Labels and Words of Healing

Jessica Eaton is an independent writer, speaker and researcher in sexual violence, forensic psychology and mental health.

In her blog post, “I’m Here to Call Out the Psychiatric Diagnosis of Victims of Sexual Abuse and Violence,” she challenges the trend toward diagnosing victims, saying that is it “time to stop the practice of diagnosing humans with psychiatric labels and allow them to naturally experience distress, trauma and shock when they are abused and violated by another human being.” Here’s one aspect of her very important challenge to health-care professionals as well as those who have been diagnosed:

“Instead of saying: ‘You are showing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. That’s why you are feeling like this. Not the abuse. You have a personality disorder. Here are some pills that will mask the feelings.’

“Why can’t we simply say: ‘You have seen and experienced things that have changed your life. Those people hurt you and they have scared you. They have changed the way you react to certain environments and feelings. They have heightened your senses and your emotions. And you know what? That’s totally normal and totally understandable. You are entitled to respond like this. Is there anything I can do to help you to cope with these feelings and thoughts? What do you need right now? What helps and what hinders you?’”

These are important ideas – and it is an important challenge – for anyone who been diagnosed with a mental illness subsequent to abuse. How do you define yourself? How do you address your symptoms?

For those who offer diagnoses in good faith and for those supporting people with mental-illness diagnoses, similar questions are posed for you. Is this label how you are consciously or unconsciously defining this person, whom God has wondrously made? What words are you using when you interact with symptomatic behavior? Are they words the Lord would use for his beloved child?

For more about Jessica Eaton’s work, you can visit her thought-provoking blog

This article first appeared in the May 2017 issue, which may be viewed in full here.

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