Fighting against stigma of Dissociative Identity Disorder

4 mins read

By LAURA KAPONER

What most know about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is what they have learned from the media. The problem is these portrayals are grossly inaccurate further feeding into a dangerous stigma.

In 2016 the award winning thriller “Split” was released and the villain had DID. It’s easy to cast a villain with a mental illness as the media has done countless times and in all likelihood will continue to do.

The mentally ill as villains are easy scapegoats, as well as entertaining. The problem is this widely spread misinformation will be held by many as fact.

In response to this film, mental health advocate Scarlet Novak aka Amelia Joubert created a petition receiving more than 16,000 signatures and catching the attention of several news outlets. The petition was requesting that M. Night Shamalyan, the film’s creator, include a Public Service Announcement about DID with the film to off put some of the stigma the film had produced.

Unfortunately no PSA was created as Shamalyan ignored Novak/Joubert’s efforts.

Those with DID are not who you think they are. One way to receive an official diagnosis is with an extensive interview called a SDID-D administered by a mental health professional. This interview can take around 6 hours. Novak/Joubert remember theirs being quite exhausting.

This is a disorder stemmed from childhood trauma where the presence of two or more distinct personalities, commonly referred to as alters, recurrently take control of the body. Many may know this condition by its former name Multiple Personality Disorder. Alters often have their own names, ages, genders, etc. It is highly likely those with DID also have PTSD as a concurrent diagnosis.

It’s easy early on in the diagnosis to feel shame from the internal stigma. There is a need to stay quiet about what they are experiencing because the outside world’s beliefs can be that those with DID are violent. Once again a misconception continually portrayed by the media. The reality is that those with DID are more likely to become victims of violence rather than perpetrate it.

An essential part of successfully managing this condition is communication between alters as amnesia far beyond typical forgetfulness can occur. Novak/Joubert recommends alters leave one another notes such as in a designated journal to help keep track of what each alter is experiencing. This is called system communication.

Scarlet wants people with DID to understand, “Your alters are not your enemies, they exist to help you and although they be misguided at times, learning to work as a team can be very helpful.”

What people need to know when interacting with someone with DID is to validate their experiences and treat is alter as an individual. As more people in the DID community open up about their stories the public can become more educated. The world becomes less intimidating.

Note: Novak/Joubert currently resides in Rock Hill, S.C. and was the 2017 recipient of NAMI’s SC Stigma Buster of the Year award. They can be found at The Labyrinth System on YouTube.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. You can find her on social media by searching #Laurakaponeris1in5.

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