Category Archives: MENTAL HEALTH

PTSD AND NIGHTMARES

 

It’s November 21st at 3:44 PM. I’m having kind of a bad PTSD day. 

It’s been a while (although not long enough)since my sleep has been burdened by hours upon hours of nightmares. 

Last night I slept six solid hours. The entire time I was trapped in agony. I woke at 4:00 AM and clung to my husband whilst attempting to make sense of my world. Sometimes I awaken-and it feels like I’m still in a nightmare. Intellectually, (because I know a lot about trauma brain) I understand I’m awake, but that understanding is battling the part of my brain that is telling me I’m in danger. I ground myself by grabbing my husband or my dog. It’s like I’m literally clinging to the present because my brain is telling me to run for my life or fight…but I’m touching my dog and she’s  reinforcing reality by orienting me. 



I always think of people who are battling PTSD without any education about it. I have hundreds of hours of research and education about it; yet there are times I want to blow my brains out. When people tell me “I hate it! I just want it to stop!” I say “I know.” But they probably don’t understand that I KNOW!
 

In paying close attention to myself, I’ve learned something new: If I have nightmares all night-> I’m going to be triggered upon wakening + primed for panic throughout the day. That means I’ll be easily activated.

3prime

: to make (someone) ready to do something

: to make (something) ready for use

: to cover (a surface) with special paint in order to prepare it for the final layer of paint

Full Definition

transitive verb

1 : fill, load

2 a : to prepare for firing by supplying with priming 

I woke from the first nightmare, grabbed my cell phone and played scrabble, scrolled Instagram and Facebook and online window shopped until I found sleep again…when I did, more nightmares came. Nightmares upon nightmares.

 

One dream was about domestic violence: Every time I left the house I’d see a man come out of no where and attack this woman. I don’t know if they were married, but clearly her goal was to escape him. He’d do the same thing every time-Storm toward her,grab her,dig his right hand into her skull so that his four fingers went beneath the skin..then he’d drag her off like a bowling ball while she screamed in agony. Observers on the street were yelling “Someone help her!”  I took flight. The last time he grabbed her, he didn’t drag her off right away. I knew he was going to kill her. I ran while trying to call 911 on my cell phone. He was killing her and I knew I would be next as well as others in the vicinity. I yelled my husbands name really loud and that woke me. I actually yelled for him in my dream and in real life.


What was that dream about? I was in a violent relationship in the past, but I don’t think that’s key. I need to look at my world to see if there is something happening  giving me the emotions I experienced in my dream. Fear.

The other night I dreamt I was in a horrible car wreck and dying. I’ve been in multiple vehicle accidents. I even thought I was dead once after being rear ended. But again, I don’t think the dream was about reliving an accident. Rather, it was about the associated emotion. Fear. 
 

Following a nightmare-I try to soothe myself until I cannot keep my eyes open any longer. I’m avoiding sleep at the moment. Sometimes I think the dream will continue or another nightmare will start if I return to sleep. Other times I cannot sleep because I’m amped from thee burst of adrenaline.

I have a drawer full of Xanax that I can use, but I don’t like taking them. I know they’re there if I cannot regulate my heartbeat. Sometimes the emotions from my dreams linger all day. When that happens, I stay on my property.  


I ground myself by (1) petting my dog after she wakes me up. (2) go on Facebook and Instagram. I usually find funny things on Facebook. I post things and banter. Things on Instagram make me laugh pretty hard and looking at animal pictures make me smile. (3) I work on my blog of (4) I get up and do things with my animals or garden. 

