Mental health disparities expert joins Wayne State social work faculty

Lisa O’Donnell has joined the Wayne State School of Social Work faculty as an assistant professor. Her research examines the nature of functional and quality of life deficits such as employment impairments found among individuals with bipolar disorder and other severe mental illnesses, and the impact of current psychosocial interventions on remediating these deficits.

O’Donnell received her M.S.W. from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan’s joint doctoral program in Social Work and Clinical Psychology. She has been trained in various evidence-based treatments and has years of experience providing individual and group psychotherapy to adults, adolescents, and families.  Following her doctoral studies, she was a post-doctoral scholar under the Max Gray Fellowship in the Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program (CHAMP) within University of California, Los Angeles’ Department of Psychiatry with Professor David Miklowitz.

O’Donnell said she joined the Wayne State social work faculty to conduct research that will increase the availability of effective mental health services to underserved and economically disadvantaged populations within Greater Detroit.

“I am committed to enhancing the quality of life for these vulnerable individuals and to mitigate the profound functional impairments commonly associated with bipolar disorder and other severe mental disorders through greater understanding and use of evidence-based treatments,” O’Donnell said.

Noting the school’s 10-year initiative to advance the Grand Challenges for Social Work – an ambitious social agenda being pursued by social work practitioners and researchers across the nation and beyond – O’Donnell said her work aligns closely with the challenge of advancing long and productive lives.

“Poor work outcomes among those with severe mental disorders are associated with profound negative consequences, yet our current understanding of what leads to these poor work outcomes is limited as is our ability to effectively address them,” O’Donnell said. “My work focuses on identifying biopsychosocial predictors of outcomes – such as neurocognitive deficits, mood symptoms, social support at work, and stigma in the workplace – with the longer-term goal of developing psychosocial interventions to target them in treatment. Ultimately, my hope is that improving employment outcomes in individuals with severe mental disorders will also improve the long-term course of their condition as well as their overall well-being.”

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