Caroline Roberts

Advancing Interdisciplinary Self-Injurious Behavior/Nonsuicidal Self Injury Research

February 14, 2022

Congratulations to Caroline Roberts, a PhD student and graduate research assistant in the Department of Educational Psychology, who has been awarded an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship for the 2022-23 academic year.

“It's a dream come true to get to work at a place like MIDB and to learn from such inspiring experts on a topic with deep personal meaning for me,” said Roberts, who is also a graduate of the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND) Program.

Roberts plans to use the fellowship to facilitate knowledge translation between the fields of special education and psychiatry related to the issue of self-harm.

“In individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities this is called self-injurious behavior (SIB) and in psychiatry it is referred to as nonsuicidal self injury (NSSI). Rarely, if ever, have the fields of special education (my major), family social science (my minor) and psychiatry (my IDF mentor) engaged in interdisciplinary research and knowledge generation related to SIB/IDD and NSSI,” she said.

In leveraging the fellowship, Roberts plans to advance an interdisciplinary SIB-NSSI program of research informed through family systems theory to elucidate common properties underlying pathways to care, beginning with focus groups with providers involved in care for both SIB and NSSI and building upon existing interviews with family caregivers.

“I understand the importance of this research firsthand, as I am not just a researcher of SIB, but also a family caregiver. My brother has IDD and has struggled with self-injury since he was three,” said Roberts. “My personal experience as a sister motivates me and provides me with a deep understanding of the impact of this issue from one family’s perspective. Through the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship, I am excited to gain an understanding of the perspective of psychiatry in order to continue to develop a depth of knowledge that I hope can contribute to solutions for families like mine over the long-term.”

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