In partnership with the University of New Mexico, researchers using Indiana University’s REDCap, a fully customizable research data capture engine, will support ongoing efforts to understand the mental health needs of young urban American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) adults in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ashley Railey, a postdoctoral fellow of sociology at Indiana University, is contributing to the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) study, which aims to examine social network characteristics to identify prevention and treatment interventions for behavioral health risks (BHRs). It is a National Institute of Health (NIH) initiative and the parent grant for their AI/AN supplement. Because of the study’s timing, taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are further evaluating the impact of COVID on the mental health, addiction, and help-seeking behaviors of AI/AN young adults.
“One aspect includes understanding the role of health communication in mental health and addiction, and, especially during COVID, whether social network members provided instrumental or emotional support,” said Railey. “These findings will extend our knowledge on the impact of COVID on vulnerable populations,” she said.
The HEAL survey administered through REDCap’s secure data platform examines personal social network dynamics and BHRs among AI/AN urban young adults aged 18 to 34 years old. One primary BHR the study aims to tackle is suicide, which is the second-leading cause of death for this demographic. Further, AI/ANs also report higher rates of suicide risk factors, including mental health disorders, traumatic life events, and substance abuse. These challenges contribute to a greater risk of urban young AI/AN adults compared to non-AI/ANs for attempted suicide (21% vs. 7%), as well as for depression and substance abuse.
The study will collect data from 400 self-identified AI/ANs to identify baseline associations between social network characteristics and current levels of behavioral health status and risk. Through further analysis of the individual’s care network and family support, the study also examines the health influence structure of these networks to find effective potential pathways for risk prevention and treatment intervention.
IU REDCap’s Andy Arenson, who served as technical lead on the HEAL study, said the project introduced new techniques and software to the existing IU REDCap digital ecosystem. “The complex data entries in the HEAL study required innovative methods for capturing information about a participant’s social network, while also using third-party custom software to integrate proprietary computer adaptive tests about mental health,” said Arenson. “The IU REDCap team is proud to facilitate the HEAL study with our partners in support of AI/AN mental health initiatives,” he said.
Social network data are complicated to collect, in general, and in the survey format. We use REDCap because it has the capability of dealing with the challenges of both network generators and name interpreters as well as the novel mental health items on suicide risk and resilience.
“Social network data are complicated to collect, in general, and in the survey format. We use REDCap because it has the capability of dealing with the challenges of both network generators and name interpreters as well as the novel mental health items on suicide risk and resilience” said Bernice Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and lead investigator of the Indiana team working with University of New Mexico and the Centers for Native American and Alaska Native Health.