Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.
Today, I went to a workshop at Penn State about working with traumatized children, especially sexually abused children age 3 and up, along with their non-offending parents. The presenter, a well-spoken and personable researcher and practitioner, developed methods which are much like my own and those of many psychologists who work with cognitive-behavioral methods.
What I sometimes forget is that the abused aren't just the people we see in the office. She stated that one in four people has been sexually abused and more have been physically or verbally abused or bullied. They are all around us. Most people don't even report the abuse and are never treated for post-traumatic stress. Some people may survive well, due to unusal resislience or great auxiliary support. Some people suffer phobias, panic attacls. depression, lack of self-respect, poor concentration and underachievement throughout their lives. Many people disguise their shame, fear and anxiety and depression behind substance abuse, false bravado, obesity and eating disorders and a wide variety of compulsive behaviors.
You wouldn't normally think of asking a friend or even a relative whether or not he/she has been sexually abused, for example, but wouldn't it be good if we could talk about such traumas openly and offer people support? Think of the lifetime of silent suffering a person wouldn't have to endure, if she/he just could "come out" and get help without societal embarrassment.
If you find out or suspect that someone you know has been or, worse, is being abused, please say that it's common and show acceptance, nonjudgemental caring and say there's help. See if you can steer the person and/or family to a mental health agency, or, at least a professional in a school or religious organization.
Professionals can help the abused person and family be safe, learn to relax, understand and handle feelingsbetter, understand and process thinking without distortions, face their trauma with dignity and perspective, overcome anxious situations, communicate well within the family, and learn to protect herself/himself in the future in a healthy way.