What do I want to explore?

Early in an academic career, especially when you have entered one through a back door (more on that in a post to come), it is important to determine a research direction. The importance of scholarly work is made clear to those of us in the non-tenure track or early tenure track position. And as academics, we likely chose this career direction BECAUSE we want to continue lifelong study, to know more about the things that ignite our passion.

I’ve been floundering in this pursuit, however. Maybe it is the unconventional, non-research background I bring. Maybe it is the other responsibilities and concerns of a teaching professor. Either way, the time has come to point myself in a particular direction and take the first step. Serendipitously, a fellow professor at my institution has been making “Mind Maps” and this intrigued me. So last night, I set out to make a mind map of possible academic pursuits, and the answer came more quickly and more clearly than I was expecting.

I have shared my simple mind map below. What I noticed as I began was that many of my previous experiences have had a few common threads running through them. First, an interest in mental illness and a knowledge base that has come from a psychiatry residency. Second, a fascination with and a concern about how mental illness is portrayed in the media, from TV to music, from movies to the news. As an undergrad at Ithaca College, my research was in the media and psychology lab. Third, a desire to help others understand mental illness, and to dispel myths and stereotypes about the mentally ill. And with that, it all became clear.

So now begins a dive into the existing literature regarding the portrayal of mental illness in the media and the impact on public perception of the mentally ill. From schizophrenia and Antisocial Personality Disorder, to gender dysphoria and suicide. Stay tuned!