A Year of Living Bravely

Our current research project had an interesting start. In early 2023, a colleague and mentor suggested to Dr. Scharff that she is “brave” for her personal effort to recover from addiction and trauma. This didn’t resonate with her at first, because it’s just how she lives—sober and in service to others—but she tucked the comment away.

 

Later in the year, a friend died suddenly. The friend’s mother asked, “What did you love most about [my daughter].” Scharff replied, “That she was indominable. No matter what hardship she faced, she always tried.”

 

This got Dr. Scharff thinking about the related concepts of bravery, valor, courage, and indomitability. To look at those ideas, she put together a research team to travel the world looking at instances of bravery, and to examine why it is that some people act with valor while other express inaction or fear. Our goal is to look at the roots of bravery so that more people can overcome the obstacles that keep them from acting bravely.

 

The team is currently seeking financial support to continue its research. Individuals may give through our Go Fund Me campaign. Foundations and organizations are asked to give by contacting us directly.

The Research Team

Constance Scharff, PhD

Principal Investigator

Photo Credit to Taryn Leech
Dr. Scharff has been examining mental health at the intersection of addiction and trauma recovery for nearly two decades. She has a PhD in Transformative Studies, the study of how change occurs. She focuses on complementary activities that can improve mental health outcomes, to help individuals create deep personal transformation. As the climate crisis has developed, she became interested in climate-related traumatic experience. Dr. Scharff is an advocate for the decolonization of mental healthcare, access to care, and the broadening of mental health support to include indigenous and other non-Western ways of viewing health and wellbeing. Her work on the concept of bravery could redefine our ideas on action in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Dr. Scharff leads the investigative team and collaborates with people worldwide on this and other projects.
Photo Credit to Taryn Leech

Constance Scharff, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Scharff has been examining mental health at the intersection of addiction and trauma recovery for nearly two decades. She has a PhD in Transformative Studies, the study of how change occurs. She focuses on complementary activities that can improve mental health outcomes, to help individuals create deep personal transformation. As the climate crisis has developed, she became interested in climate-related traumatic experience. Dr. Scharff is an advocate for the decolonization of mental healthcare, access to care, and the broadening of mental health support to include indigenous and other non-Western ways of viewing health and wellbeing. Her work on the concept of bravery could redefine our ideas on action in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Dr. Scharff leads the investigative team and collaborates with people worldwide on this and other projects.

Mercedes Garcia

Research Associate

Mercedes is a firebrand, providing women and girls opportunities for self- and economic development. She retired from a long career as a membership organizer for the Girl Scouts in Southern California, where she helped women and girls learn new skills, no matter their country of origin. Passionate about sharing her Mexican heritage, Mercedes can often be found displaying her art in and around Los Angeles and traveling the world to experience cultural and culinary exchange. Mercedes serves as a translator and connects the team with women who might at first be untrusting of Western research.

Mercedes Garcia

Research Associate

Mercedes is a firebrand, providing women and girls opportunities for self- and economic development. She retired from being a membership organizer for the Girl Scouts in Southern California, where she helped women and girls learn new skills, no matter their country of origin. Passionate about sharing her Mexican heritage, Mercedes can often be found displaying her art in and around Los Angeles and traveling the world to experience cultural and culinary exchange. Mercedes serves as a translator and connects the team with women who might at first be untrusting of Western research.

Kathryn Jensen, MEd

Research Associate

Kathryn is a retired educator who taught Spanish in Minnesota public schools for 33 years. From the Midwest, she is the personification of Midwest civility. Frequently in communities we visit, she spends time in schools working with local educators to learn what their deficits are (often resources such as paper, pens, and books) and helps find ways to fill those needs. She also likes to help educators volunteer in schools where their services are requested. She has a special interest in Latin America and serves as a translator in Spanish-speaking countries. In the USA, you will sometimes find Kathryn onstage performing in community theater. She currently works in a managerial role at Nystrom and Associates, a large company that offers mental health services in the Midwest.

