Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Promising progress!

Monday, August 24, 2015 12:12 am

So I’ve been sort of slacking on the blog posts, but I figured I can complete the eighth as I continue my work with Minds Renewed into the school year. Currently I am getting settled into my new room on campus, so the past few days have been a little hectic. Earlier in the week my supervisor and I had a conference call with marketing expert Doug Shouse where we went over moving forward with the survey design. He gave us very positive feedback and gave us the thumbs up to go ahead and send the 7 question open-ended survey out to the 30 or so test participants. Mr. Mills then sent this survey out to some of his friends as a test run and to see if they had any additional feedback on how to improve the final survey. So far we have gotten 4 responses which have provided some good commentary on the survey’s pros and cons. We plan on using these responses to tweak the open-ended survey we will be sending out to a larger sample of participants at a later date. This was a short blog post, as I am headed out the door to see some friends I haven’t seen all summer. Yay being back on campus!

Shifting the Focus to Survey Design

Sunday, August 16, 2015 9:30 pm

I’ve finally finished sending out all of the emails to the counselors we located through Psychology Today. Since we haven’t been getting as a high of a response rate as had expected, Mr. Mills sent me the link to another organization made up of counselors, therapists, and psychologists who identify with the Christian religion called “Samaritan Institute”. With this new database, you can search Samaritan Institutes by state and view their websites as well as connect with them. To up the amount of participants in our survey, I recorded information for staff members who are a part of these institutes nationwide. The next step will be to reach out to these Christian Counselors and hopefully add to the pool of positive survey participants.

We are almost done with the completion of the first survey (the survey that will provide the framework in helping us to create survey #2). We generated a list of broad, open-ended questions that we will be sending out to a sample of therapists from whom we received positive responses to our email inquiry. So far the list of questions looks like this:

a. Describe a few ways your Christian faith affects your daily life.
b. Describe a few ways your Christian faith impacts your decisions to volunteer your time.
c. Describe a few ways your Christian faith impacts your decisions to support charitable causes.
d. Describe some reasons that serving those impacted with mental illness is important to you.
e. What factors would go into a decision by you to accept a nomination to serve in a volunteer group of Christians dedicated to serving those who are impacted by mental illness?
f. What factors might make you hesitant to accept a nomination for such a group?
g. If asked to nominate others for such a group, about how many names could you easily supply?

We are going to run the questions by Doug Shouse, a marketing specialist, to ensure that we are on the right track and that these questions cover the range of topics we should be inquiring possible future consortium members about. The next step will be creating a survey monkey account and designing this initial survey. There are still plans to conduct an online focus group with possible consortium members which will also be a point of conversation for the meeting with Doug Shouse.

Since we are just starting to design the surveys, it looks like I will be continuing my work with Minds Renewed into the school year. Once we receive the responses from survey #1, I will have to read them all and note similar responses that are seen among participants. This will be time consuming, but will be crucial for designing the second survey and continuing the growth of the organization.

Back in the Forest

Sunday, August 9, 2015 11:38 pm

My first week of being back in North Carolina has been filled with beautiful weather, reuniting with friends, and…you guessed it, sending lots and lots of emails. My work down here is still pretty unstructured in the sense that I check in only weekly with my supervisor to go over updates and report my progress. I do most of the work outside of the Minds Renewed office base and in the comfort of my apartment or a nearby Starbucks. As I said before, sending out the emails to therapist after therapist does get very repetitive and the constant copying and pasting seems like the perfect formula for carpel tunnel syndrome, but the positive responses we’ve been receiving have been very encouraging and (as lame as it sounds) super exciting!

Now that I am back in NC, Mr. Mills gave me the duty of beginning the survey design process. Now that we’ve sent out thousands of emails and have willing participants, it’s time to create a survey that will allow us to gauge how willing and enthusiastic these Christian therapists/counselors/psychologists are about joining the new consortium as well as how feasible the business model for Minds Renewed really is. For example, part of MR’s business model relies on annual financial contributions from active members to fund the organization. We will need to discover, through the survey, what sort of things these members would see as good incentives to join the consortium- whether it be allowing them to advertise their practices through the website, creating a way for them to connect with other likeminded individuals, etc.

