Four Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin Receive Hogg Foundation Grants to Study Mental Health
June 16, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas – Four assistant professors at The University of Texas at Austin each received a grant of $17,500 from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to study different aspects of mental health.
Proposals submitted by Dr. Germine Awad and Dr. Janay Sander in the Dept. of Educational Psychology, Dr. Su Yeong Kim in the Dept. of Human Development and Family Sciences, and Dr. Dnika Travis in the School of Social Work were selected from a pool of 48 applicants from 17 universities across Texas. The foundation awarded one-year grants totaling $226,770 to 13 tenure-track assistant professors exploring different aspects of mental health in Texas.
Awad will examine how the mental health of Arab Americans is affected by their religious self-identification and perceived discrimination by others. Despite a sharp increase in discrimination toward people of Arab and Middle Eastern descent after 9/11, little is known about the role that religion, ethnic identity and acculturation play in Christian and Muslim Arab Americans’ perceptions of discrimination.
“Among the most understudied groups in terms of mental health are Arab American populations,” said Awad. “This study will aid in understanding how cultural dynamics influence depression, anxiety and psychological well-being for Arab-Americans in Texas and in other major cities in the U.S. I hope to provide information that will help improve mental health among Arab Americans.”
Sander will analyze the impact of academic success and failure on the mental health of high school students. She plans to work with a school in a largely Hispanic, high-poverty community and will include both special education students and students with prior behavioral issues.
“My research is about juvenile delinquency, academic success and mental health, “said Sander.” “This project is very exciting for me because it allows me to test a theory related to mental health, delinquency and disruptive behaviors. What I can learn from this study has great potential to eventually improve outcomes for adolescents in school or community settings.”
Kim will study how children serving as interpreters in immigrant families affects the mental health of both parents and children. Although studies have shown that 90 percent of children in immigrant households translate between English and the family’s heritage language, little is known about how this role affects a child’s long-term mental health. Kim will draw from a sample of 350 Mexican American families for the study.
“It is important to focus on Mexican adolescents because they often are at a higher risk for mental health conditions,” said Kim. “This project would be one of the first to provide data on language brokering and would inform future work aimed at reducing mental health concerns in Mexican American families.”
Travis will investigate the mental health of child care providers and barriers they encounter in seeking mental health treatment. Despite existing research reporting high levels of depression among child care providers, little research has been done on the likelihood of child care providers to seek mental health treatment or other support. Travis plans to collect data through surveys and focus groups.
“There are almost 25,000 childcare providers in Texas serving over one million children a year,” said Travis. “By examining these factors, we aim to inform public discourse and research on mental health needs and strategies that foster a thriving child care workforce and ultimately help to ensure quality of care for children.”
“The Hogg Foundation is excited about funding these four early career researchers. Their proposed research is compelling and will help to fill gaps in our knowledge about cultural issues, adolescent mental health, social determinants and mental health providers,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director.
The Hogg Foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. The foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research, and public education.