Walking the Walk of Translational Research

Walking the Walk of Translational Research

Walking the Walk of Translational Research

At the Empowerment Initiative, we focus on translational research. More to the point: How can we create a kinder, braver world and end cruel, mean behavior? We strive to achieve this by studying the conditions that will enhance lives and help solve real, day-to-day problems such as bullying. To this end, we want to ensure we’re walking the walk of translational research – which, in one recent case, also meant talking the talk.

As we’ve previously mentioned, our Born Brave Research Study revealed that young people generally prefer to seek support via texting and other electronic means. In this spirit, we were extremely excited to partner with Creating Community Solutions and participate in the #TextTalkAct phenomenon on Oct. 6, which was designated National Day Without Stigma.

Empowerment Initiative researchers activated #TextTalkAct on their cell phones, with interactive YouTube and texting opportunities stimulating this important discussion. We talked about multiple mental health issues – and how we ourselves cope with them. Because the team is composed primarily of graduate students, much of our discussion centered on how such students can find time to take care of themselves and support their mental health.

Our ideas included the following:

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Text, Talk, Act: Promoting Mental Health on Oct. 6

The Empowerment Initiative and the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) recently presented results from the Born Brave Experience Study at the 2014 American Psychological Association Convention. In 2013, the study – which included an online survey of 2,645 young people aged 13-25 – found that preferred methods of mental health service delivery varied widely based on age, gender, sexual orientation and levels of anxiety or depression. Among our most important findings? Compared with older demographics, younger participants preferred online- and texting-based help-seeking to face-to-face interactions.

Because the Empowerment Initiative aims to conduct translational research that helps reduce the research-to-practice gap, we are especially excited to partner with Creating Community Solutions for the third Text, Talk, Act event on October 6. Text, Talk, Act combines texting, social media and face-to-face conversation to give young people the information and confidence they need to talk about mental health and help a friend who might be struggling with a mental health issue.  Given the results of the Born Brave Study, Text, Talk, Act represents an ideal way to engage youth in discussing mental health and promoting how and where to seek help.

With the hashtag #TextTalkAct, everyone can spread the word via Twitter and Facebook. Some sample tweets:

  • Because conversation matters and #MentalHealthMatters. Let’s #TextTalkAct about it: bit.ly/TalkMatters
  • What will you do when your friend needs help? #TextTalkAct to get informed. Coming Oct 6: bit.ly/texttalkact
  • Because a small act of kindness can make a big difference. #TextTalkAct to be part of the change: bit.ly/texttalkact
  • Oct 6: 1 hour. 4 people. 1 phone. That’s all it takes to be part of #TextTalkAct. Because #MentalHealthMatters! bit.ly/TTAWorks

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Cyberbullying: Solutions for a 24/7 Problem

Zach MyersIt’s here again – that time when students and parents gear up for the start of a new school year. While families stuff shopping carts with notebooks, pencils and folders, businesses are running countless back-to-school advertisements for sales on computers, tablets and cellphones.

Though technology has positively shaped the way students, teachers and parents approach learning and teaching, we must also recognize the potential problems stemming from untethered access to that technology. Cyberbullying may occur less frequently than its traditional counterpart, but it rightfully represents a major concern for students, parents and educators. In fact, these concerns are growing alongside students’ increased access to technology (e.g., texting, social media sites and applications, online gaming) and numerous investigations linking cyberbullying involvement with mental health issues. Given this, it’s important that students and adults prepare for the back-to-school season by taking steps to prevent and intervene in cyberbullying. Continue reading

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Clearing a Path to Mental Health: Findings from the Born Brave Experience Study

APA Convention“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”  ~ Robin Williams

The recent news of Robin Williams’ suicide serves as a stark reminder that more than 100 Americans take their own lives on a daily basis. We know that depression is an illness and, as such, can be effectively treated with various combinations of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy. So why do societal stigmas against discussing mental illness continue to persist?

The Empowerment Initiative and the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) believe it’s time to have open conversations about mental health – particularly the need to invest in effective training and treatment. In this spirit, we recently presented results from the 2013 Born Brave Experience Study at the American Psychological Association Convention. Continue reading

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Born Brave in Beantown

Empowerment Initiative researchers Michelle Howell Smith (left) and Theresa McKinney (right)  meet Cynthia Germanotta, president of the Born This Way Foundation.

Empowerment Initiative researchers Michelle Howell Smith (left) and Theresa McKinney (right) meet Cynthia Germanotta, president of the Born This Way Foundation.

Two of our Born Brave Experience Study researchers, Michelle and Theresa, presented “Best Laid Schemes: Lessons Learned When the Purposes and Research Questions in a Mixed Methods Study Change” at the Mixed Methods International Research Association on June 27 in Boston.

The presentation offered reflections and lessons taken from our implementation of a mixed-methods study of empowerment among youth and young adults ages 13 to 25. Based on social-cognitive theory and the transtheoretical model of change, we are creating a model of youth empowerment and engagement. Inspired by the work of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and their signature project, the Born Brave Bus tour, we’ve sought to understand what empowers youth carry the values of kindness and bravery back to their homes, schools and communities. Continue reading

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Studying the Born Brave Experience

Born This Way Research GraphicThe Born Brave Experience Study is a mixed-methods project designed to help understand the factors that support youth empowerment and engagement. It also aims to develop effective youth empowerment interventions that will be disseminated through unique outlets that include a Web-based community and the Born Brave Bus. We’re especially interested in factors that help sustain empowerment and engagement over time, thereby cultivating a kinder and braver world.