Trauma Related Resources

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The link below includes many trauma related resources including the article, “Rape Trauma Syndrome:The Journey to Healing Belongs to Everyone.”
Trauma resources are available on the following topics:
Addiction
Adoption
Auto Accidents
Chaplain/Police/EMTs
Childhood and Adult Sexual Victimization
Compassion Fatigue
Culture/Race/Ethnicity
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Grief
Journalist, Survivors and the Media
Male Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence
PTSD Treatment and Recovery
Partners and Families
PTSD and Health
PTSD and Workplace Issues
Resiliency
School Disasters
Spirituality and Trauma
Survivor Guilt
Trauma Responses in the Aftermath of Disasters
Veterans and Their Families

http://PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caretakers

Cigarettes Cheaper: life lessons in the line of duty

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In 1995 I worked for an enterprise called, Cheaper: a gas station, grocery /liquor store establishment.
I was one of two woman employed there with six men. The company was a chain. Cheaper isn’t around any longer. Either they changed their name or a company called Tower Mart bought them out; because all the former Cheaper locations are now Tower Mart.

I was 24 years old when I interviewed and was subsequently hired by Cheaper. I completed a pre-employment drug test during the hiring process. The drug test was a hair test and the company sent a person to my home to collect the hair sample. I considered the entire process very peculiar.

I don’t think the drug test was completed because when I was 24 years old I smoked marijuana like the dickens. Although, I hadn’t smoked for approximately six weeks before submitting to drug testing; the gentleman who was sent to gather the hair sample told me the company preferred hair tests because it shows what a person has had in their system for six to eight months.

I worked at the Cheaper located on the corner of Madison Avenue and Jackson street in Sacramento, California. The manager there was, Robbie. Robbie was a six foot tall, balding, olive skinned man who had zero teeth and walked with a limp.
I see Robbie every now and again. He works at a local post office, wears a wig and false teeth.

I worked with a man named Dan. Dan was a bigot. He called me “BB,” which stood for black bitch; he called my friend names like Nancy or Susan because he is gay. In addition to being a bigot, Dan was also a chauvinist…which isn’t shocking. Chauvinism and bigotry often go hand in hand.

One co-worker named Sid worked in the freezer; yet was always sweating. I was naive then and didn’t know much about drugs (except Maryjane). I learned Sid was in the freezer for hours, sweating, because he was high on amphetamines.

John was an interesting bloke. White male in his late 30s. John was married to a Latina woman and they had seven children. He was handsome as long as he wasn’t talking. The things he said were off-putting and so were his six or seven missing teeth.
Teeth: a theme in the area where I worked. There were droves of people with missing teeth; missing limbs; many gays and lesbians and drug users/abusers.
John flirted with everyone and had sex with them too. Or rather he told tales about the way he seduced female customers.
His sex tales appeared to be non-fiction; evidenced by the way certain lady customers looked for him and by the way his girthy wife came in looking for him; called looking for him and made a scene in the store once or twice having to be subdued by our armed security guard.
John didn’t bother me much. He teased me a little here and there.

I worked with a man named Tom who was a very short (Danny DeVito); older white male in his early fifties. Tom was preoccupied with large breasts and perhaps pretending to be heterosexual. Tom was not a nice person. He was mean spirited. The type of mean exhibited by people who are miserable with themselves and therefore strove to make others miserable.

I met a good friend of mine while working at Cheaper. George, a larger than life Italian (gay) stallion. We had a lot of fun working and endured Dan’s abuse together. We are still friends and see each other regularly.

I rarely saw Maria, my female cohort. Maria was a plump, five foot tall woman in her late forties. She was quiet and jittery.

And then there was Harland.
Harland liked to fondle me when I was tasked to stock shelves. He’d put his arm around my shoulder and rest his hand on my breast. Usually my right breast. The first time I thought his hand landed on my breast by accident.
Harland was a married white male who was six ft three and in his late 60’s. I initially gave him the benefit of doubt; but found he would lurk (only God knows where) waiting for me to stock shelves. Once I stepped from behind my cash register and entered one of the aisles, Harland would swoop upon me like a hawk.

At that age, 24, I suspected there were consequences to snitching. I told my boss, Robbie on him. My boss appeared stressed by my disclosure, but said he would talk to Harland.

This is where I learned, as a WOMAN, sometimes standing up for HERSELF yields additional battles; leads to questioning HERSELF and affects HER core. It also leads to HER having to decide whether SHE is worth the fight.

