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Anyone who has watched television for any length of time will probably have noticed the different trends that seem to happen within scheduling and program making.

Over the years we have seen the advent, craze, and then decline in, and even virtual death of such trends as…

Gardening shows, Home decor shows, DIY shows, fashion shows, forensic documentaries and their ilk, Reality Tv shows, sublime – rediculous supposedly ‘reality’ based chat shows, recovery-based shows and docusoaps, therapy based shows, obesity based shows, secret millionaire show, secret or undercover boss shows, secret I want to be famous and for people to think I am a good person so I know what I will go on tv and do something to make me look like a good guy shows, talent, and “I think I have talent and all my friends and family who should know better but who obviously don’t, tell me I have talent even when I have no talent’ shows.

The list is virtually endless isn’t it? And I am sure you can think of several additions to that list which I haven’t included. (Basically because by the time I had reached the point where i stopped in my list I was losing the will to live lol.)

And whilst I have employed a certain amount of cynical humor in my list, I do admit that actually some of them can be quite good and quite interesting and some may even have good intentions behind them.

One fairly recent craze not on that list is in respect of ancestry and genealogy and this has become really big business with, television shows, websites and independent researchers popping up all over the place. And actually it really can be fascinating (and somewhat addictive once you get into it.)

For those of us with mental health issues it can also provide a doorway into the past which can in some cases provide valuable insights into influencing factors even the source of our illness(es).

Genetics can without doubt play a huge part in our physical and mental health and as I say Genealogy can provide us with valuable insights.

Some years back now my mother asked me to trace our family tree.  At that time I wasn’t well enough to do so but did promise to do so when I was more able.  A year or so ago now I kept that promise (see I can be a good son sometimes 🙂 ) and started that process. I now have researched and built a family tree with in excess of two and half thousand family members on it going back as far as the 1600’s.

As I said above it can be both fascinating and addictive, and I should also note that it can also be an extremely expensive undertaking depending on just how deeply you want or need to get into it.

Depending on how far back you go, where the folk lived and worked etc., records and information can range from detailed to sparse, totally accurate to less accurate, joy-bringing to deeply disturbing.  Some of the circumstance you can learn concerning the lives and social conditions of ancestors can without doubt impact you emotionally.

And I think at this point that I should post a warning that in respect of mental illness, mankind’s history of its understanding and treatment of mental illness and especially those who suffer from it is desperately sad and criminal in many ways.  Thus, learning of ancestors who had mental illness and how they were treated can be deeply shocking and distressing. I have literally wept at one or two of the things I have learned.

Whist details of infirmities, mental capacity etc ., are often excluded from being available on census records online, information such as institutionalization, hospitalization at time of censuses being taken, can be indicators and additionally death certificates – cause of death for example – newspaper and local court records all help build a picture.

It should also be remembered that genetic illnesses including mental illnesses can skip generations and indeed can be specific to, or increased in their potential, according to gender.  (Hm I hope that made sense, it is not a field I have any expertise in)

So it is without doubt true that genetics can have a part to play in someone’s mental health and that indeed many who suffer from mental illness do so because of a long history of it within their family.

But is that the only cause and indeed even if it is the cause of someone’s mental health does that mean that they simply have to cope with the results of it?

The answer to those questions are, in the opinion of this writer, undeniably NO!

And let’s be real and objective here.  Even if a child does not inherit a mental illness genetically from a parent or grandparent, or relative it is extremely possible (and sadly in the past very likely) that the child will have experienced behaviour and situations and circumstances as a result of that parent, grandparent, or relative’s mental illness which could subsequently induce or create mental health issues within that child.

In this mini-series looking at Therapy and its benefits and usefulness, I have already touched on the fact that some mental health can result from genetics or neurology.  I have also mentioned how one can be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that where this is the case therapy has no benefit.

But the truth is that regardless of the cause or source of our mental health we all have to live with it and even if we can’t find full healing from it we can very often find managing and coping skills or techniques in respect of it.

And this is one area where therapy can be invaluable.

Additionally, we need to be mindful that because it plays such an important part of our everyday lives it impacts our everyday lives.  Therefore as a result of this it can and often does cause issues for which there can be healing.

Therapy can play such an important part in this also.

For so many, mental illness and poor mental health can seem like a life-long sentence that has been handed down with no merit or deserved-ness and for no other reason than someone somewhere in our past had it and so the cycle began.

Whilst that ‘sentence’ is relevant and important it is also beyond our control.  But what is in our control however is a) whether we allow it to be seen as a ‘sentence’, b) how we deal with it and c) how much influence we allow it to have over our lives and the lives of those nearest and dearest to us.  And again all of those things can be directly helped by good therapy. 🙂

Many of you know that I have an adopted family and that some of my adopted kids have a history of being abused.  As I have said to them many times, I can’t take away the abuse that you suffered before we came into each other’s lives – the fact that it happened or the hurts and pain of the past.  But I can try and reduce the effect that it has on your future.

The same is true of mental illness and how we deal with it.  So I am convinced that even where the cause of a mental illness or poor mental health is genetically or neurologically based, therapy – good, effective, affordable and accessible therapy – can be invaluable.