Mental Health Blaming For Scam Victims Is An Insidious Undermining Of Those Struggling To Heal And Recover
Let’s be clear, we are not talking about mental health conditions such as psychopathy or narcissism. We are talking about the vastly common depression and anxiety disorders that may affect as many as half of our population and other debilitating disorders that prevent normal people from living their best lives.
This commentary was triggered by a post I saw today on LinkedIn, that said “Laziness is disrespectful to those that believe in them!” What bullshit!
Laziness, as the author was talking about is mostly the manifestation of depression and anxiety disorders. When people can’t get out of their bed, clean their house, or even bathe regularly, it is NOT laziness, it is a mental health issue and needs to be treated not shamed and blamed. Yet this is what so-called functional people do.
In the world of scam victims, we see this blaming all the time with family, friends, employers, police & government, and all too often in the new media that are ignorant of the impact that trauma has on scam victims. Such blame and shame only make it that much harder for those suffering to get the help they need out of fear of judgment.
A few years ago I probably reflected this attitude myself, but as I really began to work with traumatized crime victims it became obvious that there was more at work than society’s attitudes of intolerance. I am proud to say that a decade ago, my perceptions changed and it led to a commitment to discovering the underlying psychological issues that affect scam (crime) victims both before, during, and after the fraud they have experienced. It led me to certifications in trauma-informed care, grief counseling, and the continuous exploration of the psychology of scams and to recovery psychology.
As a scientist in multiple disciplines, I have studied numerous aspects of the dynamics of the scam victim experience. From anthropology to sociology to criminology to victimology and psychology. This study has become a central driver in my own studies, striving to find ways to better help cam victims and deliver services to meet their needs – not always successfully – but the commitment remains.
One of the SCARS Board Members, Ms. Vianey Gonzalez, likewise has been on a similar journey, going so far as to return to university and obtain a master’s in psychology, which we are proud to say she will complete in a couple of months, As a scam victim herself, she will be best able to fully understand that experience and develop programs to help these victims.
While SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider, we have partnered with several organizations to deliver information and referrals to scam victims in need. One of them is BetterHelp.com which has turned out to be a great resource for those victims that have used its services – either through our SCARS membership to provide a free month of counseling/therapy or directly. Their therapists have so far been excellent.
I cannot say this enough, that scams traumatize their victims and the combination of SCARS Support Groups and Trauma Therapy is the answer for those victims willing to commit to their recovery! Every victim that we know that has gone through our groups and committed to our program in concert with trauma counseling has recovered well. This is the core of our approach to scam victim recovery.
However, the pervasive blaming of victims is everywhere.
And to be honest, sometimes it is frustrating to work with people that cannot help themselves. But we continue to do all we can regardless unless the consequences of their behavior make it impossible.
Stop The Blaming
Blaming individuals who are suffering from depression and anxiety, or even trauma, is not only ineffective but also detrimental to their recovery and well-being.
Here’s why blame is unhelpful and the potential harms it can cause:
Lack of Understanding
Blaming individuals with depression and anxiety often stems from a lack of understanding about these mental health conditions, and in the case of scam victims – about the psychological impact of these crimes. It fails to recognize that depression and anxiety are complex disorders influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Blaming perpetuates misconceptions and stigmatizes individuals, hindering empathy and support.
Blame dismisses and invalidates the experiences of those with depression and anxiety. It undermines their struggle, minimizing the severity of their symptoms and the impact these conditions have on their daily lives. Invalidating their experiences can worsen feelings of isolation, shame, and self-doubt, impeding their ability to seek help and engage in effective coping strategies.
Blaming individuals with depression and anxiety can reinforce self-stigma, wherein they internalize negative beliefs about themselves – blame, shame, and guilt. They may internalize the blame, believing they are at fault for their mental health struggles. This self-blame exacerbates feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem, making it even harder for them to seek help or engage in self-care.
Hindering Help-Seeking Behavior
Blame can discourage individuals from seeking help or reaching out for support. Fear of judgment or further blame may prevent them from seeking professional help, confiding in friends or family, or accessing appropriate treatment. This delay in seeking support can exacerbate symptoms and prolong their recovery process.
Impact on Treatment Adherence
Blaming individuals with depression and anxiety can negatively impact their treatment adherence. When blame is internalized, it can erode their motivation to engage in therapy, take prescribed medications, or participate in self-care practices. This lack of engagement hampers their progress and may contribute to a worsening of symptoms.
Increased Social Isolation
Blame can lead to social isolation as individuals may withdraw from social interactions to avoid judgment or criticism. Social support is a crucial factor in recovery, and isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and contribute to a worsening of mental health symptoms.
Supporting Those with Depression and Anxiety
Instead of blaming, it is essential to adopt a compassionate and understanding approach to support individuals with depression and anxiety.
Here are some alternative approaches:
Seek information about depression and anxiety to better understand the nature of these conditions, including their causes, symptoms, and available treatment options. This knowledge can foster empathy and help dispel misconceptions.
Offer Empathy and Validation
Listen without judgment and validate their experiences. Show empathy and understanding, acknowledging that their feelings are real and valid. Provide a safe space for them to express their emotions and concerns without fear of blame or criticism.
Encourage Professional Help
Encourage individuals to seek professional support from mental health professionals. Offer to assist them in finding suitable resources or accompany them to appointments, if they feel comfortable. Resources are available at counseling.AgainstScams.org
Offer consistent support by checking in regularly, asking how they are doing, and offering a listening ear. Express your willingness to be there for them and provide reassurance that they are not alone in their journey. SCARS also offers free support groups – to sign up visit support.AgainstScams.org
Encourage the practice of self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and engaging in hobbies. Offer to participate in these activities together to provide additional support and motivation.
Foster a Safe Environment
Create an environment where individuals feel safe to share their struggles openly. Avoid blaming language or making assumptions about their experiences. Instead, emphasize their strength and resilience in navigating their challenges.
But Remember Boundaries
When you are trying to help another person it is important that you understand your own boundaries and those that the person that needs help should have as well. Having a mental disorder is not an excuse for anything they do. It is important to understand when and where someone offering help needs to withdraw.
Be As Compassionate As You Can Be
By adopting a compassionate and understanding approach, we can foster an environment that supports the recovery and well-being of individuals with depression and anxiety. Together, we can break down the stigma surrounding mental health and create a more inclusive and supportive society.
How Others Blame Victims With Mental Health Issues
People blame those suffering from depression and anxiety in a number of ways, both directly and indirectly.
Some common examples include:
- Telling them to “just cheer up” or “snap out of it.” This minimizes the severity of their condition and implies that they are simply choosing to be unhappy.
- Telling them that their problems are not real or that they are not “sick enough” to need help. This can make people feel isolated and alone, and it can discourage them from seeking treatment.
- Criticizing them for their symptoms, such as their lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, or social withdrawal. This can make people feel ashamed and guilty, and it can make their symptoms worse.
- Telling them that they are “lazy” or “weak” for not being able to “handle” their problems. This can damage their self-esteem and make it more difficult for them to cope with their condition.
- Expecting them to act “normal” and to not need any help. This can put a lot of pressure on people and make it difficult for them to open up about their struggles.
It is important to remember that depression and anxiety are real and serious mental illnesses – they are not someone’s fault – they are no different than an infection, and they need to be treated so the person can heal.
They are not caused by weakness or laziness, and they cannot be “cured” by simply “snapping out of it.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, please reach out for help. There are many resources available, including therapy, medication, and support groups. Tell them (and mean it) that they are not alone.