Tag Archives: US Dept of Veterans Affairs

Grantwriting in progress

Fig 1. Grantwriting (© Eoin O’Sullivan)

Well, after not writing grants during my postdoc (because we’re told a postdoc isn’t the time to write grants), I’m finally putting my ideas into potentially fundable projects. I’ve had a list of partially-written projects with justification, aims, etc.  but until I saw this funding announcement I didn’t think the government was ready to hear that commercial video games and game communities might be really useful for mental health. Then it was like, “Oh; this is what Stack Up and Digital Vets have been saying for years now, and they’re doing it, so let’s tell the medical/public health community about it so it can benefit more people.”

I don’t want to sound too big-headed, but everywhere I present on these ideas, i.e., my presentations on Video Games and Mental Health Recovery (gotta make a Slideshare for that), people seem pretty psyched. The weird thing is it seems natural to me to pursue this because, however lame my skilz are, I’ve been a part of the online gaming community for I don’t know, at least 10 years, either stepping on arrows with some highly skilled DDR players or grinding, making consumables, getting killed a lot in arenas, or getting carried through dungeons and raids by the 1337.  Currently, I’m working with the leadership of Digital Vets on a June 2018 conference for the Veterans Administration clinical staff–and importantly, any veteran who wants to attend by webinar–on suicide prevention through digital games and social media. Digital Vets founder Michael Jonas came to my presentation at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center in May of last year and when we found out we were on the same page, he started pushing to get the word out to the VA about the potential of digital games for mental health, and now things are happening. I cannot understate how wonderful it has been to talk to people like Mike (and Steve Machuga, Stephanie Owens and other Stack Up members) who understand and are as passionate as I am about commercial video games and mental health.

I should add something important here—those of us in the gaming community know this, and game studies scientists know this, but the unbelievable thing is that people in the medical/public health community don’t know it. Social scientists have been studying the potential of games for years; there’s a huge body of literature about benefits (and problems) of gaming in communications literature, media psychology, psychology, etc. But because these studies haven’t been conducted in the same way that we conduct things in medicine and public health, it’s like the work is invisible. One of my favorite articles about that science-of-doing-science question shows how the literature coming out of rehabilitation is more positive than the literature coming out of psychology/psychiatry (critique; mixing psychology and psychiatry doesn’t make sense because they are two different fields with different methods and foci).

Segev, A., Rovner, M., Appel, D. I., Abrams, A. W., Rotem, M., & Bloch, Y. (2016). Possible biases of researchers’ attitudes toward video games: Publication trends analysis of the medical literature (1980–2013). Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(7), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.5935
Segev et al. 2016 Possible biases in researchers’ attitudes toward video games

Despite the cool grassroots efforts that I’ve joined forces with, I still don’t have a job and I’m submitting a huge grant as an independent scientist, which will  put me at a disadvantage compared to people who are affiliated with institutions like Hopkins, the DoD, the VA, U Michigan, etc. where they’ve been doing suicide prevention research for years. Still, if I want to submit the grant—and I do, because I think it’s perfectly aligned and a great opportunity to make a differenc—I don’t have a choice because I got started too late to have my budget go through Hopkins’ grant administration. If it doesn’t get funded, at least it’s been a great learning experience and I can recycle it for other mechanisms and projects.

Because the grant is about all that’s on my mind now (well, aside from getting out of Dodge so I can escape this terrible weather and enjoy some peace and quiet, see Fig. 1), I’m going to talk about it. I’d love feedback and I’m still looking for veterans and active duty military who want to commit to a three year consultant position (about 10 days/year). Also, feel free to ask to join my Discord server, Military Peer Gaming Discussion; my handle on there is pretty easy to remember:  MichelleColderCarras.

Fancy Smart Art graphic showing the objectives of a DoD grant proposal
Fig 2. Project overview

…Where PSP = on online peer support program based in video game communities.

The first cool thing about this project is that the researcher team (me and some amazing consultants and hopefully a co-investigator) will work with a group of current and former military stakeholders to discuss and  choose what they think would be good elements of a peer support intervention. We’ll use a consensus development method based on an adaptation of the Delphi Method that I came up with for a previous study. Then the researcher team will design the intervention and training based on those elements and make sure our stakeholders are OK with it (redesigning if necessary). We’ll work together with the military stakeholders to recruit peers to provide the peer support, then use Facebook to recruit active duty military and conduct a  trial of the intervention. The important thing, though, is that I’ll work with other health informaticists to design a thorough eHealth process evaluation that incorporates stakeholders’ perspectives. This will make sure that we have a great process evaluation and can make recommendations for translating the intervention to military and other settings. So, a lot like user-centered design, but with even more focus on ensuring that the intervention addresses the needs, preferences and limitations of active duty military members and the constraints of service (e.g., having a job, occupation, limitations on work hours/income outside of the military, other training requirements of active duty service, etc) through continuous stakeholder engagement and co-design.

Back to work. I might be getting on WoW tonight; I want to keep my hand in while I write this as inspiration, so comment or otherwise get in touch if you want to grind gear/level/whatever with a casual level 103 n00b.