“A Larger System is Placing People in this Predicament”: A Qualitative Exploration of Living Amongst Urban Violence and the Impact on Mental Health and Relationships in the Black Community

Brandon D. Hollie, Deborah Coolhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is estimated that 18.6% of African American adults are living with a mental illness. Research suggests that poverty, neighborhood disorder, and neighborhood violence are linked to negative mental health outcomes. However, an understanding of what specific mechanisms are associated with violent neighborhoods and mental health needs further exploration. In addition, there is limited research examining how living in the context of urban violence affects partner relationships, parent–child relationships, sibling relationships, or families in general. Using a structural violence framework and Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis Methodology, this study explored the lived experience of being Black and living in urban neighborhoods plagued with violence and the impact it has on mental health and relationships. Four main themes emerged: (1) systemic injustice, (2) impact on mental health, (3) impact on relationships, and (4) cultural and communal strengths. All participants discussed that the crime and violence that happens within low-income urban communities is not an individual problem, but rather a product of larger systemic oppression, such as a lack of resources in the community. They also discussed how living within such neighborhoods impacted their mental health (i.e., causing symptoms of anxiety) and had both negative and positive impacts on romantic and familial relationships. Finally, participants described strengths and resiliencies in their communities, such as the connectedness experienced through religion and food. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-334
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary Family Therapy
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Keywords

  • Black community
  • Mental health
  • Relationships
  • Structural violence
  • Urban violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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