Thursday, April 19, 2012

Psychology professors offer insight on women’s mental health

By Amanda Brasgalla, Guest Writer

Around thirty students gathered in Harstad’s lounge last Wednesday to discuss women’s mental health. Only one was male.

Sponsored by several of the health programs on campus, the event featured lectures by Professors Michelle Ceynar and Christina Graham of the Department of Psychology.

Through the combined efforts of the Women’s Center, the Health Center and Lutefit, the event focused on the resources available to help Pacific Lutheran Students.

“We want to inform students about the basic knowledge of how their brains and bodies function,” Women’s Center Acting Director Jennifer Smith said.

The mental health presentation was the third in a series about overall health, which included discussions about vaginal and breast health.

“It gives students a good variety of health events, so that they can learn good physical and mental health in a fun environment,” Smith said.

And fun it was.  Before the presentation began, girls chatted amongst themselves and became acquainted with the organizers of the event. A raffle took place, allowing three students to win prizes, including a gift certificate for a massage.

“I think it’s important to be able to mingle with professors and faculty,” Graham said. “It helps students get to know the community and who’s there.”

Graham and Ceynar delivered presentations at the event and answered students’ questions.  Ceynar’s presentation described society’s “great brain hunt” and how people create mental differences between the sexes. 

Ceynar said in her presentation that scientists in the last century have tried to prove that males are the smarter sex.  Research has proved this false, but has determined men’s brains are more specialized and women’s brains allow for more collaboration between hemispheres. As Ceynar points out, though, experience matters in intelligence and does not depend fully on gender.

First-years Asia Wolfe and Amanda Seely said they found this part of the presentation fascinating.

“I thought the research on the brain was interesting, especially how the cultivated abilities thought to be gender specific are not,” Wolfe said.

As they discussed further, Seeley came to the conclusion that “the brain’s just a brain” and nothing more.

Graham and Ceynar said in their presentations that women suffer alternate reactions to stress, especially during college years. Part of this reason comes from “rumination” or what Graham describes as “vomiting in your brain.”  Rumination is constantly thinking about something, which women attest to doing quite often. This makes them more susceptible to mental disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and anxiety disorders.

The Women’s Center, Counseling Center and Health Center are all available for students suffering from these and other mental disorders.

“People need to know what they can do to bolster mental health and make it a priority,” Graham said.