Dealing with distress from the COVID-19 pandemic: Mental health stressors and coping strategies in vulnerable latinx communities
Heal. soc. care community
Distress secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic has been substantial, especially in vulnerable Latinx communities who are carrying an undue share of the pandemic-related social, health and economic burden in the United States. In collaboration with 43 community health workers (CHWs) and Promotor/as serving the needs of underserved Latinx communities in South Texas and guided by principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR), the purpose of this study was to identify relevant mental health stressors and related consequences, and to identify strategies for coping with distress among underserved Latinx communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were collected on July 2020 using mixed methods to obtain more in-depth information. Surveys were administered, and three focus groups were conducted. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, whereas qualitative data were analysed systematically by starting with a priori questions and themes followed by data categorisation, reduction, display and conclusion drawing. Results showed six themes related to mental health stressors including economics (e.g., job insecurity), immigration (e.g., undocumented status), misinformation, family stress (e.g., changes in family dynamics and the home environment), health (e.g., limited healthcare access) and social isolation. Coping skills of the community were categorised into four themes with multiple codes including behavioural strategies (e.g., identifying reliable information), cognitive strategies (e.g., collectivistic thinking), social support and spirituality. Findings indicate that underserved Latinx communities are dealing with substantial distress and mental health concerns secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic; yet these are resilient communities. Implications of these findings can inform development of resources, interventions, best practices and training avenues to address the mental health needs of underserved Latinx communities, while considering relevant cultural and contextual factors that may influence their effectiveness.