Several days after telling my manager about Harland;I received a call on my day off. From that call I learned my supervisor, Robbie,had been transferred to a different location and replaced by Tom. It was Tom who phoned me on my day off to say, “It seems like you don’t want to work here anymore. So you don’t need to come in anymore.”
When I asked him to explain, he just repeated the same two sentences in a stepford/robotic manner.

I called headquarters. The person who answered the phone knew me and spoke to me as if he’d known me; like he’s been watching me for years. It was alarming and creepy.
I was speaking to one of the owners. The man pretty much reiterated what the new manager, Tom, relayed. In a nutshell. I was being fired. I wanted him to come out and say I was fired but he would not. The onus was placed on me. I was the one who didn’t want to work there anymore. The sense I got was: they had a zero tolerance policy for snitching…on pervs.

I saw Harland numerous times after cheaper released me. Usually in other grocery stores. My impulse was to evade him (obviously). Sometimes I couldn’t escape him and he’d approach me to say hello. I would just look at him. I couldn’t get away from him. He would block my path. The first time I ran into him; he smiled and said,”It’s ok. I understand. I’m not mad at you.” I knew he was referring to my reporting him for touching me inappropriately.
In that moment I understood he was a predator and wondered how many victims he’d accumulated during his lifetime.

After being released from Cheaper, I retained a lawyer. Eighteen months later I stopped fighting. It’s exhausting to fight when you are the one wronged.

Every time I don’t stand up for myself I think about where I would be if people never took a stand; if there was never a civil rights movement; if I could not vote; if I couldn’t marry who I wanted…
Ironically, as a social worker, I take a stand, advocate and help others routinely.

I worked for cheaper nearly three years. It was an eye opening experience. While working there I was called “nigger” for the first time in my life(to my face) by a mentally Ill woman who looked like she escaped an institution. She looked wild!! She appeared to be in her thirties and was in the store with her mother who apologized for her daughter, explaining,”She was raped by a black man.”
Cheaper was packed during this woman’s outburst. The wild woman ran up to me, pointed her finger in my face and screamed “NIGGER!!” as loud as she could, several times, until her mother approached wrapping her arms around her daughter to calm her.
The wild woman dropped to the ground and started crying. All eyes were on me. I saw a black man in line and wondered why the wild woman included me in her rage and not him. Either way; chin up and back to work I went.

Also, while working at cheaper I had been hit on by many, many, many people. One evening I was in an aisle and a woman approached me from behind. She violated the law of personal space as I felt her enormous breasts upon my back. She whispered, lips brushing against my ear,”Let me just fuck you one time.” I turned slowly to face her. Slow and steady to avoid provoking an attack; and said,”No thank you.”

There was another woman who came in nightly; and nightly she invited me to come over for a cocktail (minus the cock) after work.

The men were very complimentary. One day a man told me,”You’re awful pretty for a colored girl. Usually they have big lips and look like monkeys.” I thanked him. The customers always right.

Life. You may as well prevail; the lessons aren’t going to stop.

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CONNECTED: The Prodigal Son, chapter 3

woman, mother, wife, therapist, blogger, enlightener, AVENGER

[originally posted 5/2015]

My first born turned 27 years old this year. He stands six foot; three inches tall and his skin color varies with the season. He is a handsome man: half of me and half his father who is Mexican. He is his fathers son despite my bestowing upon him a name I hoped would shape him. A name that means, god•man.

He wears the features of his sire: same face, same expressions and if you read about my domestic violence history with my ex-husband; you will understand when I say; my sons temperament and lack of insight rivals that of his fathers. 

He was never arrested as a juvenile, but he did have interaction with the police. I’m going to wager he had more dealings with the law than what was brought to my attention. 

As a youth, he was in fights often. It wasn’t that he initiated combat; he just loved being where there was drama and excitement, which is where trouble typically lurks. Thus, he was associated with trouble and trouble became his reputation. His mark preceded him and his siblings. The Lopez kids. Teachers, principles, students knew them all, because they all knew my first born.

