We hear a lot about mental health “awareness.”
Specifically, we hear a lot about the importance of being “aware” of the consequences— personal and social— of abuse, neglect, and violence.
It’s my experience that many trauma survivors have kind of a bittersweet relationship with these “awareness” campaigns.
It’s hard to make the case that many people in our culture aren’t “aware” that bad, traumatic things happen to humans.
But that “awareness” often doesn’t translate into compassion, credibility, or accessibility to resources for survivors.
It’s as if the culture is quite “aware” of trauma— but doesn’t particularly give a sh*t.
Ironically, this can spike a particular reaction in trauma survivors. It triggers a feeling we know all too well: that we’re not important enough to bother with.
One of the most common experiences of trauma survivors is feeling visible— but unimportant.
It’d almost be EASIER to feel invisible.
It’d be almost better if our culture WASN’T acutely aware of the prevalence and consequences of trauma.
But the truth is, we see it all around us.
We see it on the news. And we see it in real life, too.
Literally everybody reading this has experienced trauma, or knows someone who has.
It’s NOT that we are not “aware” that trauma exists— and I don’t think we have all THAT many illusions about how prevalent and devastating it can be.
We just don’t want to do anything about it.
When people come forward with their stories, we don’t want to prioritize them.
When people are open about their trauma-based symptoms, we often tell them they’re being “dramatic” or “seeking attention.”
It’s as if our culture will do ANYTHING from being honest about and responsive to the fact that trauma occurs.
But we do love a good “awareness” campaign, don’t we.
We do love pretending that “awareness” can change things on its own.
There are even some therapy techniques that suppose once we become “aware” of certain things— usually things that have been tucked away in the “unconscious mind”— that the work of therapy is largely accomplished.
Show of hands: who reading this has ever been MORE than aware of a problem, MORE than aware of the EXACT dimensions of the problem and its origin…and yet NOT had the tools, skills, or resources to actually DO what needs to be done about the problem?
(This is why, for as respectful as I am of psychodynamic theory’s contribution to the therapy world, I will never consider psychodynamic insight to be the end-all, be-all of therapy work.)
Speaking for myself, I’m sick of awareness campaigns.
If our culture is going to say it cares about abuse, neglect, sexual violence, and other trauma, it needs to walk its talk.
Survivors need compassion, not public service announcements.
Survivors need to be believed and respected, not used as talking points in “culture war” discourse.
Survivors need access to resources like specialized therapy, paid medical leave, specialty inpatient treatment, and case management, not f*cking colored bracelets showcasing the wearer’s “awareness.”
Our cultural institutions, like governments and insurance companies, LOVE to talk about awareness.
But we survivors in recovery every day have no choice but to WALK that talk.
We’d love some actual help.