The plan is to have an initial survey composed of a few open-ended questions that will steer us in the right direction when creating a main survey. When we receive the answers from survey #1, we will tally similar responses and create survey #2’s questions based off of these common responses. So far, Mr. Mills and I have been brainstorming ideas for the open ended questions. We need the questions to be broad enough to capture enough information for forming the second survey, but also specific enough to get a sense of common opinions regarding the consortium’s aims and business model. I met with my research methods professor from last spring and we bounced a few ideas off of each other. He gave me some overall advice on survey design, as well as helped me tweak and narrow down the list of possible questions I’d generated to share the next time I meet with Mr. Mills. He seemed to think we were headed in the right direction and that our survey would result in very useful information for MR.

On a side note, just the experience of being back at school a month early has been very rewarding. I don’t have an on campus meal plan, so I’m learning how to cook a lot of new dishes. I’m enjoying the Carolina heat as opposed to the lukewarm temperature of a Maine summer. And I’m also glad to be back in the structured mindset of the school year.

“A Very Worthy Endeavor”

Monday, July 13, 2015 5:09 pm

As July 30th approaches, I am getting more and more excited about saying goodbye to my hometown in Maine for the summer and hello to living and working in Winston-Salem throughout August and into the school year. Although working on the Minds Renewed project on my own time has been leisurely, I am looking forward to getting into the office setting and having some face-to-face supervision moving forward with the organizations’ aims.

I have finally completed collecting informational data on a sampling of therapists in the New England states. Now, I’ve moved on to the portion of the project that entails sending emails to the sample I’ve collected to see if they would be interested in taking our survey. When I am physically in North Carolina, I will be working with volunteer Doug Shouse to create the general web survey that we will be sending out to our sample of interested therapists, as well as work on conducting the online focus groups that will lend us further insight on how to conduct and execute the consortium. After we receive all of the feedback from the survey and focus groups, we will be analyzing the responses in order to tailor Transformed Minds’ resources and information as the responses indicate would be most beneficial to the population we’re hoping to serve.
Most of the above is looking towards the future. As of now, the volunteers and interns at Transformed Minds are day by day getting closer to having sent out all of the emails to the potential consortium member sampling. This is a lengthy task that doesn’t really require much creativity or thought. For the past week or so, I’ve been selecting a state, and sending out an email that includes the organization’s goals as well as asks the recipient for their participation in our (soon to be assembled) survey. Although this doesn’t seem like the most stimulating or exciting task, the positive responses I’ve been getting back from therapists and counselors have been extremely promising. Thus far, all of the respondents have showed interest in taking the survey and have expressed gratitude and encouragement for the overall goal Transformed Minds wishes to accomplish.

“Sounds good Lucy, go ahead and send it to the email that you have here. Thank you and good luck in this very worthy endeavor. God bless, Pastor Tony”

As Pastor Tony Mazzella states in his response above, I believe the work being done for Transformed Minds is not only worthy, but necessary. Bob Mills noticed a disconnect between the church and those seeking help for mental illness. He took the initiative to start a movement seeking to shorten this breach. It is a slow process, but everyday we’re gaining the knowledge to create a helpful, successful online consortium that will aid those worldwide struggling with mental illness.

Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

Monday, June 22, 2015 8:16 pm

Adelina did an extremely thorough job of summarizing the work we are currently doing with Transformed Minds in her last blog entry as well as the purpose and aim of this data collection. To recap, we’re using the database Psychology Today to collect information on a proportion of Christian therapists, social workers, and counselors from each state. We’ve divvied up the fifty states between volunteers and interns based on who is most familiar with certain areas. Living in Maine, I was assigned the northeast and have been visiting these Christian Therapists’ websites provided on Psychology Today to create a sort of contact profile for each individual who we will be reaching out to in the next month or so. The goal is to send out 2,250 emails, in turn receiving 500-600 individuals who are willing to participate in our survey. Since Adelina already covered the procedures involved in the work we’re currently doing with Transformed Minds, I decided to use this blog entry as a review of “Troubled Minds”- a book written by Amy Simpson that my supervisor Bob Mills lent to me to get a better conception of the connection between mental illness and the church.

Amy Simpson, the author of “Troubled Minds”, currently serves on Transformed Mind’s Special Advisors to the Board. Basically, these individuals display somewhat greater interest and commitment to the ministry than other members and play more of a leadership role in the organization. Although it may seem a little biased due to her position in the start-up I’m interning for this summer, Simpson does a spectacular job bringing to light the disconnect between those suffering from mental illness and the church. Her home life was characterized by a schizophrenic mother, and the book centers on her family’s heartbreaking, but hopeful story. Using personal experiences from her own life as well as friends’ and acquaintances’, Simpson makes clear the lack of understanding and assistance that the church provides to those suffering from mental illness. She states the power that the church can (and should) have in aiding sufferers and the destruction it can cause when an individual with a mental illness feels ignored and neglected by their church. She lays out suggestions for Christians to recognize and appropriately respond to those living with mental illness, and creates an inspiring narrative that really resonates with all individuals who have experienced or dealt with mental illness in their life, whether religious or not. “A Christian leader who refuses to abandon a family in crisis may be a powerful symbol of the truth that God has not abandoned them either.”

