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"Being diagnosed and receiving treatments in a psychiatric hospital can be terrifying and confusing," says Laura Guidry-Grimes. "I want to ensure that patients' rights and desires are being respected."

To prepare for a future as an advocate for the mentally ill, Laura is working toward a dual degree—Philosophy and Religion—and is carrying three minors—Women's Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and English. Studying the philosophy of psychiatry and cognitive science propels her toward her goal of becoming a resident ethicist in a psychiatric ward. "The philosophy of psychiatry, especially from a bioethical standpoint, analyzes the patient-doctor relationship in terms of autonomy, personhood, objectivity, and subjectivity. These issues impact the lives of millions of people when they are being diagnosed or treated by a therapist or doctor."

Receipt this past summer of the University's Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award enabled Laura to survey 300 students and Tallahassee clinicians for her study, "Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Psychological Malady or Social Construction?"

This fall, she and Professors David McNaughton, Carrie Sandahl, Michael Ruse, Alfred Mele, and Jim Sullivan began researching the potential ramifications of including Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) in the American Psychiatric Association's fifth edition of "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders." The current edition lists PMDD in the Appendix, with text reference and code number, which enable doctors to write prescriptions for women diagnosed with the disorder. "The debate," says Laura, "is whether PMDD should be removed, thus invalidating women's claims of severe distress during menstruation; stay in the Appendix; or be moved into the official, main text. Some argue against inclusion because PMDD is poorly researched and women would suffer negative labeling effects as a result." The data resulting from Laura's research will supplement her Philosophy Honors Thesis.

To gain hands-on experience, Laura has been active with the Refuge House, recently completing the Florida Council Against Domestic Violence training. Says Laura, "My first semester I took Philosophy of Feminism, which made me conscious of cultural and gender issues that pervade our society. I turned into an active feminist and a diligent philosopher."

That passion and her years of research should serve her well as an advocate for the vulnerable in our society, the mentally ill.

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