Bringing resources to light

Public health student shares research on mental health resources in Carlton County

Late in her junior year of college at UMD, Marissa Vescio decided to change her major.

“I was struggling with the classes for a biology degree and a friend of mine introduced me to public health,” she says. “I took a few classes and fell in love with it. It was a better fit for me to look at more of the big picture of health overall.” 

Vescio also saw it as an opportunity to find different research projects that she was interested in as well as explore a range of career paths. With the help of Assistant Professor Marzell Gray, her advisor, she found a research opportunity that suited her. The remote summer internship with Professor David Beard involved identifying and mapping mental health resources in Carlton County.

This was Vescio’s first research project, and she admits that she took on quite a bit of work that may have been more suitable for a whole team of people. Despite this, she remained dedicated to the project. 

Throughout her 120 hours of research, she consulted with staff from Wilderness Health, an organization focused on improving rural health in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.

Most of her research involved identifying both upstream and downstream resources in Carlton County. Upstream resources include more informal supports such as churches and recovery groups, which can help prevent a crisis. Downstream resources include crisis hotlines and more individualized services such as therapy and inpatient treatment, which are implemented after a crisis. 

Through the project, it became apparent that telehealth is vital to those in rural communities. Because Carlton County is so large, there are not enough in-person facilities for people who are experiencing mental health struggles. People experiencing issues may also struggle with transportation, the cost of treatment, and the motivation to get out of the house to receive treatment. 

Vescio shared what she had learned to Wilderness Health’s Telehealth Committee in August. She also had an opportunity to create a guide that lists the mental health resources that currently exist in Carlton County, including information about the services and how to access them. 

She hopes that Wilderness Health will share this guide with facilities in the area and update it as needed so that it can be a resource for those seeking more individualized care options. 

Vescio noted that she does not have a specific career goal in mind yet, but this project helped affirm she’s on the right path. She has also learned that a public health degree is very versatile, and there are many opportunities within the field; it all comes down to what you’re good at.

“I’ll continue on the journey of research,” she says. “It was a great experience, I learned a lot about research and about mental health. I had a great time.” 

This story was written by UMD student Jax Wilder, who is majoring in psychology. Jax assists Lissa Maki with communications for the College of Education and Human Service Professions.