Tag Archives: frequent mental distress

Unlocking the brain’s response to trauma, violence

Scott Johnson of The Oakland Tribune writes about the science of chronic trauma and puts it in the perspective of Oakland, Calif., residents who are regularly exposed to chronic levels of stress and trauma. There were 95 homicides in Oakland in 2010.


Photo by BlatantNews.com via Flickr

Scientists are finding that trauma affects how the brain functions and, especially in children, can create long-term debilitating problems, including anti-social behavior, dissociation, emotional numbness and trouble forming social relationships.

Fortunately, scientists also are finding there are therapeutic tools that can help.

The science around chronic trauma is evolving quickly and in exciting new ways. Even as scientists discover new evidence about what is happening in the brains of chronically traumatized people, intriguing new techniques are emerging for coping with the effects.

Johnson, the Oakland Tribune‘s Violence Reporting Fellow, is blogging at OaklandEffect.com, where he has written about his own experiences and about attending the recent “Healing Moments in Trauma Treatment” conference. Johnson’s position is funded by the California Endowment and he will be with the Tribune for a year, reporting on a wide range of issues, including those related to the impacts of violence on the mental health of Oakland residents.

Map shows hotspots of mental distress

Ker Than reports in National Geographic News on an intriguing map showing the percentage of folks in each American county who reported “frequent mental distress.” Kentucky, Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley are home to the highest percentage of distressed folks, while Hawaiians and Upper Midwesterners rank as the nation’s least distressed populations.

Than found that the patterns could be caused by income disparity, differences in the services available in each area, disparities in the willingness of residents to report their emotional distress and myriad other factors.

“There may be different influences in different communities,” (Matthew) Zack (medical epidemiologist with the CDC) said. “Once we find out what the most important ones are, we may be able to develop programs to reduce the levels of mental distress.”