ARIA Spotlight: Mariella Berberi

Numerous research investigations have shown that prevalence rates of depression are elevated in individuals who have been infected with Covid-19. However, few studies have examined the risk factors for depression in individuals who have been infected with Covid-19. In other areas of research, catastrophic thinking has been associated with an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms. The present study examined the relation between catastrophic thinking and depression in individuals who were infected with Covid-19 in the past six months. It was hypothesized that high scores on the Symptom Catastrophizing Scale (SCS) would predict depressive symptom severity in individuals who were infected with Covid-19 beyond the variance associated with other known risk factors (increasing age, female sex, low education, low socioeconomic status, ongoing symptom burden) for depression. The results of the present study add to previous research in showing that catastrophic thinking during the experience of Covid-19 infection might increase susceptibility to developing depressive symptoms. The results suggest that interventions targeting catastrophic thinking in individuals who have been infected with Covid-19 might prevent or reduce susceptibility to depression.

I was interested in an ARIA project for many reasons. First, I believed this research opportunity would strengthen my skills. I focused on many things, such as recruiting participants from a target population, conducting structured interviews, coding interview data, and database management. Second, I believed this opportunity would lead me to meet new people and become part of a dynamic research community. Third, I believed this was a great opportunity to work effectively with a team on different tasks. I was able to strengthen the organizational, procedural, and interpersonal skills necessary to function effectively as part of a multidisciplinary research team.

As I was familiar enough with the project's goal, my primary focus concerned coding interview data and focusing on new interviews and transcriptions that would contribute to the research process. By coding all the data and creating a coding manual, I was able to identify recurring patterns, themes, and nuances within participants’ responses. This particular skill enabled me to extract rich and insightful information that contributed to the overarching research objectives. By coding different information and storing categorical data, I partook to the reliability and validity of the research findings. Furthermore, being an integral part of the research helped me develop a comprehensive understanding of the research question.

In my experience, the challenges I encountered concerned were a balance between methodological precision and the inherent complexity of human experiences, specifically categorizing data effectively. Since diverse participants had different experiences with their COVID-19 infection, a wide range of symptoms followed. These discrepancies between various answers presented a significant challenge in categorizing information. Moreover, the wide range of medical conditions caused a similar challenge in maintaining a coherent organizational framework. As a result, careful consideration was needed to ensure that the categorizing method respected the participants' answers while maintaining the analytical rigor of the research.

I recently finished my second year of undergraduate studies at McGill University, majoring in psychology as an honors student and minoring in sociology. ARIA has been a wonderful experience these past months providing a solid foundation for my future work in clinical research. It is my belief ARIA is a great opportunity as it helped me broaden my knowledge of clinical work and shape my interests within my preferred field. I intend to use all the skills I have built thus far to continue in doctoral research.

It has been a great honor receiving an ARIA this past summer. I was so pleased to be one of the students receiving it. It has been a privilege and an excellent opportunity to expand my research skills. I want to thank Dr. Joan Eakin and Christopher Hoffmann for contributing to my work on this project, which has helped me open up to new horizons and aspirations!

I also want to thank the faculty of arts internship office at McGill for their remarkable confidence in their students and for preparing them with the necessary tools and essential skills to excel in their future career paths.

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