What most people 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; its villain had DID. Casting the mentally ill as villains makes an easy scapegoat, one that is entertaining. The problem is this widely spread misinformation will be held by many as fact.
In response to the film, mental health advocate Scarlet Novak, aka Amelia Joubert, of Rock Hill created a petition that received more than 16,000 signatures and caught the attention of several news outlets. The petition requested that M. Night Shamalyan, the film’s creator, include a PSA about DID with the film to off-put some of the stigma the film had produced.
Unfortunately, the request was ignored.
Those with DID are not who you think they are.
One way to receive an official diagnosis is with an extensive interview called an SDID-D, administered by a mental health professional. The interview can take around six hours. Novak/Joubert remember theirs being quite exhausting.
DID is a disorder stemming from childhood trauma, in which the presence of two or more distinct personalities, commonly referred to as alters, recurrently take control of the body. Some may know this condition by its former name, Multiple Personality Disorder.
Alters often have their own names, ages, genders, etc. It is likely those with DID also have PTSD as a concurrent diagnosis.
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.
Novak wants people with DID to understand, “Your alters are not your enemies; they exist to help you and, although they may 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 each alter as an individual.
As more people in the DID community open up about their stories, the public can become more educated. Thus, the world becomes less intimidating.
(Note: Novak/Joubert was the 2017 recipient of NAMI 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 social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).