Fulbright Scholar will take community-based mental health research back to Ukraine

        Fulbright Scholar Nataliia Gusak of Ukraine

Identifying the best community-based mental health services and learning how to implement them is the focus of nine months of intense research at Wayne State University by Fulbright Scholar Nataliia Gusak, PhD, of Ukraine.

She’ll also study how social and healthcare providers cooperate within different service fields (e.g. health, environment, economic) to share expertise, reach and resources to produce better outcomes for various stakeholders and whether there are pitfalls in establishing such effective multisectoral cooperation.

Gusak arrived at the School of Social Work in February and will be collaborating with local agencies and researchers at WSU until October 2021.

“Wayne State has multiple resources, such as outstanding libraries, as well as opportunities to collaborate with scholars across university departments and community organizations,” Gusak says. “I knew that the WSU School of Social Work was highly competitive and ranks among the top social work programs in the country. They offer researchers hands-on experiences implementing scientific studies and building research infrastructure.

“I am also interested in working closely with the faculty and research staff at the school’s Center for Social Work Research to connect with the local Detroit community and develop initiatives that can improve the lives of disadvantaged individuals, families and communities.”

One of the groups Gusak will be collaborating with is intensive crisis residential center Safehaus in Warren, which specializes in helping children through crisis situations.

“I am interested to learn about evidence-based practices utilized in the community mental health sector and make necessary preparations for their replication in Ukraine upon my return,” Gusak says.“I will explore a community-based mental health care system for youths with serious mental illness, suicidal and homicidal behaviors and I will participate in biweekly meetings of the Suicide Research Group.”

Launched in 2014 by School of Social Work Associate Professor Michael Kral and Professor Steven Stack of criminal justice in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Suicide Research Group is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team of scientists, faculty members, graduate students and practitioners focused on the exchange of innovative ideas and research collaborations in the field of suicide.

Gusak also will visit other community-based mental health services sites and interview academics and practitioners.

“I would also be happy to present the Ukrainian experience in mental health reform and develop community-based mental health services,” she says, “and am happy to develop common research projects.”

Assistant Professor Viktor Burlaka of the School of Social Work will be collaborating with Gusak. The two were previously in the same master’s program at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Dr. Gusak has been a national leader in the field of social work in Ukraine for a long time,” Burlaka says. “Being a critical player in social work education and practice takes a lot of Natalia’s time. I am very thankful for this opportunity to have her as a visiting scholar at the WSU School of Social Work. This will give us plenty of opportunities to engage in grant writing and scholarship and I am hoping that her WSU experience will help Dr. Gusak design excellent solutions for Ukrainian people and communities.”

Gusak says that coming to WSU will provide her with opportunities to make her research better.

“I will have an opportunity to observe how community-based mental health services are organized,” she says. “Dr. Burlaka has discussed my interests with his community partners, and they were happy to facilitate my access to crisis mental health services for children with serious mental illness, suicidal and homicidal behaviors. They also promised to coordinate with their networks to allow access to elderly care organizations and other community mental organizations, including those that provide mental health services for veterans. It is a great opportunity for me to explore how mental health services are organized in U.S. communities.”

Gusak will present “Community-based Mental Health Services in Ukraine: Current Efforts to Develop and Obstacles Encountered” online at 2 p.m. May 10. She’ll discuss the ongoing mental health reform in Ukraine and limited access to mental health services for vulnerable populations such as internally displaced people, victims of human trafficking and veterans. More details are online.

Fulbright is the U.S. Department of State’s flagship educational and cultural exchange program. Scholars teach and/or conduct research abroad and share their expertise in the field. Numerous WSU faculty members are Fulbright awardees, and each year the university proudly welcomes Fulbright Scholars from abroad.

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State's global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university's global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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