According to the Chicago Tribune, a recent Northwestern Medicine study that examined the South Side neighborhood of Oakland found that 29 percent of the 72 African-American study participants have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an additional 7 percent exhibited a large number of signs that are part of a PTSD diagnosis.
PTSD is a potentially debilitating anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a shocking, scary or dangerous event. Women who already had mild to severe depressive symptoms were chosen for the study, which was published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, a peer-reviewed publication, in December. Participants in the study all reported details about traumatic experiences, like witnessing a son being shot more than 10 times, domestic violence, car accidents or a father being killed at home.
Inger Burnett-Zeigler, a clinical psychologist expressed that living in an environment of poverty and violence can worsen pre-existing depression, trigger the onset of a new depressive episode, PTSD or subthreshold PTSD, meaning a number of symptoms characterizing PTSD are present. All of those conditions were found in the study participants causing researchers to believe that there is a serious need for more mental health services and screenings 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 at 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.
In cities like Chicago, where 2016 recorded the cities deadliest year in nearly two decades, community leaders like Susan Johnson, executive director of Chicago Survivors, feel the need for mental health services that treat PTSD are in high demand, but urge people to not forget that crime victim services are needed as well.
“They can help educate, support and counsel those who have been exposed to violence, whether directly or indirectly,” Johnson said. ” No one gets used to seeing dead bodies or hearing gunfire and those stressors have a “profound effect” on the ability to function.”