Having a Relative with Mental Illness: Beyond the Traditional Definition of Trauma
Avi Sanders & Kate Szymanski
The goal of this chapter is to propose that the experience of having a relative with mental illness qualifies as a form of trauma. We will examine two different definitions of trauma that seem to capture the traumatic nature of this event: the traditional definition of a traumatic event as it is defined by the American Psychiatric Association, and secondary trauma. Approaching this task with alternative definitions is warranted since narratives of trauma are rich and unique by nature; thus calling for a flexible theoretical framework that can capture the subtleties and nuances of each individual story. We propose that altered beliefs about the self and others, sense of isolation, shame, guilt, and hopelessness, all support our hypothesis that mental illness is a traumatic event not only for those diagnosed with it but also for their relatives.
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