally “valid,” trauma-informed care actually trivializes severe trauma by placing it on par with experiences that objectively would be classified as merely unpleasant.
Now, if trauma causes serious mental illness, then I should have schizophrenia.
I grew up in Toronto as the child of poor, working class, Jewish immigrants at a time when Toronto was not the tolerant wonderful multi-cultural city it is today. Then, my father died when I was 10 and I had a number of serious medical problems. I remember my uncle taking me to a synagogue, introducing me to the sextant and telling me that he would look after me while I was there. I actually thought I was going to be living in the synagogue with this garlic smelling guy with the numbers tattooed on his arm. That was traumatic.
It turned out that I did not have to live there but no one told me that I would have to go to morning and evening prayers for a year to say the mourners prayer instead of playing with my friends (traumatic). The Rabbi partly saved me by telling me I did not have to come for morning prayers.
Allow me to look at all the people with schizophrenia and/or their families whose books I’ve published.
I am not so naive that I do not believe that prosperous, educated people do not abuse their kids or that their kids cannot suffer trauma but there was no trauma in these cases.
Susan Inman in Vancouver wrote After Her Brain Broke about her experiences with her daughter who developed schizophrenia. Susan was a teacher and her husband a university professor and there are no signs in her book that her daughter suffered any trauma. What was traumatizing for her daughter and for the family was the counselor they hired to help her daughter. The counselor was one of those who believed in the trauma theory, grilled the young lady on potential traumas she may have experienced and even set back the proper treatment by her actions.
Sandra Yuen MacKay (My Schizophrenic Life) developed schizophrenia at a fairly young age despite being in what seems to have been a loving Chinese-Canadian family. Her father was an architect and Sandra has gone on to become a very successful artist. She is the winner of the Courage to Come Back Award in Vancouver, one of the faces of mental illness in Canada, and exhibits her work in the Vancouver area. No signs of trauma.
Erin Hawkes-Emiru (When Quietness Came) came from the Maritimes and became sick while a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Her mother is a librarian and her father a university professor with the only signs of trauma being the trauma to Erin of having difficulty finding a medication that worked for her in her adventures with horrible psychosis from Dalhousie University to the University of British Columbia. I lost count of the number of times the police had to wrestle her into ambulances for another trip to the isolation ward.
Erin’s doctors finally found an anti-psychotic that worked; she completed her masters in neuroscience, is a peer counselor in Vancouver and speaks to conferences of families, doctors, nurses and others. She too is a Courage to Come Back winner.
The late Dr Carolyn Dobbins (What A Life Can Be) spent a childhood engaged in sports and was about to qualify for the US Ski Team at Lake Placid when she became ill. Carolyn did manage to get her PhD in psychology from Vanderbilt despite her illness and was a successful counselor for many years. She grew up initially in Colorado but then her family moved to Knoxville where her father was a practicing pediatrician. A childhood friend, Dave Kopel, wrote an extensive review of her book in his blog at the Washington Post
Carolyn mentions no trauma whatsoever in her childhood other than the trauma of her disease that severely impacted her life. Unfortunately, she passed away early but she lives on in her book which is still very popular.
There was also no trauma in the life of Sakeenah Francis (Loves All That Makes Sense) other than being African American in a racist society. Her parents were educated citizens in Cleveland and Sakeenah attended an African American University where she met and married her husband. It was after she married that she developed schizophrenia. She and her mother had differences when she was growing up but so do many people who did not develop an illness. Her family was incredibly supportive as so many families are. She was able to return the favour by helping look after her father when he developed Alzheimer’s.
The one person with schizophrenia whose story I’ve published is Paul Flannery (Shot in the Head) whose story and the history of the family was written by his sister. Paul developed schizophrenia in his mid-teens and never properly recovered for a host of reasons. This very large Irish American family was highly supportive and there is no indication of any severe trauma that might have triggered the disease as the trauma proponents claim. Paul’s twin did not develop the condition even though there is a high likelihood that twins will.
My own personal experiences also disprove the trauma theory but I have to comment on one of the stupid suggestions we got from a social worker and psychologist before the proper diagnoses. Seems my son was suffering from being in a family where there was too much love. We were stunned by that comment and still are today. And my son has told me how happy his childhood was. The day we were told the too much love story, my son admitted in the session that he had been using a lot of marijuana. As David pointed out in his blog “Involve Parents”, this is not unusual. Our son told us that we were pretty stupid not to have noticed and pointed out how he always cleared out the fridge when he got home from being out with friends.
Earlier this week, I met with the Alzheimer’s patient I am power of attorney for and with his new doctor. No one ever mentions trauma as a cause of Alzheimer’s which, like schizophrenia, is a disorder of the brain but with no therapeutic options unlike schizophrenia. As with schizophrenia, signs of paranoia are creeping into his symptoms.
The vast majority of parents stand by and support their kids and endure tremendous stress and often cost while doing so. As an example, when I was involved with the local chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, we had an annual golf day put on for us by the National Hockey League Old Timers. They were an incredible bunch of generous characters. One of our members, a fairly elderly woman, would stand at the 1st tee all day to lecture each foursome on schizophrenia and the importance of supporting us. It was a very hot day and she did not move to so much as get a drink or to pee for fear of missing a foursome.
Isn’t it about time we put this stupid theory into the garbage where it belongs.