Youth in Action for Health Project: Association Between Mental Health and Exposure to Violence

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Presentation given at APHA's 2020 VIRTUAL Annual Meeting and Expo.

Background: Adolescent exposure to violence is linked to physical and emotional stress, which has an effect on a variety of mental health outcomes. The Youth in Action project was developed to integrate public health inquiry in a high school’s Biomedical Academy program, by using a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) approach with a health and social equity perspective.

Research Question: The aim of this study was to assess the association between exposure to violence at school and self-reported negative emotions of anxiety, stress, depression, and anger among participants of the Youth in Action project.

Methods: Baseline surveys were administered to 11th grade Biomedical Academy students at a low-income, ethnically diverse high school. Questions were adapted from the California Healthy Kids Survey including being a witness or victim of violent behaviors and negative emotions at school.

Results: Results from the 76 program participants who completed the survey showed 36% of students reported experiencing at least one act of violence at school in the past 12 months and between significant numbers of students report a negative emotion including anxiety: 42%, stress: 58%, depression: 39%, and anger: 36%. There was a significant association between experiencing a violent act at school and having negative emotions (p=0.033).

Conclusion: This study indicated exposure to violence in a high school setting is associated with a variety of mental health outcomes. It also highlights a need for supporting school anti-violence and mental health programs for the benefit of high school populations.


APHA's 2020 VIRTUAL Annual Meeting and Expo