Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Bret Kloos

Abstract

People with serious mental illness often struggle to fully integrate into their communities and feel accepted within their own neighborhoods. Prior research suggests that people who participate in supportive or supported housing programsmay benefit fromsupport designed to facilitate integration within one’s community. However, little prior research has explored how sense of community is constructed for individuals who live in the community without benefit of support programs. With so little research concerned with sense of community for those without housing services, there exists a large gap in the literature for this population. The purpose of the current study was to add to this literature by examining the relationships between individual and neighborhood experiences and sense of community for people with seriousmental illness who live independently in the community without supported housing services. Factors proposed to be important to sense of community for individuals living independently in the community with serious mental illness were housing-related variables (e.g., length in current housing, history of homelessness, and housing instability), psychiatric distress, perception of social support, relations with neighbors, and the neighborhood social climate. These factors were examined hierarchically as levels of analysis based on proximity to the individual using a hierarchical regression analysis. The full regression model revealed that positive relations with one’s neighbors and a neighborhood social climate that is perceived as accepting, significantly and positively predicted sense of community among people with serious mental illness who live independently in the community without benefit of support services. This study adds to the growing body of literature that highlights the importance of social ecological factors for establishing a felt sense of community within one’s neighborhood. Policy shifts that incorporate mental health programming with an eye toward the health of neighborhoods and communities could go a long way toward helping people with serious mental illness enjoy a sense of belonging and community where they live.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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