UCSF Faculty Provide Health Expertise to People of Japan

By Lisa Cisneros

UCSF has produced a series of video public service announcements (PSAs) that offer faculty expertise in coping with mental stress and other health-related issues in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and continuing crises at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

The first three in the series of video PSAs, which address mental health of adults, children and those assisting in the ongoing recovery efforts, are posted on YouTube.

John I. Takayama, MD, MPH, a UCSF pediatrician who worked in Tokyo from 2002 to 2007, where he established the Department of Interdisciplinary Medicine at the National Center for Child Health and Development, is leading the video PSA project.

(See all videos here)

Other faculty involved in the project include Craig Van Dyke, MD, director of the Global Mental Health Program, who responded to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China; and Mary-Ann Shafer, MD, vice chair of Professional Development in Pediatrics and associate director of Adolescent Medicine. In addition, about a dozen UCSF postdoctoral scholars from Japan and health care professionals in Japan are contributing to the project.

The PSAs are the latest UCSF efforts to aid the people of Japan. Van Dyke will also host a workshop for pediatric fellows, who are returning to Japan, on Saturday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to noon in Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, room 371, on the Parnassus campus. 

UCSF partnered with Causes.com, an organization which helped UCSF on a variety of campus projects, to create a simple pathway for the campus community and UCSF supporters to contribute directly to charities that are providing relief in Japan. So far, UCSF has raised more than $11,000 online.

On May 11, UCSF leaders showed their support to Japanese students and scholars during an evening of remembrance.

Mental health was singled out as the first topic to address in the PSAs because Japan currently does not have a comprehensive mental health infrastructure for a variety of reasons, including cultural, Takayama says.

In Japan there is stigma associated with mental health concerns, he explained at a recent grand rounds. Individuals often feel guilty or ashamed about discussing psychological pain, although they may understand very well what they are feeling inside.

Because mental health issues come up less often in medical practice, even seasoned physicians may be unable to distinguish a stress reaction to an immediate disaster – a normal response – from post-traumatic stress syndrome, a lingering stress reactivity that persists after the immediate threat is gone.

The first three videos are made available in both English and Japanese with subtitles.

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