There is much still to learn about intergenerational trauma. There is just a bit of research regarding the biological epigenetic changes that show up in generational trauma of survivors. The population this research focuses on are Holocaust families and Vietnam Veteran families. Children and grandchildren of survivors showed inherited traits both with disease expression and with patterns of behavior that were directly a result of the trauma that their ancestor endured. I would argue that the impact on families because of the American asylum system created generational trauma that is largely unnamed and unexplored. On message boards where I do my historic research on the asylum system, there are always people looking for information. Their messages are a combination of curiosity and sadness; a desire for answers, a need to grieve but nowhere to “be” or “go” to grieve. There is a need for community identity and support about being survivors and what that means for each individual. There is still so much stigma and shame of familial institutionalization which is amplified by “insane asylum” tropes and stereotypes exploited in “ghost hunters” type T.V. shows and popular horror movies. Though many conditions within the asylums were deplorable,
horrific and dehumanizing, it is important for survivors to have autonomy and dignity with their pain. This pain and grief around these issues of institutionalized family members can be surprising because “it didn’t happen to me” but in so many ways it does still impact us today. It is also important that as we make our own journeys of understanding about our families in the past, it is important to cultivate the identity of activists and allies to families that are suffering today with loved ones in jails due to mental health issues. We are far from the horrors of how we treat people with mental illness in institutions being a thing of our past.