One of our qualitative interviewers and analysts, Theresa McKinney, gave the first presentation from data collected in 2013 during the International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Speaking in late May, McKinney presented “Like a Brick: Lessons Learned in Reflexivity, Data Management, Technology Use, and Team Analysis from a Study of Kindness and Bravery.” Continue reading

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H.E.A.R., H.E.A.R.! Early Results of an Anti-Bullying Presentation

Major Chandler and Dr. Sue Swearer

Major Chandler and Dr. Sue Swearer

This week, Empowerment Initiative founder Sue Swearer joined Jimmy Shafe of Career Training Concepts in conducting an introductory training of the Helping Everyone Achieve Respect (H.E.A.R.) presentation to more than 40 Nebraska National Guard members in Lincoln, Neb.

H.E.A.R. aims to empower National Guard recruiters to teach an anti-bullying presentation that reinforces and extends the Guard values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The presentation was collaboratively developed by Career Training Concepts; Drs. Rick Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones, founders of the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and the Empowerment Initiative’s Swearer. H.E.A.R. stands as the first anti-bullying presentation geared toward high school students that can be delivered by National Guard Representatives in communities across the United States.

This school year, the H.E.A.R. presentation has reached 11 states and provided pilot data from 4764 students in grades 10-12 (63% Caucasian; 10% African-American; 9% Hispanic; 3% Asian-American; 2% bi-racial), who reported the following:

  • 60% indicate bullying is a problem in their school
  • 67% have witnessed bullying in past school year
  • 83% were motivated by the H.E.A.R. presentation to try to prevent bullying
  • 85% said the H.E.A.R. presentation helped them understand what bullying is and why people bully
  • 84% said the H.E.A.R. presentation gave them useful strategies to prevent bullying
  • 85% said the H.E.A.R. presentation gave them useful ideas for what to do if they are bullied
  • 85% said the H.E.A.R. presentation gave them useful ideas for what to do if they witness bullying
  • 90% said the H.E.A.R. presenter communicated effectively
  • 91% said the H.E.A.R. presenter was knowledgeable about the topic
  • 91% said the H.E.A.R. presenter treated them with respect

As a supporter of translational research designed to foster positive, accepting communities free from bullying and other negative behaviors, the Empowerment Initiative has a vested interest in scaling up bullying prevention and intervention efforts. In partnership with the National Guard, we’re excited to help foster a large-scale force of bullying prevention personnel who can effect positive growth in their homes, schools and communities. Putting the Guard values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage into practice is the ultimate goal of Helping Everyone Achieve Respect!

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Making the Workplace Work

WorkplaceThe Empowerment Initiative has received several recent emails about workplace bullying and how to handle it. Workplace bullying can create significant feelings of frustration, hopelessness, fear and anger. It leads to a hostile work environment, exceeds basic unkind behavior, and is connected to negative outcomes for both bullies and their victims.1

Employees need a sense of efficacy to successfully navigate the professional world and earn a livelihood. By depriving employees of their financial and emotional well-being, acts of bullying, harassment and intimidation put professionals in a precarious situation. Continue reading

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Born (to Run) This Way in NYC Marathon

In three days, I’ll be running the ING NYC Marathon to support Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation (BTWF). I’m excited – and a little scared. But the many incredible people I’ve met since joining the BTWF have inspired me to overcome my doubts in the same way that they’ve conquered their own.

I’m the chair of the Research Advisory Board for the BTWF, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe communities where individuality is celebrated. It aims to accomplish this by connecting youth with the skills, resources and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world. In February 2012, I was honored to take part in the foundation’s launch at Harvard University. I was equally thrilled to become part of the Born Brave Bus Tour’s Behavioral Health Team in early 2013. I completely believe in what Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia, are doing to empower youth, inspire bravery, and create a kinder and braver world. Continue reading

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Empowerment Initiative Conducting Interviews for Born Brave Study

Born Brave Interviews

As we recognize National Unity Day, which calls for us to stand united against bullying, we thought this a fitting time to share an update on another effort aimed at promoting tolerance and empowerment: the Born Brave Experiences Study.

As part of this study, the Empowerment Initiative has begun conducting qualitative interviews with the youth and young adults who completed an online survey offered in conjunction with the Born Brave Bus Tour in spring 2013. With their help, this mixed-methods research study should advance our understanding of the factors related to youth empowerment, youth engagement, and healthy social-emotional functioning.

Interviews commenced last month in Kansas City, Mo., continue through October in New York and Lincoln, Neb., and conclude this November in Los Angeles. Along with the preceding survey, these interviews will offer insights that should ultimately allow us to better promote the youth activism so critical for establishing cultures of acceptance – visions of which inspired the founding of both the Empowerment Initiative and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.

In this spirit, we at the Empowerment Initiative continue to count ourselves remarkably fortunate for the chance to collaborate with an organization whose aims and efforts dovetail so seamlessly with our own. We’re optimistic that this joint research study will support Born This Way’s mission of providing the security, skills and opportunities essential to fostering a kinder and braver world.

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