Active Minds Blog » Mary Duffy Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:26:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Emerging Scholars Fellowship: April Check-in Thu, 02 Apr 2015 19:13:10 +0000 It’s hard to believe it’s April, and we’re already halfway through the fellowship! My project has definitely been keeping me busy.

I’ve spent most of my project time focusing on coding my data. I planned to buy software to help, but it turns out I don’t qualify for the reduced price student software, so I ended up having to work through it by hand. I don’t know that doesn’t mean much if you haven’t done qualitative coding before, so I’ll try to illustrate it for you, as inspired by our lovely New England winter.

snow 1snow 2Imagine you are in charge of maintaining a store parking lot during the winter. Overnight, a snowstorm passes through, dumping 8 inches of snow. You have to clear it before customers start showing up (if you’re wondering why people are going out in 8 inches of snow, you’re not a New Englander). Unfortunately, the company snow plow won’t start, but your boss says you still need to clear the lot and tells you to get a shovel.

snow 3That’s kind of what coding a massive qualitative dataset is like. I can report, however, that the coding should be complete in the next day or so. Victory!!!

cat victoryI’m happy to be through the tedious part of the process, though it’s not really anywhere near as miserable as the parking lot scenario. Now I get to start analyzing my data, a.k.a. “the fun part”.

Well, I think it’s fun. In my own nerdy way.

proud nerdSome of the questions I’m interested in:

  • What has eating disorder treatment been like for the participants?
  • Would they go back?
  • What kinds of barriers stood in their way: money, family, fear?
  • Were treatment center therapists trained/able to help them?
  • What suggestions do they have for eating disorder treatment professionals?

Other than coding, I’ve also been searching for ways to share my findings. I originally planned to present my project at places like public libraries and LGBTQ organizations. One thing that has surprised me, and not in a good way, is how hard it is to find places to speak about this topic. It’s really, really important, but it’s also hard for people to talk about.

stigma graphicSomewhat ironically, that’s exactly why I am doing this project.

word cloudSo, I’ve switched gears a bit in terms of my dissemination plan. My National Mentor, Dr. Earnshaw, have been talking about creating a field report, a double-sided sheet summarizing the project and the main findings and suggestions. It’s an easy thing to mail, hand out, put up online, etc. I think it’s going to be a perfect way to share the project.

I’ll keep you posted!

stay tuned

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Meet Mary’s Mentor: Dr. Valerie Earnshaw Tue, 03 Mar 2015 12:03:03 +0000 EarnshawI’m very excited today to introduce you to my national mentor, Valerie Earnshaw, Ph.D.

Dr. Earnshaw is Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Associate Scientific Researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Her research focuses on how stigma relates to health outcomes and disparities across the lifespan, and what moderates these associations in protective ways.

I asked her why my project appealed to her, and she said, “I’m interested in research that seeks to understand and improve health among marginalized and under-served populations. Your research certainly fits this bill. I also think that it’s important to invest in young scholars doing this type of research, in hopes that they’ll keep doing it and help make the world a better place for members of those populations.”

Dr. Earnshaw’s major contributions to my project are her expertise on the subject of stigma and her experience in methodology and analysis.

Fun Facts About Dr. Earnshaw:

  1. She practices yoga to maintain her mental health
  2. For fun, she likes to experiment with pie recipes and baking bread.
  3. She earned her Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Connecticut in 2011.
  4. She has a dog named Katniss.
  5. She grew up around Philadelphia, so her heart belongs to the Phillies, despite now living in Red Sox territory.
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#EDAW: 7 Facts About Eating Disorders Tue, 24 Feb 2015 08:51:14 +0000 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

10957867_10152558910217676_294281118006125873_nEating disorders are severe mental illnesses which have been portrayed inaccurately for decades. Although public awareness of the reality of eating disorders is improving, harmful stereotypes are still distressingly common. Eating disorders are not a matter of vanity or a “phase.” They are serious illnesses with life-and-death outcomes.

Here are a few facts to help get you educated this Eating Disorder Awareness Week:

1. 10-15% of individuals with anorexia or bulimia are male. Binge eating disorder is thought to affect males and females nearly equally.

2. Weight is not an accurate indicator of illness severity. Most individuals with bulimia nervosa are normal in weight and some are overweight. Even someone with anorexia nervosa can be overweight. Weight is not an accurate indicator of illness severity.

