Monthly Archives: December 2014

Is There a Holiday Spike in Domestic Violence?

Domestic Abuse

There are many factors involved in a victim’s decision whether to leave an abuser in a violent relationship – these include fear, threats of further violence, economic dependence on the abuser, patterns of power and abuse wired into the victim’s brain from the victim’s own childhood, etc.

Apparently, domestic violence shelters generally see an increase in activity around New Year’s Day. We can speculate as to the causes for this increase, such as the abuser’s efforts to keep it together for extended family and friends during the holidays and then resulting explosive reactions around New Year’s, as well as perhaps a victim’s perception of the inability to live another year with the abuse, and potential alcohol fueled violence.

Regardless, the fact remains that staff at shelters such as the District Alliance for Safe Housing in DC are doing amazing, difficult, and stressful work, to try to support victims and repair broken patterns running through society for generations.

Statistics about domestic abuse are staggering. It has been shown among other things that the second leading cause of death of women under age 50 in the U.S. is being killed by a domestic partner. Here is a link to a number of statistics on this topic complied by the CDC: Data Sources. Facts about abuse are often kept hidden, covered up, and protected from public knowledge.

Statistics also show that when children witness domestic violence, even when the violence is not directed at them specifically, they become significantly more likely to repeat domestic violence relationships in their future. The violence between one’s parents is a trauma to the observing child that literally becomes programmed into the architecture of that child’s developing brain.

Take a look at this informative article in The Atlantic.

Kennedy Forum Illinois Addresses the Impact of Trauma on Mental Illness

Kennedy Forum Illinois at City Club of Chicago
Patrick J. Kennedy

The Kennedy Forum Illinois, formed by Chicago business leader Peter O’Brien, brought together educators, mental health professionals, advocates, and lawmakers last month to address issues relating to the importance of recognizing and treating mental health issues. O’Brien and his wife Mimi, who lost a son to mental illness, believe and advocate for the importance of de-stigmatizing mental illness so that earlier discovery can lead to more effective treatment.

The Kennedy Forum Illinois was inspired by the Kennedy Forum, which was created by the son of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, to make mental health an essential component of healthcare through the implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008. Fifty-one years ago, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, the anniversary of which was commemorated last year with a big event held by the Kennedy Forum.

The thrust of these movements is to work toward eliminating the stigma of mental illness and the provision of effective treatment. Discussed during the Kennedy Illinois Forum last month were issues such as the prevalence of mental illness, including the fact that approximately 50 percent of us will have a diagnosable mental disorder in our lifetimes, the lack of treatment, as well as the impact of childhood trauma on mental illness.

Showing an understanding of the recent research on the effects of childhood trauma on the human brain, Kennedy spoke on the importance of prevention in his remarks to the crowd at last month’s forum. “The best way to treat mental illness is to prevent it,” he said, “and we do not have a prevention strategy in this country. Some mental illness is the result of people simply growing up in toxic environments where their brains are inalterably affected by the stress and trauma of growing up. . .” especially in cities plagued with violence.

The forum also included a panel discussion on children’s mental health including a discussion on the impact of toxins, trauma, and stress in utero on human mental health.

A number of notable people attended and/or presented at the conference on issues including depression, personality disorders, suicide, and the effects of murder on family mental health. This included dinner speaker Mariel Hemingway, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, among others.