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Friday, April 24th

Poster Number: 034

Social Work Students’ Knowledge and Attitudes toward Autism


Hannah Buckner
Jenna Kutz

Faculty Mentor: Monique Constance-Huggins, Ph.D.

The number of children with autism is on the rise, which means that, increasingly, social workers must be prepared to practice with this population. In fact, it is reported that 75% of social workers work with clients who have developmental disabilities, including autism. The attitudes they hold toward people with autism will invariably shape their approaches and practice. Accordingly, social work students need to build an awareness of the needs and struggles that people with autism face in society, so that they can be equipped to serve them at all levels of social work practice. Despite the significance, little is known about social workers' knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes toward this population. The current study seeks to address this gap by exploring the attitudes that Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) and Master’s of Social Work (MSW) students hold towards people with autism. These students, who are enrolled at a liberal arts university in the Spring 2020 semester, are being assessed using the Societal Attitudes towards Autism (SATA) Scale. Preliminary results show variation in attitudes based on demographic and educational factors. These results hold implications for social work practice, teaching, and research.

Poster Number: 035

Knowledge of and Attitudes toward Autism Spectrum Disorder

Ryan Zavitkovsky, Winthrop University

Attitudes toward developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder have been shifting in recent years with the normalization of mental illness and its presence in popular media. The purpose of this study is to examine differentiations in attitudes toward individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, looking into three variables: gender, knowledge, and high versus low functioning. It is hypothesized that the low functioning condition will yield more positive attitudes, that female pronouns used in either condition will produce more negative attitudes, and that participants with more knowledge about the disorder as opposed to less will exhibit more positive attitudes across all conditions. This study will be accomplished through an online survey utilizing four randomly assigned vignettes, the Multidimensional Attitudes Scale toward Persons With Disabilities, and the Knowledge of Autism Scale.

Poster Number: 036

The Connection between Mental Health and Physical Activity


Rachel Fisher

Faculty Mentor: David Schary, Ph.D.

There is a significant connection between mental health and physical activity. Correlations between severe mental illnesses (SMI), such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, have shown to have a relationship with physical activity. Mental illness alone is something hard to overcome, but research has shown that physical activity can decrease the severity of the illness. Along with the impact that physical activity has on mental health, studies have shown that those who block out physical activity in their lives have higher chances of developing a severe mental illness. Many treatments can be prescribed for a SMI, but one treatment that can significantly decrease the rate of development of a mental illness is one that does not need a prescription. This presentation will discuss the clear-cut examples of SMIs and the effects that physical activity has on this topic.

Poster Number: 037

Implications of the Gut-Brain-Microbiome Axis and Stress Response for Maladaptive Eating Behavior: A Literature Review

Emily Garrett

Several areas of research are revealing that the gut microbiome, or the bacteria colonized in human intestines, can have a significant impact on specific disease states, including maladaptive eating behaviors and eating disorders. Specifically, the gut microbiome can influence signaling pathways that affect brain regions related to emotion and behavior regulation. This connection between the gut and brain suggests that there may be mechanisms by which the gut influences behavior. If these mechanisms can be understood, interventions can be developed to improve gut health, as well as emotion and behavior regulation. This paper reviews the current literature pertaining to the gut microbiome, the gut-brain axis, and behavior regulation interventions, specifically in populations with eating disorders. Findings suggest that eating behavior is strongly influenced by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which produces the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can be influenced by alterations in gut hormones caused by a dysregulated gut microbiome. If the gut microbiome is dysregulated, HPA axis activation will be dysregulated, and the body will respond to physical and psychological stressors with abnormal amounts of cortisol, which in turn influences hunger and satiety hormone levels and alters subsequent eating behavior. Studies indicate that when the stress response is attenuated by mindfulness practices, behavior regulation improves, suggesting implications for food intake and eating behavior. This paper also explores gaps in the available data related to stress response and eating behavior, future research directions, and ways to further implement some existing mindfulness-based interventions in the field of nutrition.

Poster Number: 038

Mental Health Effects on Young Athletes: A Comprehensive Review


Katie Moore, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: Joni Boyd, Ph.D.

Just like physical health, mental health is important for any young athlete. Significant focus on mental health is imperative, as mental illness continues to rise in individuals ages 10-24, in addition to the demands that come with playing a competitive sport. The purpose of this review of literature was to observe how mental health affects young athletes and their methods of seeking help. Statistics have shown that mental health has taken a toll on younger populations in recent years, and it is important to consider how the components of being an athlete can weigh in. Methods throughout these studies consisted of various scales, surveys, and questionnaires to research how mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety have an effect on young individuals who participate in sports, and specifically their outlook towards receiving help they may need. Results showed that there are significant differences of mental health concerns between athletes and non-athletes, especially when there are other factors such as academics involved. Stigmas attached to mental health also showed to be a concern when it came to seeking counseling services, and many said that positive attitudes from figures like coaches would help. This review can be useful for implementing mental health programs and services designed specifically for athletes, and for bringing more awareness to this issue.

Poster Number: 039

Perceptions of and Barriers to Help-Seeking Behavior in College Students

Gary Broadwater, Winthrop University
Kelley Horton, Winthrop University
Alexis Turrill, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: Tara J. Collins, Ph.D.

The objective of the current project was to examine the perceptions of – and barriers to – seeking professional mental health treatment in undergraduate college students. Though lower than the non-college population, suicide rates for college students are alarming, ranking suicide as a leading cause of death for 18-24 year-olds. A troubling aspect of this crisis identified by researchers is that only about 20% of collegiate suicides involved help-seeking at a campus facility prior to the event. This research sought to understand what causes students to feel stigmatized and to identify what prevents them from seeking help. Participants were 22 men and 90 women from a southeastern university. Data were collected through a convenience sampling strategy. This study examined attitudes and barriers to seeking help using two standardized measures and one that was developed specifically for this research. It was hypothesized that students who had perceived less stigma and fewer barriers toward seeking help would be more open to seeking treatment and more knowledgeable of campus resources. Five regression analyses were conducted to predict knowledge about resources from perceived barriers and attitudes about seeking help. The results suggest that there is a strong relationship between perceptions of stigma toward treatment and the knowledge a student has of their university’s services. It was concluded that the perceptions of and barriers to receiving professional help can ultimately deter a student from seeking professional help. This is compounded by a lack of knowledge or awareness of mental health resources, resulting in fewer students receiving the needed treatment.