Trigger Warning: mental health, depression, anxiety, sexual harassment, trauma
Physical Injuries Can Cause Mental Trauma
Epicurus once said “the ultimate goal of the blessed life is physical health and mental serenity.” Indeed, it has been found that most mental illnesses arise due to chronic physical conditions and vice versa. Despite the fact that physical and mental health go hand in hand, damage to one’s mental health lasts far longer than physical harm. Because physical injuries are visible to the eye, they can be relatively easier to cure; they eventually disappear, but not without leaving scars in the form of mental trauma. This may explain why mental health is greatly disregarded in harassment cases, despite it being one of the most significant consequences of it.
Mental Health And Sexual Harassment
Although the implications of mental health can not be seen by the observer, it can be very harmful to the survivor if ignored. The mental trauma may persist or fluctuate for many years after the incident, or until the victim seeks therapy. Some of the mental illnesses that may stem from this trauma are depression, PTSD, substance use disorder, eating disorders and anxiety.
Most common of these illnesses is PTSD which may cause one to relive the trauma repeatedly through flashbacks, nightmares and hallucinations. It is important to understand that for some, it may become hard to indulge in every-day life. And even though mental illnesses are ‘invisible’, the physical signs can clearly be identified by family and friends. The survivor withdraws from all social and physical activities, avoiding people and places that remind them of the incident. Some tend to smile less and live life differently from before. Their experience of harassment consumes them fully and they are unable to think about anything else.
Mental Health Can Have Physical Symptoms
Some people argue that since mental illnesses cannot be seen, it is impossible for bystanders to help the survivors. This is incorrect as mental illnesses have physical symptoms; signs that can be easily identified by observers. Physical signs of mental trauma may consist of eating disorders and irregular sleeping patterns. It is usually in the form of drastic weight changes and insomnia which raises alarm amongst observers. It is also visible when the slight mention of harassment or related topics cause panic attacks; chills, hot flashes, pounding heart rate and shortness of breath being some of the signs. There may be some behavioural changes indicating various mental illnesses; The victim may frequently discuss the topics of death and suicide, insinuating how the world would be better without them in it.
Lastly, I believe that steps should be taken to better the mental health of sexual harassment survivors as it is just as important as physical health. Resources such as therapy and aid should be provided to help them heal and grow. Furthermore, there should be more preventative measures such as awareness about the consequences of sexual harassment and how it destroys lives. We can only hope that humanity is not yet on the edge of extinction; that it will overpower all evil.