Is Today Any Different From Past Generations for Mental Illness?

I can’t say that the current generation experiences more relational trauma than any other time in history. Family units disintegrated generations ago, too, albeit in a different, yet not any less traumatic, manner.

The average life expectancy of males in 1851 was about 40 years, compared with 42 years for females.  This had profound implications for children.  In 1851, the average first-born child would have been a maternal orphan at the age of 17, while the last-born child would have been a maternal orphan at the age of six.  Today, males and females are living much longer…In the mid-nineteenth century, only 6 percent of couples would have lived long enough to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, compared with 39 percent today…nearly 98 percent of all marital dissolutions in 1921 were caused by the death of one parent, compared with 1986 where the primary cause of marital dissolution was due to divorce or separation.*

Over the years, I’ve spoken with many individuals whose mother or father died when they were young. The pain they have experienced as a result of the change in family system is as wounding and tragic as that of divorce. And these wounds, unless they are healed, will have an impact on succeeding generations.

My dad fought in the Second World War.  When he died, we discovered that he had enlisted in 1939 and stayed for the duration.  He never talked about it.  Dad, in fact, never communicated about much.  When, on one occasion, we were able to have a brief discussion about God, he told me that what he experienced in the war made him think that there could not possibly be a loving God. That was the only thing he ever shared with me about his war experience–or life experience, for that matter.  Although he had been orphaned at a young age, he never talked about it.  My father’s scars affected him, and so also had an impact on his parenting. Thus, his emotional scars had an effect on me.

Contact me if I can help you heal your wounds.

*Larson, Lyle., Goltz, J. Walter., Hobart, Charles., Families in Canada:  Social Context, Continuities and Changes., 1994, Prentice-Hall Canada Inc. pg. 517-518

About Cheryl