During the talk on Friday, Dr. Jennifer Coleman talked about her work regarding racial differences in posttraumatic stress disorder. I found her work very interesting – PTSD is a mental illness that I have not learned about in depth before. As Dr. Coleman mentioned, PTSD has been defined differently in the DSM over the years and she expects for the definition to change drastically in the next five to ten years. It is interesting how the criteria for certain mental illnesses continue to change, and even differ from one country to another. Diagnosis of mental illnesses is much more complex than certain physical illnesses. For example, diagnoses depression is vastly different than diagnosing a fractured bone from an X-ray image. This concept reminding me of an article I read for my TA position for an Intro to Healthcare class. We were recently assigned a reading in which discussed how the rise in the number of people with mental illnesses in recent years is not due to one single factor. In fact, there are numerous factors that may be contributing to the higher rates of diagnoses. One example the author mentioned in the article was that technology and the need for constant stimulation leads to higher rates of depression and anxiety.
A large portion of the material that Dr. Coleman covered tied a lot together with what we have learned in class. She mentioned many terms that our class should be familiar with, including the health disparities, model minority myth, and the stress response system. I found it interesting how she displayed several research studies that had conflicting results regarding racial disparities in mental health. Results from some studies displayed whites had worse mental health than other races, while other studies found higher rates of mental illnesses in racial minorities. It demonstrated how in research this is not always one correct answer. Results from studies can vary drastically depending on what factors are controlled for.
The Departmental Talk was very effective in exemplifying how research exploring health disparities and race can be effective in creating programs. For example, the program at Rush Hospital was created in order to help patients suffering from PTSD. It is important to recognize and utilize how research can benefit the population that is being researched.