3. 50-80% of the causes of eating disorders are genetic. These are biologically-based illnesses, not a choice.

4. Anorexia nervosa is the most lethal psychiatric illness. We don’t even know the true mortality rate of eating disorders because many deaths are recorded as heart failure, suicide, etc. when an eating disorder is the underlying cause.

5. Only 10% of people with eating disorders ever seek treatment. Of those, only 35% are treated in a facility which specializes in eating disorders.

6. Eating disorder treatment at the residential level (24 hour program) can cost more than $1,000 per day. With most residential treatment programs lasting 45 days or more.

7. Eating disorder research is severely underfunded compared to other mental health disorders. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has allocated only $1.20 in research funding per affected eating disorder patient compared to $159 in funding per affected individual with schizophrenia.

8. As you can see, we can’t determine who has an eating disorder just by looking at them. Eating disorders do not discriminate by age, race, socioeconomic status, sex, or gender. Likewise, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and we can’t expect to develop best treatment practices without sufficient funding.

It’s time to put money toward eating disorders research. It’s time to find out what works and for whom. It’s time to invest in finding the keys to eating disorder recovery.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses. It’s time to take them seriously.

Want to learn more about eating disorders, recent advocacy efforts in the field, or find a treatment provider? Check out our friends at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Mary Duffy Thu, 05 Feb 2015 15:19:11 +0000 headshot1Hello Everyone! My name is Mary Duffy, and I am honored and extremely excited to be one of the 2015 Active Minds Emerging Scholars. Having been blessed with a last name at the beginning of the alphabet, I’ll be kicking off the Emerging Scholars blog posts each month.

Last semester, I completed my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Saint Joseph. I am currently working at USJ as a teaching assistant for research methods and a professional tutor for both the Psychology Department and the Honors Program. In the future, I intend to earn my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and work in an academic or clinical setting where I can continue to pursue my own research.

My project will be the qualitative analysis of data I collected last semester from 84 people diagnosed with eating disorders who self-identify as transgender/non-binary in gender. I asked them about their eating disorder history and treatment experiences and their experiences living as a transgender/non-binary person.

Why did I choose to study this topic? I work with The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness (you should check them out). They run various free support groups for people with eating disorders.

For almost two years, they had an LGBT group, but no one ever came, even though at least ¼ of people in the other groups could have (my own estimate). I wanted to learn more about the LGBT/ED community to try to understand why this was, so I started looking into published academic research (because that’s what everyone does in their spare time, right?).

I didn’t see much research on that population, and there was almost nothing on transgender individuals with eating disorders. When I say “almost nothing,” I mean three case studies in the last 50 years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with research, a case study is basically: “I had this interesting patient once. This is what I did with them, and here’s what happened. Cool, huh?” Three case studies is what we call “a significant research gap” in academic-speak.

I consider that a problem. Take a look at the following pairs of statistics (eating disorder in blue via the Eating Disorders Coalition, transgender in green via The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality):

  • Eating disorders kill. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, upwards of 20%.
  • A staggering 41% of [transgender] respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population.
  • Eating disorders can be successfully and fully treated to complete remission, but only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment. Treatment of an eating disorder in the US ranges from $500 to $2,000 per day. Outpatient treatment, including therapy and medical monitoring, can cost $100,000 or more.
  • [Transgender] respondents lived in extreme poverty. Our sample was nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/year compared to the general population.
  • Eating disorders can lead to major medical complications, including cardiac arrhythmia, electrolyte imbalances (which can cause seizures), kidney failure, osteoporosis, and most seriously death.
  • Twenty-eight percent of [transgender] respondents said they had not seen a doctor in the past year, many because of prior experiences of mistreatment in health care settings.

It’s not a pretty picture. Long story short, I set out to gather as much information as I could about this population, with the goal of using my findings to raise awareness and as a jumping-off point for future research. I was lucky enough to forge a partnership with Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders (T-FFED), and they helped me with the wording of my questions and with recruiting participants.

Now, that I’ve collected my data, 300-ish pages in all, I will spend the next few months analyzing it. I don’t want to put you to sleep with the details of qualitative analysis here, so just trust me when I say it is a lot of work and makes this project an enormous undertaking.

So, that’s my project. Keep following this blog for my updates, and to learn about what my fellow Emerging Scholars are doing!

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