MSW students present research at Social Work Colloquium

Master of Social Work (MSW) students raised awareness about issues ranging from the link between eating disorders and substance abuse to methamphetamine use in rural areas at the 2014 Social Work Colloquium.

Master of Social Work students presented research projects during the 2014 Social Work Colloquium. MSW students Sara Downey and Jessica Gain showed the correlation between methamphetamine use and rural areas, depicting the path to recovery with mailboxes as a symbol of the rural areas. Photo by Kari Williams

Students in the master’s program presented their research projects last week in the Morris University Center. MSW student Kylie McCarver and psychology major Kathi Smith created a “Bea-youtiful” campaign to accompany their work on eating disorders and substance abuse. McCarver said the campaign intends to “promote self-awareness and finding beauty within themselves.”

“I’ve always had a fascination with eating disorders, just because [of] the harm it can cause and all of the different things that can lead to … the eating disorder,” McCarver said. “So it was just kind of an easy relationship to find for us and it was very interesting to research.”

Making the community aware of the “comorbidity” of these issues is important, according to McCarver. Comorbidity is when a person has more than one disorder or disease at the same time.

“Really, there’s a big correlation between the two and there is a relationship that’s significant and I don’t think a lot of people know about it,” McCarver said. “So maybe just remembering some of these facts and being aware of some of the things that people are dealing with is helpful in the community.”

One fact McCarver said Smith and she presented in a video during the colloquium is that “20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders in the United States today.”

“That is a huge number to even think of and within that number it was saying that individuals who have one of the disorders are four times as likely to develop the other disorder, so that’s a huge statistic if that many people are affected by it,” McCarver said.

MSW students Sara Downey and Jessica Gain discovered that methamphetamine is “the most prevalent drug” in rural areas during their research.

“It’s very popular because they are so isolated in their communities,” Gain said. “It’s very easy to make. It’s very easy to access the chemicals. The ingredients you can buy them at the store.”

Mobile labs are “popping up,” according to Gain, which allow labs to exist in car trunks or mobile homes.

“You can make them really anywhere, and so they’re making a lot of these mobile labs. They’re producing meth really quickly and they’re selling it really quickly,” Gain said.

The effects of methamphetamine, according to Gain, last “almost 12 hours,” which, because of the duration, make people want to prolong the high. Gain said the “biggest problem” they encountered is people not wanting “to seek treatment.”

“Treatment is so limited to this population because a lot of people don’t see it as a major issue,” Gain said. “So there aren’t facilities out there. And they don’t have transportation to get to facilities that are in major cities.”

While Downey said some resources in a brochure they created offer transportation options, Gain said even some of those services are “becoming scarce.” Living near rural communities, Downey said researching the issue “helps us kind of understand what could be happening in those places and what we can do to help.”

“[We’re] just raising awareness and trying to educate people because a lot of people maybe don’t know that this is an issue in rural communities,” Downey said. “So educating each other, and I think because there isn’t enough treatment it’s going to take different types of professionals and community members to make a difference.”

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