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Reports From The Frontlines Of PTSD Science

Feng Yu
A former Milwaukee psychiatrist looks at the science of PTSD to clear up some misconceptions.

Mental health experts believe about 6 million people in the United States suffer from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  It’s a mental condition that wasn’t even officially recognized by science until the 1980s. It now represents a significant public health issue, among people as varied as combat veterans and small children growing up in violent homes.

Dr. Shaili Jain has worked a great deal in the area of trauma and PTSD. Jain is a psychiatrist and PTSD specialist. She’s now in California with the Stanford University School of Medicine, but she began her professional career in Milwaukee more than a decade ago. Her work in both places informs her new book, The Unspeakable Mind.

But her work, in turn, is informed by the personal experiences of her father. He grew up in India during the traumatic period known as the Partition, in which India and Pakistan became independent of the United Kingdom, but which also saw the trauma of people killed and families divided.

“I definitely spent chunks of my youth living in the shadow that partition had cast on his life,” Jain says, “and with the feeling that no matter how much I loved him and he loved me, a part of him had forever been changed by the events of 1947.”

The book weaves in stories and clinical studies from Jain’s professional career in both Milwaukee and California. It also examines issues in PTSD research including the use of medication and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and the controversy over medical marijuana’s potential.

Above all, Jain says she hopes the article clears up some misconceptions about a condition that manages to be both sometimes overlooked and sometimes overdiagnosed. “[PTSD] is often sloppily invoked,” she explains. “The term is still steeped in confusion or heresay, and that’s what I wrote The Unspeakable Mind, to tell the story of PTSD in a way that’s accessible for anyone who’s curious to know about it.”

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