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World Suicide Prevention Day: Maltreatment in childhood impacts mental health

Maltreatment in childhood and it impact on mental health in the growing years.

World Suicide Prevention Day: Maltreatment in childhood impacts mental health
Often, those who have suffered maltreatment in childhood have a higher probability of perpetrating the same behaviour towards their family or loved ones, in later life. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

All of us are well aware of one of our most ‘innate instinct’s’ to protect and care for children; courtesy of the amazing work of Darwin, Lorenz and recent research which almost confirms the biological basis of this response.

However, according to recent estimations by the WHO, abuse faced by children includes physical, sexual and emotional neglect. Adding to the pressure on already sensitive minds, are the spectres of bullying, parental discord, dysfunctional families, substance abuse, peer pressure, etc. Even more hauntingly 1 in 4 adults are likely to have suffered from some form of abuse in their childhood. Dr Kedar Tilwe Dr Kedar Tilwe, Psychiatrist and Sexologist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi- A Fortis Network Hospital highlights the consequences of maltreatment on the child’s mental health and solutions.

Consequences:

The memories, understanding and resulting response patterns that we develop as children; form the bedrock of our personality, expectations and the script according to which we choose to live our adult life. Consequently, both prolonged and brief exposure to adverse experiences in childhood can have a huge impact, and leave life-long emotional scars. They severely affect a person’s mental and psychological health and well-being.

Blaming oneself for the event or its repercussions can result in a negative self-image, lowered self-confidence, absent self-esteem and complete lack self-worth.

  • The shame, guilt and trauma of betrayal associated with the abuse, can lead to social isolation, inability to trust people and impede the formation of meaningful, fulfilling long term relationships
  • Sometimes, psychological coping mechanisms may be insufficient to deal with the stress and consequently result in a person resorting to rash and impulsive self-sabotaging behaviour such as substance abuse (e.g. Alcoholism), self-harm, anti-social behaviour, promiscuousness, etc.
  • There is an increased vulnerability for precipitation of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and personality disorders in such persons
  • Often, those who have suffered maltreatment in childhood have a higher probability of perpetrating the same behaviour towards their family or loved ones, in later life

Solution:

Not all people who suffer abuse as children have difficult adulthood; however, may persons continue to suffer silently under the burden of maltreatment. However, they must understand that they are not responsible for what happened, nor do they have to endure that anymore. Let’s look at some of the ways to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence:

  • Accept: Remind yourself that you were not responsible, and more importantly accept that you too have the right to a full and happy life
  • Channelise: Re-directing your anger towards a more socially acceptable cause or activity is perhaps the most constructive way to deal with it. To harness all that negative energy and put it into something you enjoy doing
  • Reach out: You don’t have to suffer alone; enlist your support system and include them in your recovery process allowing them to help you in any way they can
  • Professional Advice: Seeking guidance from an individual, expert, or an accredited organisation can provide you with a non-judgmental, secure base and comfort zone, which is often necessary to allow you to heal. Learning essential life-skills and coping techniques can hasten the recovery
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