In school, he was in trouble regularly and I received a lot of phone calls from faculty. My son was brilliant; he had a lot of energy, and school bored him. He had trouble sitting still. Once or twice a month I would leave work to sit in his classroom. Of course he behaved while I was present. On one occasion, I was sitting in his 9th grade class and observed every student in the class out of control. The students did not know who I was, nor did they care; judging by the way they continued to act out, throw things and remain out of their seats. I was humored by my sons angelic behavior. I could tell he was usually part of the mayhem because the students were puzzled by his demeanor and repeatedly attempted to get him to engage. He just sat there; aware his mother was four seats behind him.

I was surprised when his teacher said, “See?! That’s what I’m talking about. He always does that.” She was referring to the way he tapped his pencil on the desk. I understood what she meant. He was restless. Some part of him was forever in motion.

His suspension record was lengthy and for a variety of infractions: fighting, cutting class, disrespect to faculty. I remember one of his high school principals called to inform me he was suspending my boy for calling him a “nigger.” It wasn’t quite like that, My boy said something to the effect of, ‘Why are you always on me nigga?’ which is still very much disrespectful, but different than a racist comment. Faculty did not care for my son. They watched him closely and suspended him whenever plausible and possible. He was suspended once for jaywalking. When school was out, my boy crossed the street while the light was red and was suspended. I had that suspension reversed.

His last suspension occurred when he was 18 years old; a high school senior. It was two weeks before graduation and the principal told me he did not want to suspend my boy, because if he did it would mean he wouldn’t be able to graduate with his class. My son and two other young men were caught with stolen yearbooks. The principal wanted my son to tell the truth about what he had done. Telling the truth and taking responsibility is something my son continues to struggle with. He never told the truth about stealing the yearbooks; even though a few were discovered in his backpack. The principal was saddened by this, but permitted him to graduate. The principal, a Latino man, said he did not feel right about holding my son back from graduating since the rate of high school dropouts continued to rise. His fear was my son would not return to finish, or if he did return he would continue accruing infractions and perhaps end up expelled. The principal did not want to chance it. So, we made it: made it into adulthood, made it through high school.

I spent a lot of time focused on my first born; which took attention away from my children who were doing well. I saw my eldest had the potential to do very well in life; or fail very well in life. He was failing. I tried to save him. I sought out the best high schools with the best athletic programs. First, I tightened my budget and put him in a private Christian School. We were not Religious and I didn’t know how I would pay for four years of private school, but my boy liked it. It wasn’t long before I started receiving calls from the school. My son had an issue wearing his uniform the way school policy required it to be worn. Either his shirt was untucked, he was sagging his pants or he took something that did not belong to him. After blatantly and constantly dismissing rules and authority, the school said my son could no longer attend. He lasted three months and cried when he was asked to leave.

I sent him to New York City to stay with my father for a while. My father works with young people. The thought was, my son would have a job with his grandfather; close guidance from a positive role model; he’d see different possibilities which would nurture the good in him. Instead, my boy did what he does. He looked past all the positive and found drug dealers to hang on the corner with. He was disrespectful to my father, which pained me, because my father tried to help him. My son was back home in two months.

After his return, I tried him in different charter schools but to no avail. The issues were always the same because he never changed. He was stuck. I received calls during grade school, throughout middle school and high school. Fighting, stealing and lying carried over into his adult life. There is a side of him that can be considered kind and giving. Perhaps the battle between his fathers genetics and my own.

