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Centerville native takes mental health research to Ireland

Pella Chronicle - 7/4/2018

It's clear to many there are problems in not only Iowa's, but America's, mental health system. Sometimes, though, defining what the problems are isn't as obvious.

Lauren Lain, a Centerville native, recently traveled about 3,800 miles away to Belfast, North Ireland to present her findings on that topic.

The presentation was on the mental health issues in a rural Midwestern town's setting. She aimed to define what the problems are. She spoke to various stakeholders involved: patients, law enforcement, doctors, service coordinators, etc.

"Overall, everyone had the same opinions about things," Lain said. "They knew that our system was failing and that there needed to be holistic care. But they just weren't talking to each other, really. So, people had these opinions, but no action steps were [being taken]."

So then, what is the problem?

Lain, through her research, summarized mental health into three main points:

- Those involved believe there needed to be holistic care, but there have been many barriers beyond the control of those who think that.

- Lack of housing, access to transportation, and access to a consistent provided for patients cause issues in treatment.

- Providers and consumers want to see those in recovery from mental health functioning in society.

While all stakeholders and patients seem to agree, at least in large point, the system remains in crisis.

Lawmakers have taken a burnt of the heat for mental health issues. While that isn't necessarily undeserved, Lain finds there is still a disconnect between providers and patients.

Lain would pass along what she had heard from providers - without mentioning their names or locations - to patients. There wasn't a disagreement, though patients didn't think providers thought the way they did.

Mental health consumers would tell Lain that they didn't feel that providers "portray that."

What can be done to fix the system? Lain will be pursuing that in future research soon.

"I've been talking to more of the power figures ... and there's barriers there too, of course," Lain said. "I feel like it's just a lot of education [to fix the issues]. The biggest thing I've got out of this is that behavior doesn't fall out of the sky. We have to consider the community."

She presented the research at a three-day world-wide OT conference in Belfast, North Ireland. Many countries were present at the conference, which took place June 11-13. Lain attended multiple other sessions and presented on the second day.

The conference wasn't just about mental health, but occupational therapy. So, fields like mental health are included, but Lain summarized it as a conference to explore ways for people to live meaningful lives.

Lain said during an aside at the conference, a woman from Australia approached her who preached getting the community involved first. Even if it starts with a poster at a grocery store.

Lain is pursuing a career in psychology and has become interested in mental health and occupational therapy.

"Having one in four people impacted by a neurological illness ... that's a global problem," Lain said. "I looked more into it, and rural was exacerbated even more. So that's what drew me into it."

Lain is a Centerville High School graduate of 2012. She began her studies at Iowa State University. She completed undergrad study at St. Ambrose University in Davenport in 2016. She remains at St. Ambrose pursuing a doctorate. She said she intends to return to Centerville after her studies.

Kyle Ocker can be reached at or by calling the newsroom at 641-856-6336. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.


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