Research changes everyone’s lives for the better and that’s why on 5 July 2023 we at MQ Mental Health Research are celebrating Research Appreciation Day and we invite you to join us. It’s time we take time to notice just how much research changes the world and society in which we live. Research cannot happen without researchers. That’s why we’re introducing you to our recent research fellows.
Research Appreciation Day – Introducing Dr Marisa E. Marraccini
Name: Marisa E. Marraccini, MQ Fellow 2022, University of North Carolina
Career background: Research and psychology
Current research: to promote child and adolescent mental health in the context of their daily lives in school settings; currently developing and testing a virtual reality intervention to supplement inpatient treatment for adolescents hospitalized for suicide-related crises, and leading research that partners with youth to develop and disseminate therapeutic skills by way of social media.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I was never the kid who had one idea for a profession. I think I wanted to do everything. I sort of still do.
My father is a jewellery designer, my mother is a photographer, and my brother is an architect, so I always assumed I would end up in a creative profession. I studied art for one year in college, where I learned that creativity and art aren’t the same things – and that I was neither a skilled artist nor passionate about art! Instead, I studied yoga and muscular (massage) therapy, working in a plethora of customer service jobs (restaurants to retail), and teaching yoga to kids and adults.
When I went back to college to complete my bachelor’s degree, I thought I might become a teacher, but instead I found holistic psychology (a nice match for my passion for yoga and massage and interest in human services). Yet, my favourite class during my degree was statistics. From there, I discovered my passion for research in the context of child and adolescent mental health, which ultimately evolved to my focus on suicide prevention.
I was trained as a school psychologist at the University of Rhode Island where I completed my internship in a rural school district. I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in suicide assessment research at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. I am currently a faculty member in the school psychology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a licensed psychologist in North Carolina.
I still feel called to “do everything”, so I feel incredibly lucky to have landed in this work: I get to study an infinite number of things (including creative processes) in pursuit of helping kids!
What’s your favourite part of a study?
My two favourite parts of a study are firstly, the beginning – imagining all the incredible possibilities for making positive changes – dreaming super big.
And secondly, getting to connect with teens in pursuit of these dreams – learning what they think about the ideas, trying to understand their experiences, and collaborating to make the ideas better and more relatable.
What’s the biggest challenge of working in research?
I think the biggest challenge is balancing the many moving parts of research. In a single day my role can switch from academic writing, to connecting with families (and sometimes assessing suicide-related risk), to presenting to a group of school professionals, to writing a script for an intervention.
All this involves supervision and training; quick, on-the-ground decisions; and ongoing mentorship and support. And the work is never done!
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