Psychology thesis defense by Emilie Cattrell - Dec. 1, 2014

by Michelle Saport  |   

Monday, Dec. 1, 4 p.m. Professional Studies Building, Room 148

Emilie Cattrell will defend her thesis, "Religious Workers as Front-line Mental Health Providers in Alaska: Trauma, Coping and Support."

Abstract: While previously unstudied, religious workers in Alaska serve in communities known to have high rates of trauma and few mental health care providers, and may experience frequent traumatic stressors. Additionally, those in rural locations may act as front-line mental health providers, but have limited access to their own supportive services. Past research suggests that religion and spirituality may reduce trauma-related mental health symptoms. Experience of trauma, access to supportive care, prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptom severity, spiritual involvement and beliefs, and reliance on general and religious coping strategies were assessed. An online survey was distributed through email and 37 religious workers completed it. A mixed-method analysis using narrative content analysis and a Pearson's correlation matrix of all measures were completed. Results found that religious workers personally experience and are exposed to a high number of traumatic stressors, and in rural communities have less access to supportive care. The number of personally experienced traumas was related to severity of PTSD symptoms. A significant positive correlation was found between overall spiritual beliefs and use of positive religious coping. PTSD and depression symptom severity were high and no relationship was found with positive religious coping. Spirituality and religion do not appear to be mediating factors in this sample. Alaska religious workers appear to respond to trauma in their communities and experienced trauma-related mental health symptoms similar to non-religious cross-cultural relief workers.

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