Hyejin Jina Jung

Hyejin Jung

Hyejin Jung, a doctoral student in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin, was selected to receive the 2014 Frances Fowler Wallace Memorial for Mental Health Dissertation Award by the Hogg Foundation. The award will go to support research expenses for her dissertation on mental health literacy among public housing organizations.

Frances Fowler Wallace, the award’s namesake, was married to John Forsythe Wallace, who served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives and the State Board of Control. She died July 18, 1972, in Austin at the age of 80. The Wallace Award provides partial support for doctoral students’ dissertation research on “the cause, treatment, cure, and prevention of mental disease, mental illness, and mental disorders,” as directed in her will.  The award provides up to $1,500 for research-related expenses.

“One of the Hogg Foundation’s key strategic areas is broadening mental health literacy among non-mental health professionals, and supporting research to this end,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation. “We are thrilled for Ms. Jung and eagerly await the fruits of her research.”

We spoke with Hyejin Jung about her research.

  1. Tell us about yourself. At what point did you decide to pursue a career in mental health research, and what influenced that decision? My interest in mental health research grew out of working at a state hospital as a psychiatric social worker. In that position, I encountered multiple challenges serving people with mental health conditions, particularly with maintaining their lives in the local community. Unfortunately, some people with serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia that were released from the state hospital soon returned to the facility due to a lack of community support. Working with those who came back multiple times encouraged me to study ways in which mental health practitioners and community members can help people with mental health conditions thrive in their local communities.
  2. Your dissertation is titled, “The Role of Mental Health Literacy in Mental Health Care in Public Housing Setting.” What questions are you trying to answer with this work? My dissertation particularly investigates what factors are associated with higher-levels of mental health literacy. In addition, my dissertation examines the ways in which mental health literacy is related to confidence in helping someone with mental health conditions and intention to seek mental health services among public housing staff.
  1. What led to your taking a professional interest in this particular topic? Mental health literacy is an important factor related to mental health care, wellness and recovery. Yet, few mental health literacy studies include public housing organizations that serve those with lower incomes, disabilities, and the elderly—all of whom are at a greater risk for mental health conditions. Current literature indicates that many public housing residents with mental health conditions do not receive mental health services. Therefore, there is a need to understand basic mental health information and learn about wellness and recovery in public housing settings and the ability of public housing staff to help their residents with accessing mental health services in a timely manner.
  1. How do you think your research methods and approach will help you to answer the questions that you’re posing? My dissertation uses data from a cross-sectional survey that examines the mental health literacy of a local public housing staff in Texas. I developed the survey questionnaire to include items measuring knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about mental illness, treatment, and local resources; stigma; confidence level of helping someone with mental health conditions; intention to seek mental health services; and demographics. The survey data will be analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM) along with a series of regression analyses to identify factors associated with mental health literacy and examine relationships among mental health literacy, intention to use mental health services, and confidence in helping someone with mental health conditions.
  1. Are there any suggested readings you can recommend for those who might be interested in learning more about this topic? I would like to suggest two journal articles that I’ve cited below for those who are interested in learning about mental health literacy and mental health in public housing settings. The first article is written by A.F.  Jorm, one of the scholars who coined the term, “mental health literacy.” This article explains the concept of mental health literacy and current status of mental health literacy research, intervention, and policy.1 The second article focuses on African Americans and it still demonstrates need for mental health care among public housing residents.2

Jorm, A. F. (2012). Mental health literacy: Empowering the community to take action for better mental health. American Psychologist, 67(3), 231.

Simning, A., Wijngaarden, E., & Conwell, Y. (2011). Anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders in United States African-American public housing residents. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 46(10), 983-992. doi: 10.1007/s00127-010-0267-2