UTEP Researcher Receives Grant to Study Effects of Border Violence on Studentsí Mental Health
June 16, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas – Dr. Kathleen O’Connor, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at El Paso, has received a $17,500 grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to measure the mental health impact of recent border violence on university students.
Her proposal was 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.
O’Connor will examine levels of trauma, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder among UTEP students in response to violence along the Texas – Mexico border between El Paso and Juárez. According to O’Connor, the violence has escalated since 2008 and communities on both sides of the border have been traumatized. Thousands of residents have been murdered, including several university students.
“It is not necessary to be personally injured by violent events to suffer traumatic mental health consequences, which can put sufferers at risk for potentially serious physical health problems,” O'Connor said. “We need to understand the effects of violence among our youth and discover the level of awareness among students about resources that are available to them to assist with any mental health issues resulting from the ongoing armed conflict in the area.”
O’Connor plans to survey 200 undergraduate Hispanic students, including Juarez residents who commute to UTEP, students with relatives in Mexico and who visit regularly, and students without close family ties to Mexico.
“Dr. O’Connor’s study is timely. Her findings have the potential to influence policy and mental health services along the entire U.S. – Mexico border,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation.
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.