Mental Health Studies

Mental Health Studies

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Mental Health Studies is a program that explores the biological, psychological, and general health related factors that influence a person’s mental well-being. This program includes courses in biology, psychology, health, sociology, and social work. It addresses not only what mental health is, but what contributes to a person’s mental health and how to improve their mental health. I created this program so that I could pursue a degree in what I am interested and feel passionate about. The prevalence of mental health issues in today’s society and the experiences I’ve encountered concerning mental health, have given me a personal connection and a passion to study and understand more about it. This major is unique because it has a narrow focus on a specific topic in psychology and incorporates supporting courses from other departments. With a standard major of psychology or biology I wouldn’t be able to focus on the mental health topic in as much depth as I can with this program; nor have the opportunity to study this topic from different academic perspectives.

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I’ve included many courses in various areas of study. The courses in biology that I’ve included are Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II and Neurobiology. Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II are important in learning about the essential components and systems in the body and how they operate. By understanding bodily functions, I will be able to identify the implications a person’s mental health can have on their entire body and vice versa. Neurobiology allows me to learn more about the brain from a biological standpoint. This class will help me focus on the most complex organ in our body and explore the brain’s functions in greater detail than in Human A&P. This class will help me to understand how the brain functions in different areas and how it inputs into the rest of the body.

CC BY-NC 2.0 Caterina SM

The courses in psychology that I’ve included are Abnormal PsychologyBehavioral Neuroscience, Personality, Treatment of Psychological Disorders, and Community Mental Health. Abnormal Psychology is important for this program because it focuses on psychopathology. This course is central to mental health studies because it examines psychological disorders and their symptoms. In this class I will develop a more thorough understanding of psychological variations and how modern mental health has evolved into what it is today. It will also include many different perspectives on mental health and how to appropriately discuss psychological disorders. Behavioral Neuroscience is also integral to this program. This course examines the anatomy of the brain and the neural processes from a psychological perspective. Mental disorders are studied in terms of brain functioning and what damage to individual parts of the brain could result in. Personality focuses on different theories of how personality is developed and how it can form a person’s general perspective on life. This allows me to understand how different experiences during personality development can affect a person’s mental well-being. Treatment of Psychological Disorders identifies different strategies to treat various psychological disorders. Many different approaches to such treatment are discussed and examined. Community Mental Health concentrates on context and community and how it influences mental health. It also discusses the best methods of preventing mental health problems.

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Health education courses included in this program are Drug Behavior, Mental Health Issues, and Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living. Drug Behavior examines different classes of drugs, including prescription drugs, as well as illegal drugs. Understanding drugs, and how they affect our body, is important in identifying how drugs and pharmaceuticals can manipulate biological processes. Mental Health Issues provides information on mental health and resources that can help with these issues. It also investigates various theories concerning behavioral changes. Applied Nutrition for Health Living focuses on the body’s reactions to foods and substances that are consumed. This includes metabolic processes and what substances are important for our bodies to properly function. Macromolecules, vitamins, and minerals important to our health are identified and what repercussions result from consuming too much or not enough of these substances.

Mental Health and Society is a social work course that is included in this program. This course examines how different social aspects can affect a person’s mental health. These social aspects include class, race, gender, ethnicity, age, and many other components of social interactions. It also discusses mental health services and practices, cross-culturally.

Illness, Wellness, and Healing is sociology course that is part of this program. Illness, Wellness, and Healing studies the history of disease and medicine and how it has evolved to our modern understanding. It examines medicine, disease, and their social implications in cultures all over the world.

I am including Statistics I in my program as my QRCO. This class is important to include because it provides understanding of how to perform statistical tests, which can be used to analyze data.

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My program is interdisciplinary because it incorporates courses from many different areas of study and provides an integrated perspective of these areas on mental health. This program allows me to study mental health from a biological, psychological, sociological, and health education lens. Mental health is a complicated topic of study that is best understood using the points of perspective that are encompassed in this program. By studying mental health in various disciplines, I can understand biological processes deeper than in a psychology class. Conversely, I can study the behavioral aspects of mental illness more comprehensively in psychology classes than I would in a biology course. This program is important to me because I want to work with people who struggle with mental illnesses and help them overcome challenges they face. With a degree in mental health studies I can develop a foundation of knowledge on mental health and use it to pursue careers such as psychiatric nursing or working in substance abuse rehabilitation programs. My main goal in pursuing this degree, is to develop a better understanding of the best ways to help people who struggle with mental illness.



