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Mental Health and Generational Trauma 

By Melvin Hayden 

We do not often think of a mental illness as being passed down from one generation to the next. However, it is painfully obvious that mental illness has been identified as a sign believed to be a generational curse. Mental illness can manifest as depression or multiple personality disorder. We see mental illness in so many ways that it is often hard to determine what we are coping with until the person that needs help identifies that need.

Neuroscience and Bio-psychological research sees it as a malfunction in the brain and many Shaman leaders or religious believers see it as an awakening or demonic possession. However, mental disorders are considered to have a hereditary component to them from ages 8 - 10, but families also share environments and experiences in addition to their genes. Studies examining multi-generational mental health relationships have received greater attention in recent years, but from ages 11 - 17.

Mental illness experiences become dangerously close to trauma related experiences when undiagnosed. Mental illness can lead to mental health problems in adolescence and adulthood, but mild to moderate trauma could also have an unexpected upside for some survivors, making them better able to cope with stressful situations later in life. 

 

Previous research has shown that the behavioral effects of trauma can be passed down to the next generation — but this research had only demonstrated that this transmission takes place with trauma’s negative effects, such as depression. Now a study on mice, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that the adaptive benefits of trauma might also stay alive in families through the years.

However, I want you all to know that many people who have sought out the support of a therapist or mental health practitioner during the pandemic is a form of active coping.

Positive reframing occurs when someone turns a negative into a positive or finds the best in each situation. For instance, acknowledging that the pandemic has led you to learn a new skill you might not have otherwise acquired, instead of bemoaning the fact that you have been stuck in quarantine, is an example of a positive reframe.

Instrumental support refers to various types of help others may provide you — for instance, by offering financial assistance, childcare or housekeeping support.

Coping with stress or trauma through the comfort found in religious or spiritual practices is another effective way to manage Covid-19-induced anxiety. Acceptance is about not allowing ourselves to get caught up fighting against things that are out of our control and, instead, responding to change in a way that aligns with our values.

Not all coping strategies are associated with enhanced psychological resilience, however. The researchers report that planning, substance use, denial and venting cause more harm than good. They also report that self-distraction and humor neither induced a positive nor negative change in people’s mental health during the pandemic.

Resources

Carolyn Gregoire. How the Effects of Trauma Can Be Passed Down from One Generation to the Next.

Mark Traver. 5 Research-Backed Coping Strategies You Can Use to Ease the Stress of the Pandemic. Forbes Magazine.

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