Graduate student participates in weeklong research workshop in The Netherlands

Makaio Smith, Staff Writer

There actually are not a lot of opportunities like that one she attended, anywhere. She had never come across an opportunity like this, so I jumped on it, Caitlin Gregory, a graduate student at WKU, said.

Gregory got the opportunity to participate in a weeklong research workshop  that was hosted by the University of Groningen. The workshop involved her working with 113 Suicide Prevention, the national Dutch suicide prevention center.

“I found out about this internship through my research and academic mentor, Dr. Amy Brausch within the Psychological Sciences department,” Gregory said in an email interview. “Brausch received an invitation to have select students under her supervision apply.”

Gregory is in her second year in the Psychological Science program. She has been working with Brausch about suicide prevention research for over four years. 

“I have worked with Caitlin since she was a sophomore undergraduate student and met with me to ask about joining my research lab,” Brausch said. “She is a first-generation college student, and always very excited and enthusiastic to learn everything she could about suicide prevention.”

Gregory took an immediate interest in Brausch’s research suicide, self-harm, and risky behaviors among adolescents and college students. Gregory assisted Brausch with multiple research projects to track mental health and self-harm over time.

Gregory also completed an independent project on the role of family support and self-compassion in suicide thoughts and feelings in college students. 

“Throughout my life I have dealt with these topics with friends, family, and myself,” Gregory said. “Researching suicidal thoughts and behaviors, non-suicidal self-injury, and various risky behaviors have allowed me to find the exact route I always wanted in life.”

Gregory was able to receive funding from the Department of Psychological Sciences for most of her expenses. 

With the workshop Gregory was able to attend lectures and learn from various experts within the field of suicidology. 

She was also able to hear renowned suicidologists – one who transmits, shares, or uses their understanding of suicidal phenomena for the common good- such as Dr. Rory O’Connor, Dr. Jo Robinson, Dr. Robert Vermeiren, and many more, speak about their work.

“We attended lectures by local 113 Suicide Prevention Center employees, who worked within the legal defense team, web developers, programmers, crisis advocates, and ambassadors,” Gregory said. “We toured the site to understand further the Netherlands’ approach to telehealth through their suicide crisis hotline, which was incredible to me as I have worked previously as a crisis advocate via telehealth.”

Brausch encourages her students to apply for opportunities like the one Gregory was able to attend for multiple reasons. 

“If I have funds available to support students for conferences or international experiences, I encourage them to take advantage!,” Brausch said. “Also, attending workshops on topics like suicide prevention in other countries exposes students to different points of view, different approaches to suicide prevention, and they meet others interested in suicide prevention from so many different countries.”

Gregory described the suicide prevention center as ‘Incredibly colorful, fun, and light-hearted!’

“The center was filled with friendly faces and kind people,” Gregory said. “When working within such a heavy field, your peers and team members can be life savers. Having a work environment that promotes openness, sincerity, and unity maintains individuals’ mental well-being.”

In May 2022, Gregory received her Bachelor of Science from WKU, and next year will be receiving her Master of Science degree from WKU as well. 

“I plan on applying for Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs this fall. I will maintain my focus on staying involved in suicide and self-harm research, as well as hopefully become licensed to practice,” Gregory said. “My research focus remains on suicide and self-harm behaviors within the LGBTQ+ community, adolescents and young adults, marginalized identities, and social and emotional relationship qualities.”

Gregory has wanted to help people since she was a child. She took a dual credit psychology class in highschool. From then she became obsessed with the field of psychology.

“Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors are not new, yet the research is still behind in understanding fully the intricate connections, correlations, and causality behind the actions or thoughts of suicidal people or people who engage in self-harm,” Gregory said. “I find motivation in continuing working within this field because if people were to always stop when answers aren’t clearly laid out for them, we would not have advanced as far as we have in other fields of research or treatment.”