Friday, May 29, 2009

Depression & Violence

I believe that a lot of misery, particularly that associated with mental illness, is exacerbated by the codes of silence we wrap around these issues. That’s the reason I started this blog in the first place, and it came home to me very deeply when I received an email after the first blog appeared.
The email was from a young woman – you know who you are and your email touched my heart. She said her mother had suffered from depression for years and had taken her anger out on her daughter, to quote: “using me as her punching bag’.
We make a lot of allowances for someone we love who is ill. When a loved one is depressed, we put up with their lack of energy, constant misery, lack of enthusiasm, etc., because we love them and don’t want to make them feel worse.
Sure, anger is often a companion to depression, as it is to many other illnesses. Someone who’s depressed may feel frustrated with themselves and their life, and that frustration may spill over into anger at those around us – often the very people we lean heavily on for support when we are depressed. Depressed people often experience anger and irritability, but when that starts to take the form of violence, then it may be time to re-evaluate the diagnosis and consider some of the other mental health issues where the inability to control that anger and violence is a dominant factor.
A person who manifests violence against another needs treatment by a health care professional, possibly with drugs and definitely with counseling to root out the cause of the anger and to expiate it or learn other ways of coping rather than beating up on a spouse or making a child the innocent victim of rage.
It’s a known fact that living with someone who’s depressed increases the chances that you will become depressed, too. Children who grow up in abusive homes run more than the risk of physical harm – they have very high odds of developing depression, mental and emotional illness.
If you feel that your depression has, or may spill over into violence against those around you, please seek help. There’s no need to be ashamed if you are taking control of your feelings by getting medical advice and mental health counseling.
If you’re living with someone whose depression manifests itself in anger that frightens or hurts you, urge the person to seek help. Don’t put up with it and make excuses for your loved ones behavior – it’s not ‘normal’ and it’s not acceptable. In a household where this is occurring, children need to be protected.
And if you’re a young person who is being subjected to emotional or physical abuse by someone who’s supposed to be depressed, you’re not powerless. Seek help from another trusted adult, or go to your teacher or school nurse. A home should be a safe place for all the people in it.
Here are links to some articles that talk about depression & violence:

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