I am now in my senior year fall semester with only two more classes to take before I am done with my major. I have made one small change to my program. I switched Mental Health Issues with Stress Management, but I’m hoping to change that with independent research that I will be conducting throughout the semester. My future plans are still the same, however I am leaning more towards going into the addiction realm of things and working with rehabilitation programs and things of that nature. Nursing is still an option for me, but I’ve recently moved it to the backburner for reasons I don’t even know. I’m hoping to do my applied project in one of those fields and hopefully get an internship in the other one, whichever that may be. I didn’t realize how quickly college would come to an end. I still feel like I’m too young and uneducated to make such substantial decisions for my future, but I could continue to say that for my whole life or just take the plunge and go with my gut. Who knows? I think that as long as I have goals, the sky is the limit. I just need to make sure that I’m making moves to bring my goals and plans to fruition. Make some forward motion. I would hate to get a job for the time being and become complacent about working towards those goals. Either way, I think it’s safe to say I’m both nervous and excited for whatever I plan to do with my degree. The main thing I want for myself is to do something that will impact people in a positive way. Whatever that may be. Obviously, I have an idea of what I want my career to look like, but If for some reason it doesn’t work out that way, as long as I’m making someone’s life even a tiny bit better, I’ll be content.


State Schools, Clinical Psychology, and an Unshakeable Drive: An Interview with Plymouth State’s Dr. Kathleen Herzig

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Plymouth State University is home to 193 professors and instructors. Of these 193 professors and instructors, 84% have a doctorate or terminal degree in their field of study. That just blows my mind. Hearing stats like that makes me feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the academic community at PSU has to offer. I’ve taken courses in many different departments and I’ve never had a professor who wasn’t qualified to be teaching that class. I think I’d even go as far to say some of them are overqualified. But that’s the best part! Professors who have so many accolades, accomplishments, and honors, are still taking the time to enrich our lives and further our educational development to astronomical heights.

One of these professors is Dr. Kathleen Herzig. Herzig grew up in Hingham, MA., a town south of Boston. She did her undergrad at University of Massachusetts Amherst and majored in psychology. At UMASS Amherst, she was put into a psychology Talent Advancement Program (TAP). These are selective programs that put students in residential spaces with other students within that TAP. This program is actually what sparked her interest in psychology. Herzig confesses some of her motivation to be a clinical psychologist is partially due to a skeptical professor. “I think I’m actually a clinical psychologist in part because I was told by a professor that because I was a state school student I couldn’t do it.” Thanks to Dr. Herzig, all state school students now have evidence that anyone can become clinical psychologists!

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After graduating, Herzig continued her education at University of Connecticut where she was a research assistant to a doctoral student there and helped conduct research in non-verbal communication. As a student in the honors program, she did her own thesis on family child care and needs assessment and observed children in their homes.

Herzig continues, to share that she became a clinical psychologist because, “[she] wanted the option to do research and to do [her] own research.” The option to work in a university setting also played a role in her decision to pursue clinical psychology.

In her first semester of teaching at PSU, Herzig was given the opportunity to teach Community Mental Health. She was the first clinical psychologist on faculty for a few years so she got to construct the course to her liking and form it from a clinical psychologist’s perspective (before Herzig taught the class it was being taught by teaching lecturers). She expressed how, “it was both a little cool to make it up myself but also a little overwhelming because it’s not like I could look at another school and be like, oh who teaches the community mental health course there? I will write them and see if they can tell me because there really aren’t a lot of classes like that.” Just another example of Dr. Herzig’s drive. Creating a syllabus for a course you’ve never taught before, at a school you just started at, with little to nothing to go from. That kind of just speaks for itself.

CC BY-NC-ND Sam Carpenter

During the interview, I asked Dr. Herzig about interdisciplinarity in her work and study. She told me currently, she is working on The Happiness Quest, which is a research study run by a philosophy professor here and includes Herzig and two other sociologists on campus. She goes on to describe how she finds interdisciplinarity beneficial. “Psychology is very individualistic. The mental health problem comes from the individual and maybe their family; a person’s genetics, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and I agree with that. However, there’s this whole context. There’s the world. There’s culture. There’s social oppression. There’s all these different things that impact our wellness. So that is much more of a social work lens and a sociology lens really.”

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I think this is awesome and creates so much forward motion in terms of inclusion and perspective in the world. Developing your own point of view and not sticking to rigid perspectives of your field helps to shed light on situations and provides ground for interpretations that may not have been made otherwise. I also think this challenge to include different perspectives into our own lives and thought processes is so beneficial because it can integrate so many more ideas and principles into our work. “Clinical psychology in a weird way is a little bit interdisciplinary because it takes sort of the research base of psychology and the study of the mind, and combines it with psychiatry.” The point that I take away from this statement is that even though Dr. Herzig studied clinical psychology, she was still able to identify ways that other areas of study were involved.

