The Queensland Centre for Mental Health welcomes visiting researchers and students from all over the world. The research they do while here with us is invaluable, and therefore worth sharing. Check out our interview with Jaclyn Schess, a Yale graduate from New York who is currently researching the poverty consequences of mental illness.
Tell me about yourself and your background, how did you find out about the opportunity to pursue your research career through QCMHR?
I am originally from New York and just completed my undergraduate degree in Economics with a Certificate in Global Health Studies at Yale University. During my time at Yale I had a wonderful mentor named Richard Skolnik who was a colleague of Harvey Whiteford’s at the World Bank. Professor Skolnik knew I was very passionate about mental health research and connected me with Harvey, knowing that working at QCMHR would be a wonderful opportunity to learn about the world of global mental health and connect with other researchers in the field. He first connected me with Harvey over two years ago, and I spent two months here in 2016, and I am now back for close to 5 months! My first time here helped me realise I wanted to pursue mental health economics as a career through the guidance of everyone I met at QCMHR and I am so glad to be back. I learn so much when I’m here!
What does your research look at and what inspired you to pursue this project in particular?
In general I am interested in the poverty consequences of mental illness and using economic tools to better understand the dynamics at play. In particular while I am here I am working with the WHO on a cost-effectiveness analysis of banning hazardous pesticides as a means of suicide prevention. Working on this project felt very impactful to me and therefore was a project that I was excited to get involved in as there are many lives at stake in this issue.
Why is this topic important and what do you hope will come out of your project?
There are still many countries in the world where the most hazardous pesticides are still in agricultural use and are also some of the most common methods of suicide. It is also an incredibly lethal method and so many people do not survive these attempts. This issue is particularly political because pesticides are important for the agricultural industry, so our model is important for displaying whether banning pesticides is in fact a net benefit for society and presenting this to policy makers for decision-making. We also hope that our model will be able to be used in application to other suicide means and other contexts so as to examine which interventions for suicide prevention will be cost-effective in each cultural context.
Where to from here, what are your plans for your future as a researcher?
For the first half of 2019 I will be based in Goa helping to run a tobacco cessation RCT with Sangath Community NGO, another mental health research centre. Here I also hope to be investigating the economic consequences of tobacco consumption. This will be another fantastic opportunity to grow as a researcher. From there I hope to work as a research assistant for an economist back in the States before pursuing my PhD in economics.