Posttraumatic Distress and Treatment Barriers Among Former Gang Members: Implications for Improving Access to Traumatic Stress Resources in Marginalized Populations

Christine Valdez
Journal of Traumatic Stress 2021 January 22
Limited research has examined the links among violent victimization, mental health, and service utilization among gang-involved individuals. This mixed-methods preliminary study examined narratives of psychiatric distress, current psychiatric morbidity, and mental health treatment experiences among a sample of former gang members (N = 32; M age = 44.4 years, 87.5% male; 56.3% Hispanic or Latino, 31.3% African American). Participants completed online questionnaires to assess trauma exposure and current psychiatric symptoms as well as a semistructured interview to examine histories of psychiatric distress and mental health treatment. Participants reported exposure to an average of 10.2 discrete traumatic events (range: 3-21). On average, participants reported exposure to five to six community violence-related events, ranging from never or one time up to monthly and weekly exposure. Participants generally described histories of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse, although a thematic analysis revealed PTSD symptoms predominated the psychiatric distress described, including symptoms related to intrusions, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal. Grounded theory analysis revealed barriers to traditional models of mental health treatment included self-isolation, gang rules, and social stigma, especially in the context of interpersonal disconnect with providers. Given conditions of limited resources to access treatment, participants engaged in peer support services, which may have reduced their psychiatric distress to currently low levels. Implications for understanding these notable findings of recovery and resilience for some individuals and building trauma-informed communities that improve access to traumatic stress resources for marginalized populations are discussed.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"