The Jaycee Lee Dugard Case – Why We Must Overcome Mental Health Stigma

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The case of Jaycee Dugard being kidnapped by a sociopath, Phillip Garrido, at the age of 11 and held for 18 years, is why we need the help of mental health professionals. Furthermore, counseling will need to be extended to all members of Dugard’s family, especially her 2 daughters. It is unfortunate, however, that seeking mental health counseling carries a stigma for many. In fact, Human Resource Administrators report that out of all employer sponsored health plans, mental health benefits are the most underutilized.

Employees and others fear job loss, social isolation, fear of being judged, and being looked upon as weak, as a result of seeking mental health counseling. In addition, an estimated 50 million Americans need this kind of therapy at some point in their lives, yet only one-fourth actually receive mental health and other services. The truth is, receiving counseling and other services can be priceless when helping people cope with traumatic events.

Of course, what the Dugard family is experiencing will require more extensive counseling than what the average person would need. Also, without therapy, it is doubtful the Dugard family can move forward from the abuse. The woman, Jaycee, has lived a life void of normal development, endured sexual assault for years by her captor and bore 2 children under inhuman conditions; no doubt she will have lifelong issues. Then, there are the children. They will have to acknowledge that the only father they’ve known and loved is a deranged man who kidnapped their mother and assaulted her for years. Upon entering school, for the first time, one can only hope that society will be kind and patient to her children as everyone will know their story.

Moreover, we cannot overlook the delicate situation of the grandparents. Jaycee’s parents will need to find a way to do what grandparents do best; love their grandchildren. Coupled with reconnecting with their daughter and trying to comfort her, they must also accept grandchildren who were born out of such vile circumstances. With the help of regular family counseling, family harmony may be achieved. Consequently, if there are other victims of the Garridos, their families will also need therapy sessions.

Whether or not there are other victims of the Garridos, there are certainly other victims of those convicted of psychotic criminal behavior. Today, in the United States, there are approximately 159,000 prison inmates who are classified with psychotic mental illnesses and approximately 99,000 on probation. From this, one can conclude that as many or more victims of these individuals are trying to put their lives back together; and many have done so with the assistance of mental health professionals. Others, though, are embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. The misconception is that you have to be “crazy” or “unstable” to speak to a mental health counselor. This is far from true as many people live successful and happy lives while attending weekly counseling sessions.

Finally, with the help of skilled professionals, Jaycee Dugard and her family have a chance of surviving this tragedy. It is doubtful they are concerned about the ‘stigma” of receiving mental health counseling. Fortunately for them, and anyone who receives treatment, the odds are high that a positive outcome can be achieved. Receiving mental health care can help people function more productively, improve how they feel about themselves and contribute to society, which benefits us all.

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