My understanding of genetics now suggests that genes are like a switch. In the case of something like depression or PTSD, therefore, the gene marking for these still needs environmental influence to turn that switch on.
In my own life, for example, the environmental impacts of trauma, along with the bullying, excommunication of stigma, loss of meaningful work, and now an experience of living in abject poverty, ignites in me Depression, PTSD, and Substance Use Disorder.
The response when I reached out for help hit me with what we're coining as, "Sanctuary Trauma" to go along with all the rest of the trauma I experienced as a paramedic for 16 years.
Add to the mix the reality of a somewhat dysfunctional childhood, and I believe all considered contributed to my own mental health demise.
It's said there are things we can and can not change or influence. While we may one day be able to 'fix' or 'change' such things at the level of genes, if we've used that as an out from dealing with the other environmentally influenced issues that will trigger any mental illness in those of us genetically vulnerable:
We've done little except to do what we've always done, which is to allow ourselves to continue to ask only those questions that few can do anything about.
I can't change my genetics. Regardless of effort, I can't change the additional trauma that came and continues to be delivered from reaching out for sanctuary and receiving nothing but more pain to go on top of the rest.
I can't persuade systems to change either. I've near given up now finally on ever hoping to do that. Collectively the folks I'm networked with and I have at least now been somewhat heard. But knowing what we know, the constant worry over others in regards to the reality of suicide, is making us still feel a certain amount of continued frustration as we see change coming far too slowly based on what we've all learned the hard way.
We know precisely what needs now to be done based upon what we, ourselves, did not receive. Employers and Government Systems continue to not call on us, in our estimation, nearly enough to have us feel secure in knowing now that others do, in fact, have the ball and will run with it to the finish.
These systems are dug in, and they can't seem to accept personal responsibility (at the level of humans working in systems) for any harms that might be imposed on anyone.
Reality One: It is what it is.
What can I do?
I Advocate. I can work to change my response to the traumas I've suffered. I can change the story of trauma in my life to one more meaningful and more helpful.
I do these things.
Unfortunately, frustration persists.
This world loves a quick fix. So do I still on some level. What the medical community still too often suggests is: When we can fix the gene, thereby we will tackle Mental Illness.
I find it highly doubtful that such an approach will prove most helpful.
There is not one singular solution to combating mental illness. This is something too we in my network have all had to learn the hard way. If ever anyone offers up any one solution as a cure, we choose to run the other way, having been disappointed with such offers, time-and-time-again.
As helpful as meds are? It seems that in Primary Care there's now a pill for everything.
When in the case of mental illnesses, given the right response to such illness from the environments in which we live (all of society) there's something key that gets near consistently and constantly overlooked:
Reality Two: Research questions, as needed as these questions are as means to formulate an over-all explanation, tend to stamp out the fact that psychological traumatization often lies at the root of practically every mental illness in the book.
I write this in response to some news coming out today on genetics research from 'One Mind for Research' in the U.S. and The Baltimore Sun.
Laura Kerr, PhD can speak to this issue far better than I:
"(As we research genetic causation) I would like to suggest an additional explanation for the increase in mental illness: The upsurge is the result of the collective failure to alleviate conditions that contribute to trauma-related stress.
I also believe the mental health field has stood in the way of people overcoming mental illness and returning to growth-centered lives. In particular, models of mental illness as chronic, genetic-based disorders gives us the sense that we are reaching the origins of our suffering — that is to say, the genes we inherited — when in actuality, we risk denying the traumatizing conditions in which many of us grew up or continue to live.
Although a diagnosis and medications may provide temporary relief, they may also cause (us) to evade making the challenging changes that are necessary for moving into an emotionally sustainable future."
~ Laura K. Kerr, PhD
For me today, this is where I stand on understanding mental illnesses in regards to genetics:
Genetics is PART of the explanation.
Genetics is not the explanation itself.
We need to be bold, moving forward, and I continue to hope that one day these illnesses will be as normalized as part of the human experience as physical illnesses are today.
What we most need now is a shift in leadership that shows change as a model to the rest of society.
I think we can all agree, change in approach to dealing with mental illness in North American Society is now understood as becoming increasingly necessary.
Such change begins with development and implementation of quality public policy. Answers come in research from learning to ask ourselves all the right, collective questions.
"It's Not Only Morally Wrong: It's Economically Stupid For Governments to NOT Put Mental Health on the same tier as Physical Health".
~ British MP, Norman Lamb
Genetics Research might well be part of this elevation of mental health to the same tier as physical health. When conducting such research we need to be sure we ask more than one question.
Darren Gregory-The Trauma Recovery Blog
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2017. All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.