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National Minority Health Month: African-American women in poor communities more prone to PTSD, says study
Posted in Mental Health - 0 Comments

April is observed as the National Minority Health Month (NMHM), every year in the United States. The NMHM aims at advancing health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities. It is an opportunity to renew the nation’s commitment to reduce health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minorities and improve their health status. This year’s theme is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities.” It emphasizes the collaborative, community-level work that is being done to help achieve health equity across the U.S.

While racism continues to impact the mental health of Black Americans, living in a poor neighborhood can lead women from this community to experience a high rate of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to a recent Northwestern Medicine study, violence witnessed and experienced by women in disadvantaged neighborhoods can result in PTSD.

The study, published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, highlighted the high frequency of PTSD diagnosis and subthreshold PTSD symptoms among women with depressive symptoms in disadvantaged neighborhoods. PTSD is a mental disorder that can occur in individuals who have witnessed or experienced frightening or life-threatening event/s including natural disaster, personal assault or a serious accident.

Rampant criminal activities

The study examined the South Side area of Oakland, a disadvantaged Chicago neighborhood where criminal activities are prevalent. The study involved 72 racial/ethnic minority women with depressive symptoms who belonged to a disadvantaged urban neighborhood. Among the participants, 51 percent self-reported experiencing a traumatic event, 29 percent met the PTSD diagnosis and 7 percent had subthreshold PTSD.

Some of the commonly reported traumas experienced by the study participants included abuse, domestic violence and witnessing a murder. According to researchers, traumatic experiences reported in the study were often sexual or violent in nature. One of the authors of the study, Inger Burnett-Zeigler, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, observed that though more research is needed since the study is not comprehensive, the findings are consistent with past studies about the effect of disadvantaged neighborhoods on people living there.

This research is one of the few studies that examined the effect living in a disadvantaged neighborhood had on people with PTSD symptoms. According to the researchers, when compared to women who did not experience trauma, women with PTSD or subthreshold PTSD experienced more depression. The study found that racial/ ethnic minority women belonging to a disadvantaged urban neighborhood might experience a higher rate of depression and PTSD. The researchers also concluded that those with PTSD diagnosis or subthreshold PTSD experienced worse depressive symptoms.

As per Burnett-Zeigler, while the study sample was not based on recruiting women who had experienced trauma, it had 71 percent of women with PTSD symptoms who had experienced trauma. “That is really significant in terms of how prevalent of an issue this is in that vulnerable population,” she said.

PTSD symptoms may vary

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD is a debilitating disorder that often develops post experiencing a shocking or dangerous event. A mental health problem, PTSD symptoms start soon after the traumatic event but might not surface till months or years later. In addition, PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity and differ from person to person.

Conditions found in the study participants caused researchers to believe that there was a need for more mental health services and screenings for people, especially women, in poor neighborhoods. “People are struggling severely, and I think that sometimes the negative implications of mental illness are really underestimated. Making mental health available in primary care and community hospitals is the first step toward ensuring that people get screened and receive high-quality care, especially in a city where treatment options are shrinking,” said Burnett-Ziegler.

Road to recovery

To prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse, it is important to get it treated as soon as possible. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), as compared to men, women are twice as likely to develop PTSD and display more sensitivity towards stimulus that reminded them of trauma. While women are at greater risk of a trauma’s negative consequences, they often hesitate to seek appropriate medical support. And to make things worse, some waited years to get the required treatment, while many never received treatment at all.

At Sovereign Health, we understand the plight of women suffering from PTSD. We offer an individualized treatment plan to help treat the disorder and avoid any relapse. Treatment programs may involve medications, psychotherapy or both. In addition to traditional therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy and family therapy, Sovereign Health offers experiential therapies that include meditation, yoga and equine therapy.

At Sovereign Health’s Chandler facility, we allow our women patients to discuss their trauma in a safe and comfortable environment. Whether the ordeal faced by our patients is a result of childhood abuse, violent relationship or domestic violence, our Chandler facility emphasizes the importance of therapy to deal with the trauma. Moreover, we believe in treating underlying conditions with a focus on trauma and abuse. For more details on women mental health services at our Chandler facility, call our 24/7 helpline number 866-598-5661.You can also chat with our counselors to know about a mental health rehabilitation center or residential treatment centers for mental health near you.

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