Important General Societal Trends

There are several prominent trends in the mental health field that in many ways reflect trends in society, culture, and the world in general. These include globalization, increasing diversity, advances in technology and information science, changes in social arrangements and communication, and interdisciplinary and integrated approaches in the advancement of knowledge (including science, humanities, and business).

The globalization of the planet is a direction that mental health researchers and professionals must inevitably contend with. The world is becoming smaller through advanced technology in travel and communication. National and ethnic identities are seemingly in flux and are becoming more and more salient. The diversity of the planet is modeled on a microlevel in ways that history has never quite seen. Cultural and ethnic diversity forces scientists to address the cultural boundedness of their work. After all, if a particular theory or finding is not applicable across groups, its universality is certainly suspect.

Although not a topic most people like to think about when looking forward into the future, the issue of health insurance and access to health care, particularly mental health care, is a critical feature of our future. Although the economies of the world and the United States continue to grow and the material wealth of many millions around the world is unprecedented, there still remain millions and millions of people across the planet who do not have adequate access to health care, and, if they do have access, it can be severely limited by one's ability to pay for it. It is a particular shame for the mental health field to continue to develop better and better treatments only to have them available to a select few people. Certainly, the future of mental health care must include a solution to this growing problem.

There is exponential growth in the development and dissemination of knowledge. This is due in no small part to the Internet and the World Wide Web. Make no mistake about it, ignoring the massive growth in knowledge through the proliferation of information technology and information science would place future knowledge seekers in the Stone Age. The digital age and its high-speed, highvolume production of knowledge is the future. However, I feel I must make one editorial point about this fact. I have great concerns regarding this massive growth of information with regard to its actual availability to the masses, how it is critically analyzed, and the extent to which it serves a pragmatic purpose. The practitioner in me is always looking for the application and usefulness of the information being produced. The skeptic in me is always looking for how this information can either harm or benefit people in general.

A final trend worth mentioning is an informal but definite movement across the various sciences that can be referred to as a movement toward unification in science. The trend in many disciplines is to cross disciplinary lines and work from any number of approaches to address common problems. The field of PTSD research and practice, in fact, represents this trend quite well. Work on PTSD includes players from medicine, neuroscience, psychobiology, biology, psychology, social work, and even political science. This is an exciting trend in many ways as one might imagine that the academic institution of 10 to 20 years from now might have very different majors than it does now (e.g., neurophilosophy, computer psychology, or cyborg robotics).

Before we go into some specific trends with PTSD, the following quick list of hot and emergent topics in mental health, psychiatry, and psychology might be of interest:

■ Ethnopsychology, ethnopsychiatry, ethnobiology, and ethnopharmacology

■ Service delivery methods, such as the Internet and Telehealth

■ Increasing focus on prevention and public education and public policy

■ Increasing prominence of neuroscience in research and treatment

■ Increasing prominence of genetics in research

■ Increasing awareness of developmental progression and related issues

■ Addressing religion and spirituality

■ Alternative treatments

■ Focus on special populations, such as children, the elderly, and differing sexual orientations

■ Disparities in care

■ Culture-bound syndromes

■ International collaboration and proliferation of knowledge

■ Culturally relevant and fair assessment, diagnosis, and treatment

■ Contextual and interpretive psychology (e.g., postmodernism)

■ New statistical techniques and publication of negative findings

Terrorism and violence

■ Forensic and legal applications

■ Positive psychology and the psychology of human strengths and virtues

■ Use of technology in practice

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