Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

Clinical-Community Psychology

First Advisor

Bret Kloos

Abstract

Mental health promotion involves fostering living conditions and environments that enable people to realize and maintain healthy lifestyles (WHO, 2010). It is well established that integration into community life is important to well-being among individuals with mental disorders (Davidson et al., 2001; Gulcer et al., 2007; Prince & Gerber, 2005; Timko & Moos, 1998). However, community integration remains an unrealized promise for many individuals with mental illnesses (Abdallah et al., 2009; Bond et al., 2004; Pirisi, 2000). Recent research involving persons diagnosed with serious mental illnesses residing in supported housing identified perceived ability to handle stress as a significant mediator between neighborhood environmental factors and community integration experiences (Chien, 2009). The current study sought to build upon Chien's (2009) previous research by extending the examination of community integration to a population of 300 adults with serious mental illnesses residing in regular, nonservice-affiliated housing arrangements. Through the capabilities framework, the study explored whether perceived ability to handle stress mediated the relationship between three aspects of the neighborhood environment (i.e., neighborhood physical quality, neighbor relationship, and neighborhood tolerance) and the three dimensions of community integration (i.e., physical, social, and psychological integration; as conceptualized by Aubry & Myner, 1996). Mediation analyses accompanied by percentile bootstrap methods were employed to test the research questions. The following four key insights emerged from the study: (1) the capabilities approach holds promise for advancing community integration research, (2) neighborhood settings account for a considerable amount of the variance in individual functioning and outcomes; (3) person and environment factors have a differential impact on the three dimensions of community integrations; pathways to community integration likely involve maximizing person-environment fit for individuals; and (4) perceived ability to handle stress can be a significant mediator between neighborhood conditions and sense of community. This study concludes with a discussion of practical implications for mental health services and suggestions for extending future research.

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