, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 374-387

On being invisible in the mental health system

Purchase on Springer.com

$39.95 / €34.95 / £29.95*

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The author provides a case study of her daughter’s sexual abuse as a child and subsequent experiences as a chronically mentally ill client in the mental health system. Information from 17 years of mental health records and anecdotal accounts are used to illustrate the effects of the abuse, her attempts to reach out for help, and the system’s failure to respond. There is evidence that a significant subset of psychiatric patients were severely sexually traumatized in childhood. Yet standard interview schedules consistently neglect to ask questions about such abuse, appropriate treatment is seldom available, and clients are often retraumatized by current practices. Psychiatry’s historic resistance to addressing abuse as etiology is being challenged today by powerful economic, political, and professional forces leading to the emergence of a new trauma-based paradigm.

Editor’s Note: The reader is forewarned that, to provide a realistic account of Anna’s experience and her attempts to communicate it to others, explicit language and graphic descriptions of her behavior are included.