His father is a sociopath. My son is the oldest and witnessed his fathers violence toward me and his siblings. For example, when I was eight months pregnant with my second son his father was beating me and trying to strangle me. I ran from the bedroom and grabbed the phone in the kitchen and called my mother for help. My then husband ripped the cord from the wall. He tackled me to the floor and drug me to a spot on the living room floor near the front door. He had me pinned to the floor and was gently speaking threats and disparaging remarks with a smile on his face as he sat on my my pregnant belly. When my mother arrived, he refused to get off me. My mother said,”I can see you sitting on her stomach through the opening of the curtain and you’d better get off of her. He did not. My mother threatened to use force. She’d brought her weapon. I screamed my sons name. He was four years old,  crying and rubbing his eyes with his little fists. I gently told him to open the door for his grandmother. My son walked passed his father who sat atop me; got a step stool, carried it to the  front door, stood on the stool and undid all the locks. As my son unlocked the door my husband released my wrists from his grip and sat up. He was sitting on my thighs and saw my pants had come off from being dragged along the carpet and said,”If I knew your pants were down I would have raped you.”

There were times my son would tell me what his father did to his siblings in my absence. He was a baby himself and I don’t believe he remembers; but I’m certain he remembers seeing his fathers abuse toward the girlfriends that came after me. I’m also certain the horrors he doesn’t remember, are singed into his subconscious and contributed to shaping the man he is today. That man is a lot like his father.  

When my son was a junior in high school, I was contacted by an enraged mother who told me my boy had grabbed her daughter and shook her. Apparently, my son had become jealous after seeing text messages from another boy in the girls cell phone. I empathized with the girls mother and apologized. I asked her how she wanted to handle the situation. She said she wanted the apology to come from my son, and she wanted him to stay away from her daughter “for now.”

I spoke to my son many times about how abusing women is wrong. He said he understood. I suggested many things he could do besides being abusive. I told him not to ever expect that I would side with him just because he is my son. I told him I believe people should be held accountable for their choices and actions. I said,”I will help you improve if you want to improve. That’s it.” He gave me a hug and said,”Thanks mom.” My boy did not give me many issues inside the home; aside from bullying his siblings, lying and taking things that did not belong to him. He was usually respectful to me and when in my presence.

My son relates to his paternal side of the family, lots of drama, machismo, lying, acceptance of disrespect to women and because I work in a prison I often wonder how my son would fare if incarcerated where the Mexicans and Blacks are at war. They kill one another. They are enemies. I wonder which side he’d choose; because he would need to choose. I thought,’the blacks wouldn’t trust him.’ He has LOPEZ tattooed across his chest in huge letters as well as tattoos I think he believes are cool; but are actually insignias for dangerous Latino gangs. Marks that might get him killed in prison. I can only hope he doesn’t place himself in that predicament.

knew it wasn’t good for children to live in a household where there was violence. It’s common sense; not rocket science. It was overwhelming for me as a young mother. I didn’t think I had the support or means to get my children to safety and maintain it. I was planning, but in the interim my children were being effected.
“Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development. Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way. Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Abusers typically play into this by putting the mother down in front of her children and telling them that their mother is “crazy” or “stupid” and that they do not have to listen to her. Seeing their mothers treated with enormous disrespect, teaches children that they can disrespect women the way their fathers do. Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They may replicate the violence they witnessed as children in their teen and adult relationships and parenting experiences. Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships. Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.”

http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html

When I did escape, it was a nightmare. I really do understand why some women stay, conform and keep their mouths shut.  For me, that was not an option. I didn’t want my daughter to think it was acceptable to be mistreated by a man. I didn’t want my sons to think it was normal; culturally acceptable to mistreat, abuse and/or devalue women.  

My son allies with his father; he’s been in fist fights with his father, uses drugs and alcohol with his father; they are amused by the harm caused to others; they have simpatico.  

Often, boys who witness their fathers abuse, either ally with the father or have the urge to protect their mothers. I counsel lots and lots of men who were once little boys who saw their mothers abused. As boys they felt helpless; unable to protect their mothers. and stand up for themselves. When men feel helpless, anger tends to be the ensuing emotion and young men aren’t very good at coping with emotions in general. These little boys grow into men who are sometimes violent toward other men, while worshipping women OR they become the ones who hate women and/or associate love with violence. {Of course there is grey area.}

I haven’t had much interaction with my first born for more than two years. A few years ago he was homeless and we invited him to live with us for a few months. My husband and I were invested in helping him get on his feet. He never quite landed. He has been terminated from many jobs because of poor work ethic, along with some of the same behaviors that kept him in trouble during his school years.