Reading Simpson’s book has further sparked my enthusiasm in my work with Transformed Minds. I was raised in a family that didn’t put a great focus on religion, but after reading “Troubled Minds” I understand the crucial role religion and the church plays in mental illness. Not only was the book informative, but it was a very absorbing read that I would recommend to anyone interested in topics surrounding mental health. Having a greater sense of the apparent lack of support and acknowledgment of those suffering from mental illness within the church, I am able to approach my work at Transformed Minds with a renewed vigor.

A Cause Worth the Hours

Saturday, June 6, 2015 5:46 pm

For the first few months of summer, Mr. Mills (my supervisor and the president of Transformed Minds- TM), is sending me tasks and assigning project duties that I am expected to complete on my own time at home. This being said, a lot of the preliminary work for my internship will be scheduled and carried out independently. At first, I was somewhat wary of this structure, but as the weeks have gone on, I’ve come to appreciate the flexibility that accompanies designing your own work schedule. I have worked my fair share of minimum wage, summer jobs that require coming into work every day at a set time to work a seven or eight hour shift. Although these jobs make it easy to anticipate what you will be doing each day and for how long, I’ve enjoyed choosing when I want to work on the tasks assigned by Mr. Mills and for how long. This sense of freedom has allowed me to really delve into the work I’m doing rather than simply complete it out of obligation.

I’ve also enjoyed the nature of the work that I am doing with Transformed Minds much more than that of other summer jobs I’ve held in the past. From scooping yogurt at a frozen yogurt shop, to scanning groceries, to working at a local greenhouse, the work I have done for salary has never felt as meaningful and rewarding as what I am helping Transformed Minds accomplish. So far I’ve been taking records of the number of Christian counselors residing in each state, and recording data on specific individuals that I will later be contacting to see if they have an interest in being a part of the TM consortium. These tasks will ultimately help to find and create the driving force behind Transformed Minds, and will hopefully benefit those nationwide suffering from mental illness. There really is no better feeling than working towards something you feel passionately about, and TM has given me the opportunity to do just that this summer.

Hope & Healing

Friday, May 29, 2015 5:51 pm

Although major advancements have been made in the identification and treatment of mental illness, the prevalence of individuals who suffer from such disorders remains strikingly high (around 26% for adults and 10% for children in any given year). These numbers make evident the need for thorough and comprehensive resources that yield useful information and connect victims of mental illness to necessary help.

Additionally, those with strong religious backgrounds are likely to seek console and advice through their church and bring their questions first to a pastor before seeking treatment from a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor. The lack of knowledge on mental illness in the church can sometimes hinder followers’ feelings of support and understanding from their church, causing them to feel further alone in their suffering.

This summer I am interning for a startup organization called Transformed Minds (TM). The aim of this movement is to create and design a website where those suffering from mental illness (religious or not), as well as their loved ones, can gain easy access to quality, straightforward information regarding the disorder of focus. TM also plans to create a double-blind system that connects the website’s users to the mental health resources/treatment personnel they require (whether that be a counselor, an article informing parents of a depressed teenager how to handle their child’s disorder, or a member of the consortium that has had experience with a specific area of mental illness). The organization plans to accomplish all of these goals through a faith based lens and hopes to become nationally recognized. Although the website will cater to all those who suffer from mental illness, it will emphasize the importance of religion in the journey to recovery and show its users that they are not alone in their battles with mental illness and that there is purpose in their hardships.

This summer I will be working on a team with a Bob Mills, President of TM, as well as other interns and volunteers to help coordinate attitudinal surveys of Christian counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and similar professions. I will also be observing and analyzing a smaller portion of these individuals through online focus groups. The goal of my work with TM is to increase the understanding of potential consortium members as well as increase their enlistment in the movement.

Bob Mills has a truly inspiring vision for the organization (with plans to reach 12,000 consortium members by 2017)! The motivation behind the TM movement is heartening and shows promise for a future where mental illness is better recognized and treated and where those who suffer don’t feel lost and alone in trying to navigate the mental health system.

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