Dr. Erika Felix, assistant researcher at the Center for School-Based Youth Development (CSBYD) at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara, has just been named to take part in the Research and Education in Disaster Mental Health Mentoring Program. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and supervised by Dartmouth College and the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this new program’s broad goal is to increase the quality and utility of disaster mental health research by informing, instructing, advising, and mentoring disaster researchers. Felix will receive a grant of $10,000 a year for up to two years for travel and other educational materials and expenses as she works toward the goal of becoming a funded investigator in the field of disaster mental health research.
Felix, whose Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology is from DePaul University, became interested in disaster mental health research because of her clinical experience during a humanitarian relief mission in Sri Lanka after the December 2004 tsunami. Felix twice went to Sri Lanka in 2005 to do psychological first aide for child survivors of the tsunami and to train local professionals in evidence-informed coping skills to help children recover. “This experience was life-changing in many ways,” Felix explains. “The humanitarian trips provided me with first hand experience of the opportunities and challenges of disaster relief operations. The positives of being able to provide meaningful, empirically-informed services that were genuinely appreciated by the adults and children, coupled with the amazing cross-cultural experiences, will remain with me forever. The challenges we experienced have motivated me to become a part of a program of research to better prepare and support disaster mental health volunteers, assess the needs of survivors, and to provide empirically-supported interventions that are developmentally-appropriate for children.”
Felix claims, “This mentoring program will build my capacity to conduct high quality disaster mental health research with children that has the potential to improve and target services where they are most needed. Relatively few researchers focus on studying the impact of disasters and how children recover compared to those that study child trauma in general. Thus, this program fills an important gap.”
[Erika Felix is available for interviews; to set up an interview contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789.]