Soul Searching on the Anniversary of our Capitol Conflict


Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the conflict at the Capitol. What psychiatric trauma did this event leave in its wake?




All who are knowledgeable about mental health know how psychiatrically powerful anniversaries can be, whether they are personal or societal ones. The reactions can range from great joy to despair.

Today, we have a new anniversary, the first anniversary of the unprecedented January 6th event involving our Capitol building, which is our collective political and symbolic home. What to even call that event is controversial and an emotional lightning rod. It is terribly ironic that the focus on this anniversary will provide painful trauma triggers to many. Such is the social and political divisiveness of our time.

I know where my political and justice leanings lie in regards to that event, which I did watch live on national television newscasts of various political predispositions. Yet, I feel that my overriding personal and professional responsibility is much broader. It is to the mental health of all. That means trying to find ways to prevent and treat these conflicts at every level: personal, local, national, and international.

Clearly, some of the psychological ramifications have been suicides, complicated grief, fear of violence, and traumatic impact of varying levels of severity and emergence. But this cannot just be patient-based psychiatry as usual, as important as that always is. It is like family conflict writ large where members stop listening or talking to one another as they regress to psychological splitting and scapegoating.

Here and now, instead of a dangerous virus invading our bodies, we have had dangerous violence invading our minds. Usually, trauma caused by fellow human beings is more destructive than natural disasters. Like a pandemic virus, this anniversary trauma is infectious, rippling out into society from its anniversary sendoff.

Vaccines and masks can counter the virus. What is the equivalent for politically-based interpersonal conflict? I doubt that facts will be enough. Nor justice. It will also take creative and courageous leadership at all levels that can rally people to common values, most especially from leaders that have been relatively quiet until now. How we come out of today may provide some sense of how we are doing.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

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