Karly Comfort, SJSU master’s student in social work was one of two students who received the MSW Research Award from the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) for her research entitled, “Thinking Positive, Being Connected, and Staying Active: The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Caregiving, Well-Being, and Self-Care’s Role as a Buffer.”
CalSWEC’s Research & Development Committee, in conjunction with the California Association of Deans and Directors, established the Research Award for MSW Students to encourage and support student research that will contribute to the evidence base for policy and practice for public human services. The research competition is open to all MSW students attending universities in CalSWEC’s consortium.
When Karly was asked why she decided to pursue this particular topic, she stated, “When you think of someone with schizophrenia living at home, what are the first five things that come to mind? Most likely you’d think about the factors that contribute to their safety and how to keep them safe. These factors probably include food, clothing, transportation, medical appointments, and activities of daily living.
In the background, beyond what you think of first, is the support person providing such items, the caregiver who is most likely a family member. That person gives so much of their time, energy, and heart to supporting, caring for, and providing for their loved one. Family caregivers are rarely thought about in the realm of mental health, which is a significant missed opportunity.
In the months leading up to my having to complete a final research project for the MSW program at SJSU, I met a few family caregivers of people with mental illness that provided me with a window into the unique demands and stressors that caregivers face. Therefore, I used my culminating research paper to examine what caregivers need in order to support their well-being.
My project showed that people with mental illness do better when their caregivers do better and have substantial support structures. I examined the well-being of family caregivers of people with severe mental illness and looked at how mental illness stigma and self-care impact their well-being. With the new knowledge and understanding I gained from my research, I am much more able to empathize with their efforts in caring for their loved ones, as well as for themselves.”
Awardees received $250 for the initial proposal and $500 as a winner. Congratulations Karly Comfort.
For more information: MSW Research Award-Winning Projects Delve into Aspects of Mental Health.