Methods: This study assessed mental health needs and resources of subsidized housing residents utilizing focus group interviews and survey methodology. A total of 32 residents were recruited from a local housing authority in the US-Mexico border region. A total of five focus group interviews were conducted to discuss their mental health needs and resources. A focus group ran between 1 hour to 1 and ½ hours and conducted in Spanish. Audio-recorded focus group interviews were transcribed in verbatim and translated in English for data analysis. Thematic data analysis was conducted. In addition, participants were invited to fill out a survey questionnaire assessing their mental health needs including PHQ9, GAD7, and AUDIT. Descriptive statistics were conducted to analyze the survey data.
Results: Of 32 focus group interviewees, 30 individuals completed the survey. All survey participants were females and the average age was 64.63 years. A majority of the survey participants suffered from mild to severe depression (70%). About 50% of the participants experienced mild to severe anxiety symptoms. No alcohol abuse issue was found. Despite mental health issues presented among the participants, many participants (57%) had no knowledge of mental health resources available. Findings from the qualitative data analysis corresponded to the quantitative assessment of mental health needs. Focus group participants voiced feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and fear. A lack of neighborhood safety, sense of community, trust, and freedom were identified as risk factors contributing to their mental health. Religiosity/spirituality and social support were identified as protective factors. Endurance, distraction, and avoidance were identified as coping strategies. Stigma, difficulties in navigating health care systems and community resources, affordability, and accessibility were identified as barriers to seek help.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings suggest that many subsidized housing residents in the US-Mexico border region experience mental health distress including symptoms of depression and anxiety. This study identified multiple risk and protective factors contributing to their mental health. Programs and policies to strengthen a sense of safety, community cohesion, trust, and autonomy in subsidized housing are needed to promote mental health and well-being of this marginalized population. Mental health education may help residents to increase their knowledge on mental health resources and reduce stigma.