This proposal aims to contribute to the national goal of addressing health disparities with a particular focus on minority youth mental health. There is a growing need to address the increasing rates of mental health (MH) concerns. Existing evidence shows that young people have a higher report of mental illness with an increasing gap in mental health care needs. In 2019, the percentage of young people aged 18-25 diagnosed with mental illness was 29.4%, compared to 14% in older adults aged 50 and above. Thus, young people may experience aggravated MH concerns and find it difficult to access needed health services due to structural racism and discrimination (SRD). Notably, the prevalence of MH concerns has been exacerbated by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Reducing the emotional and monetary costs of mental illness among diverse racial/ethnic youths requires coordinated preventive strategies that extend beyond clinical interventions and should include community-wide activities. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic may be understood as a traumatic stressor, particularly if it is accompanied by actual or threatened death or serious injury to the self or a loved one. While the level of stress and response may differ by individuals, the pathologic persistence of MH symptoms can be chronic. The onset and extent of MH depend on complex factors, including the severity and duration of exposure, the nature of the trauma, personal characteristics, and the social circumstances and support networks at the individual’s disposal. Changes in spatial social networks and exposure to various components of the environment (blue and green spaces) can impact the MH of individuals, particularly racial/ethnic minority youths who are already exposed to SRD. This proposal shares the national vision of reducing the burden and trend of mental health and its health disparities. Prairie View A&M, a public land grant institution also designated as a Histori
cal Black College and University (HBCU), is collaborating with two other land grant universities, Texas A&M University (a Hispanic-serving institution) and the University of Arkansas, to carry out this large-scale study. Using a multilayer research approach (survey methodology, GIS/remote sensing, and environmental exposure experiment), this study aims to understand the individual, community, and environmental factors that impact racial/ethnic minority mental health symptoms by investigating the combined impact of spatial social networks and environmental exposure. In addition, we will adopt the life course framework, which emphasizes human trajectories to understand past and present risks and protective factors of mental illness among youths aged 18-29 in the US. The research findings have numerous benefits for bridging the gap in mental health disparity. Further, it will identify community-engaged points of intervention.
The research team is formed by two African American faculty members and three Asian faculty members, which include two women faculty of color. To achieve the research goals, we sought funding support of $333,020 toward data collection and analytics, salary and fringe benefits of investigators and minority student assistants, participants' compensation, dissemination of research findings through conference attendance and peer-reviewed publications, as well as research support materials and tools.