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When I first received the assignment of interviewing a faculty member I was filled with dread, because sometimes I’m super awkward and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of one of my professors. However, through this interview, I was able to get to know Dr. Herzig more than I would have just taking one of her courses. I think what I admire most about Dr. Herzig was her tenacity and resolve to prove her professor wrong. Imagine one of your professors saying something like that to you. Nice. Cool. I’ll just go home, cry a little, and then attempt to make sense of my life that is turning to shambles. I mean I’d love to say that I could channel the same feeling Dr. Herzig had when she spoke with her professor, but who knows. All I can do is remember this story and hope that I can use it to push myself when I run into the inevitable obstacles and bums along the way.


Thank you Dr. Herzig for giving me your time and knowledge! Plymouth State is lucky to have you!

Are Our Domains Really “Ours”?

CCBY Mervi Eskelinen

What a time to be alive. The Information Age. A time that gives anyone the tools to research anything they want; to create and publicly share their ideas. Information on any topic at the tip of our fingers and accessible by one click of a mouse. The technological advances made by society has greatly impacted the amount and caliber of work that people can do; especially when those people are students. It has allowed for students to gain a deeper understanding of the topics they are learning about or are interested in. Technology has paved the way for students to become the greatest scholars the world has seen. To become the greatest researchers, thinkers, and learners they can be. Because of these assets, technology has and will continue to be an extremely relevant tool.

I find this topic to be extraordinarily important because I have been immersed in a world where technology is continuing to advance every day and I have been shown the usefulness and influence that technology has. As a neurobiology student, I can go online and within 2 minutes, have hundreds of journal entries from researchers who have done experiments on fluoxetine’s effects on invertebrates. As a psychology student, I can find as many papers written on schizophrenia, as there are people in the United States. As an anthropology student, I can find any, and all, information on the cholera epidemic in Peru. These are just a few examples of how I personally see and understand the immense benefits of technology.

I am an Interdisciplinary Studies major, meaning that I am majoring in multiple areas of study, or disciplines. Technology has proven itself useful to me yet again, in the form of this ePortfolio. I can use this platform to share my thoughts and ideas on a range of topics and completely personalize it to best represent myself.

CC BY-ND Brian Evans

The ideas presented in the article “The Web We Need to Give Students”, by Audrey Watters, dives into the ideas of student privacy and what it actually means to give students their own domain. Watters comments on how, “Having one’s own domain means that students have much more say over what they present to the world, in terms of their public profiles, professional portfolios, and digital identities.” To me, this emphasizes the importance of students having a place that is completely theirs. Because It is a public place that students are sharing their thoughts, content should come completely from the student. I believe that the best way to ensure the content being posted to personal domains is safe and protected is to educate students on the implications their publications can have and give them opportunities to develop something that is completely their own, something they can be proud of.

Gardner Campbell reiterates the importance of personal domains and why they are vital for a student’s online presence, in the article “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure”.  “Pointing students to data buckets and conduits we’ve already made for them won’t do. Templates and training wheels may be necessary for a while, but by the time students get to college, those aids all too regularly turn into hindrances.” This quote promotes some serious thought. How can students completely personalize and take control of their domain if they are only given the basic, cookie cutter options for personalization. At that point can we really say personalization? Can we truthfully say that a student owns their domain? No. At best, it can be said its sort of personalized or that it’s partially the student’s domain.


CC BY-NC Michael Fisher

Andrew Rickard explains this idea of partial ownership in his article “Do I Own My Domain if You Grade It?”. He delves into the issue of student’s domains becoming an extension of basic classroom assignments and what affect that has on a student’s ownership. “Giving a student ownership over data means nothing if it doesn’t allow them to determine that data”. While reading this article, I thought about the idea of a student domain only containing the topics and ideas relevant to the class they are taking at that time, or those deemed important by the student’s professor. Sure. We can argue that even so, the student is still the creator, and therefore, owner of the content being published. However, If the content does not reflect the personal ideologies of the student, and really get down to the nitty-gritty of who they are, then I don’t believe that we can really get a handle of who that person is. The point of publishing the work also shifts from being an inspiring excerpt from the student’s mind, to something that will please the professor so that the student can receive a good grade. It doesn’t give complete and total creative freedom to the student and therefore their ownership of their domain is compromised, or better yet, shared with their professor.

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Overall, these articles showed me what it really means to have complete ownership and the importance of constructing a domain that is totally yours. This will benefit me as I construct my major over the course of this semester. I now understand, the untapped freedom I have been given in the technological world and how to use it for my personal development. Knowing that I am in complete control of my educational well-being and future is a breath-taking feeling.

Do you think that ownership is as important as I do? Should professors be able to dictate a student’s grade based on what the student chooses to post to their personal domain? Leave a comment so we can continue this discussion!

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed yourself!