Methods: This study was informed by tenets of Community Based Participatory Research, which delineates principles for the meaningful inclusion of community voice in change initiatives. Focus groups were conducted with mix-gender adolescents and adult community members (n=32) who live and/or work in two urban communities in Louisville with high levels of racial segregation, economic disadvantage, and multidimensional adversity. Participants were recruited from professional networks, social media, and local social service agencies. Focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed, systematically coded and analyzed using thematic content analysis to identify central themes relevant across all cases.
Results: Across the focus groups, participants described myriad experiences of community and race-based trauma. Participants conceptualized trauma as having a long-term impact on community members, contributing to significant fear and hypervigilance. They predominantly employed individual and deficit explanations of the antecedents of community trauma, citing a lack of parental involvement and poor decision making by community members. Themes regarding barriers to accessing services included the stigma associated with mental health services and a mistrust of service providers perceived to be culturally non-responsive.
Conclusions and Implications: This study provides an overview of the meaning-making processes of community members from two racially and economically marginalized, urban areas. Given that the goal of this initiative is to facilitate the development of a trauma resilient community through a combination of interventions across the ecosystem, the community’s use of predominantly individual and family-level explanations of community issues presents a critical opportunity for reflection. Strategies for facilitating consciousness-raising regarding structural determinants will be discussed, as well as approaches for centering complex dual narratives of the individual and the collective into systems change efforts.