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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

Maryland Mental Health Research and Initiatives

The University of Maryland School of Public Health’s research spans a wide array of mental health topics, ranging from the effect of exercise on anxiety to designing healthcare provider trainings to better serve veterans with service-related mental health conditions

A new project led by Dr. Norm Epstein, family science professor and director of the Couple and Family Therapy master’s program, along with his students, will study the impact of a program that engages military service members in training service dogs on their family relationships and mental health. Working with a non-profit group, the Warrior Canine Connection, that involves military PTSD sufferers in training service dogs for wounded warriors, Dr. Epstein will analyze data gathered through meetings with service members and their families over the course of the year after they participate in the service dog training program.

URL: http://sph.umd.edu/news-item/supporting-our-wounded-warriors-new-research-investigates-how-service-dogs-impact-health

The Maryland Veterans Resilience Initiative (MaVRI) project, directed by family science professor Dr. Sally Koblinsky and associate professor Dr. Leigh Leslie, researched civilian providers’ capacity to meet the needs of veterans with service-related mental health conditions. With the return of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, increasing numbers of civilian behavioral health providers are treating veterans and their families for service-related mental health conditions. The MaVRI project surveyed more than 3,000 licensed mental health and primary care professionals in Maryland to gauge their knowledge and confidence in treating veterans’ conditions, such as PTSD, anxiety, Military Sexual Trauma, and suicide ideation. Funded by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the survey was the first statewide effort in the U.S. to assess the knowledge and training needs of health care professionals who are treating veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Study findings were published in Military Behavioral Health and the Journal of General Practice.

The MaVRI team then used survey participants’ feedback to design trainings for state providers that addressed military culture and treatment of war-related behavioral health conditions. Also funded by the Maryland department of health and mental hygiene, more than 1,000 Maryland health professionals completed MaVRI trainings during the two-year project. The project also built peer support systems for student veterans and service members at community colleges and four-year institutions across the state, helping student veterans make the transition to college life and achieve their educational goals.

URL: http://sph.umd.edu/department/fmsc/about-maryland-veterans-resilience-initiative

Two studies by Dr. Rada K. Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration, investigated different relationships amongst depression and economics. In a study published in Psychiatry Research, and co-authored by associate professor of behavioral and community health Kerry M. Green, young adults with co-occurring depression and substance abuse were found to have a higher likelihood of being unemployed and having lower income in midlife than those with neither disorder. In a study published in PLOS ONE, Dr. Dagher and researchers found that men and women in the U.S. had lower odds of depression diagnoses and better mental health during the Great Recession of 2007-09 compared to pre-recession. Post-recession, however, women were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, while men were less likely to suffer from psychological distress, as measured by a standard test called Kessler 6—post-recession compared to pre-recession. This large, national study was the first in the U.S. known to examine the association between the Great Recession and mental health at the population level.

URLs: http://sph.umd.edu/news-item/combined-depression-and-substance-abuse-may-contribute-downward-drift-socioeconomic-status and http://sph.umd.edu/news-item/national-study-finds-lower-depression-better-mental-health-during-great-recession

Dr. Carson Smith, associate professor in the department of kinesiology, conducted research that found moderate exercise may help people cope with anxiety and stress for an extended period of time post-workout. “If you exercise, you’ll not only reduce your anxiety, but you’ll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety when confronted with emotional events,” Dr. Smith said of the findings, which were published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

URL: http://sph.umd.edu/news-item/umd-study-shows-exercise-may-protect-against-future-emotional-stress