Kathryn Jensen, MEd

Research Associate

Kathryn is a retired educator who taught Spanish in Minnesota public schools for 33 years. From the Midwest, she is the personification of Midwest civility. Frequently in communities we visit, she spends time in schools working with local educators to learn what their deficits are (often resources such as paper, pens, and books) and helps find ways to fill those needs. She also likes to help educators volunteer in schools where their services are requested. She has a special interest in Latin America and serves as a translator in Spanish-speaking countries. In the USA, you will sometimes find Kathryn onstage performing in community theater. She currently works in a managerial role at
Nystrom and Associates, a large company that offers mental health services in the Midwest.

Liv Kirk, MEM and Certificate in Energy Management

Research Associate

Liv is a renewable energy professional with more than 20 years of service in environmental, health, safety, and quality (EHSQ), program management, and leadership. Liv frequently leads teams in remote locations to ensure that wind energy programs are built strategically and sustainably. She is often out front of emerging technologies and brings her expertise in sustainable energy to the research team. An energetic self-starter, life-long learner, and seasoned traveler, Liv seeks to learn from indigenous and local community leaders to expand opportunities to use renewable energy resources that build community and offset the impacts of climate change. Liv is also an avid hiker and yoga practitioner, who prioritizes fitness, meditation, and time spent outdoors.

Liv Kirk

Liv Kirk, MEM and Certificate in Energy Management

Research Associate

Liv Kirk

Liv is a renewable energy professional with more than 20 years of service in environmental, health, safety, and quality (EHSQ), program management, and leadership. Liv frequently leads teams in remote locations to ensure that wind energy programs are built strategically and sustainably. She is often out front of emerging technologies and brings her expertise in sustainable energy to the research team. An energetic self-starter, life-long learner, and seasoned traveler, Liv seeks to learn from indigenous and local community leaders to expand opportunities to use renewable energy resources that build community and offset the impacts of climate change. Liv is also an avid hiker and yoga practitioner, who prioritizes fitness, meditation, and time spent outdoors.

Rhonda Fifita, LLB

Research Associate

Rhonda is a New Zealand Maori born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. She has a law degree from Auckland University and the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, with admission as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. Her training includes reports for the Ministry of Justice. In her legal work, she emphasizes ongoing training towards cultural awareness and appropriation underpinned by the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. A lifetime learner, Rhonda is pursuing a Diploma of Maori Studies in Te Reo Rangatira. She is a passionate advocate for indigenous rights and enjoys sharing her cultural perspectives with the research team.

Rhonda Fifita, LLB

Research Associate

Rhonda is a New Zealand Maori born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. She has a law degree from Auckland University and the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, with admission as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. Her training includes reports for the Ministry of Justice. In her legal work, she emphasizes ongoing training towards cultural awareness and appropriation underpinned by the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. A lifetime learner, Rhonda is pursuing a Diploma of Maori Studies in Te Reo Rangatira. She is a passionate advocate for indigenous rights and enjoys sharing her cultural perspectives with the research team.

Lisa Courtnadge

Intern and Team Assistant

Lisa will soon begin an Honors Program in Psychology at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) in Cape Town, South Africa, where she will write her first research paper. She is currently completing the Applied Behavior Analysis Technician (ABAT) course, where she will learn how to work with children with autism spectrum disorder at a therapeutic center in Vietnam. Growing up in a country where mental healthcare is largely inaccessible, Lisa is interested in areas such as community psychology and task-sharing. She has served for two years as Dr. Scharff’s research assistant.

Lisa Courtnadge

Intern and Team Assistant

Lisa will soon begin an Honors Program in Psychology at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) in Cape Town, South Africa, where she will write her first research paper. She is currently completing the Applied Behavior Analysis Technician (ABAT) course, where she will learn how to work with children with autism spectrum disorder at a therapeutic center in Vietnam. Growing up in a country where mental healthcare is largely inaccessible, Lisa is interested in areas such as community psychology and task-sharing. She has served for two years as Dr. Scharff’s research assistant.