While at our house, he stole things. Although, stealing wasn’t his worst offense. I told him not to bring people to my house; he did. He was instructed not to drive our cars because his license was suspended, but he did anyway. We had to lock all the car keys in a safe. I told him, he was expected to stay sober in my home, but it wasn’t long before I suspected he was using drugs.  He began exhibiting odd behavior like sneaking out windows when he thought everyone was asleep. He was an adult; 24 years old. If he wanted to leave he simply could have walked out the front door. 

He was unpredictable and erratic. A recipe that did not mesh well with my PTSD. The last time he snuck out, I texted his cell-phone and after reading his bullshit reply about why he snuck out a window; rather than using the front door, I told him I couldn’t help him anymore. He was angry, but came to collect his belongings a couple days later. 

Roughly two weeks passed before he returned while no one was home; kicked in the garage door, entered the house and kicked in my bedroom door. He stole some of my jewelry. He didn’t take much. He just wanted to make a point. He felt angry with me and probably rejected. I kicked him out of the house when he was 18 years old and there were guys harassing my younger children because of things my eldest boy was associated with. I warned him over and over and over, before I told him he had to go. It was a difficult choice, but it had to be made. I made peace with the man he is and the choices and paths he chooses. I know it is not my job to enable him or fix him. He is 27 years old. He makes his choices and I make mine. I don’t want to be around unpredictable behavior when I’m not at work. Safety is very important to me. My first born makes me feel very unsafe. 

I had an acquaintance who gave me the nickname “History of Violence.” He said,”You’re quiet, but I know you have a violent history.” He meant I had the propensity toward violence. At least I thought that’s what he meant. Perhaps he saw through my vigilance and recognized some sort of survivor. Either way, he was correct.

 

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20027920

Antisocial personality disorder is a type of chronic mental condition in which a person’s ways of thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are dysfunctional — and destructive. People with antisocial personality disorder typically have no regard for right and wrong and often disregard the rights, wishes and feelings of others.

Those with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others either harshly or with callous indifference. They may often violate the law, landing in frequent trouble, yet they show no guilt or remorse. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. These characteristics typically make people with antisocial personality disorder unable to fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school.

Antisocial personality disorder signs and symptoms may include:

  • Disregard for right and wrong
  • Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or for sheer personal pleasure
  • Intense egocentrism, sense of superiority and exhibitionism
  • Recurring difficulties with the law
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others by the use of intimidation, dishonesty and misrepresentation
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, impulsiveness, aggression or violence
  • Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
  • Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behaviors
  • Poor or abusive relationships
  • Irresponsible work behavior
  • Failure to learn from the negative consequences of behavior

Antisocial personality disorder symptoms may begin in childhood and are fully evident for most people during their 20s and 30s. In children, cruelty to animals, bullying behavior, impulsivity or explosions of anger, social isolation, and poor school performance may be, in some cases, early signs of the disorder.

Although considered a lifelong disorder, some symptoms — particularly destructive and criminal behavior and the use of alcohol or drugs — may decrease over time, but it’s not clear whether this decrease is a result of aging or an increased awareness of the consequences of antisocial behavior.

Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes everyone unique. It’s the way people view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how they see themselves. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of these factors:

  • Genetics. These inherited tendencies are aspects of a person’s personality passed on by parents, such as shyness or having a positive outlook. This is sometimes called temperament.
  • Environment. This means the surroundings a person grows up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others. It includes such life situations as the type of parenting a person experienced, whether loving or abusive.

Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Some people may have genes that make them vulnerable to developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations may trigger its development.

There may be a link between an early lack of empathy — understanding the perspectives and problems of others, including other children — and later onset of antisocial personality disorder. Identifying these personality problems early may help improve long-term outcomes.

Every year, between 11-17 May, we help to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues.