Analyzing idioms of distress and coping behaviors in an African American community sample
In the African American community, racism is a significant stressor, having profound psychological, social, and physiological impacts (Clark et al., 1999). The literature, however, overlooks other stressors impacting mental health in this community. Studies also show coping responses mediate relationships between stressors and mental health. While links between religion and mental health has been well documented (Pargament & Lomax, 2013; Rosmarin et al., 2013; Watlington & Murphy, 2006; Tepper, Rogers, Coleman, & Malony, 2001), less attention is paid to other coping mechanisms in African American communities. This study seeks to address these gaps by examining pertinent stressors experienced and strategies to manage them in an urban community sample.
Thirteen mental health consumer and relative pairs (n=26 total) were recruited from two community centers in California. A qualitative approach was used, consisting of individual interviews (n=26 total), focus groups of 8-12 community leaders, and 2 participant observations totaling 60 hours. Data was analyzed through systematic content analysis and coded by nine trained investigators. Data coded as stress, trauma, conflict, coping, and discrimination were analyzed.
Data analysis indicated recurrent themes of racial discrimination, family isolation, gang violence, and financial troubles. Additionally, racial tensions are exacerbated by mental health stigma, compounding stress and feeding the cycle of violence. Religion, family support, and substance use were endorsed as coping strategies.
Future interventions should focus on relationships between macrostressors and mental health, not merely the impact of racism, to promote better outcomes. Additionally, culturally sensitive interventions must identify the specific type of coping mechanisms being utilized by this community to promote more adaptive responses.
Learning Areas:Social and behavioral sciences
Keyword(s): African American, Minority Research