Departmental Talk

Although the students in this class already knew a lot about health disparities prior to this talk, it was interesting to see it combined with a particular mental health issue, PTSD. We have talked a lot about the perpetually activated stress response and how that affects health for people in minority populations, and this talk took it a step further to discuss the way PTSD similarly leads to a constantly triggered stress response and the rates at which minorities suffer from this condition.

I found the section about transgenerational trauma to be very interesting. I read an article for one of my reflection papers that called this phenomenon “historical loss”, or the effects of genocide, relocation and trauma that is transmitted through generations. The article I read specifically focused on Native Americans, and how this historical loss thinking could lead to depression. I imagine that Dr. Coleman would predict higher rates of PTSD as well.

I appreciated that Dr. Coleman brought up the fact that our definition of PTSD is very Westernized, and suggested that future research address and investigate this further. We often take the DSM as fact, when there is a lot of subjectivity to mental illness. We have proof that the all-knowing, ethnocentric nature of Western medicine can be problematic in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. I agree with Dr. Coleman because of this; I think it’s important to incorporate different cultural views when analyzing and evaluating mental illness such as PTSD.

The talk was informative and reinforced many of the things we’ve learned, but I was disappointed that the results were so inconsistent. I would have had the same hypothesis, that minority veterans suffer higher rates of PTSD. However, we had discussed in class that because of cultural beliefs, Black people may not report, seek treatment for, or have diagnosed mental health issues. Dr. Coleman had other possible explanations for these outcomes as well. I have to believe that studying PTSD is very difficult, especially when a person faces multiple traumas throughout their life.


Published by