Alternative Title

Mental health narratives of environmental justice in Richmond, California

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Chevron Oil Company, Petroleum refineries-Environmental aspects-California-Richmond, Environmental justice-California-Richmond, Stress (Psychology), Pollution-Psychological aspects, Richmond California, Chevron, Polution, Environmental justice, Environmental racism, Racism, Place-based hazard, Narratives, Psychology, Mental health, Stress, People of color, Communities of color


The purpose of this exploratory study was to gather narratives of residents and/or community members who perceive the presence of the Richmond Chevron Oil Refinery in their community as a psychological stressor. The study used semi-structured interviews with eight community organizers and activists to gather qualitative data providing personal accounts of the possible psychological impact of living near a toxic facility with great political power in the city. The common trend among the narratives was the tendency of the participants to focus on a macro interpretation of how mental health is affected by a corporate giant. A collective sense of mental health was described using structural and institutional factors to explain why the city lived in a state of stress and poor health. The themes explaining the impact on mental health fell into five categories: 1) paternalism, 2) lack of accountability, 3) physical and mental health, and 4) racism from an intersectional perspective. This study contributes to the literature in that it centers experiential knowledge of communities impacted by environmental racism and elucidates the dynamics between residents and the refinery’s corporate power. The historically troubled relationship between Chevron and Richmond continues to generate a lasting impact on the city’s social, political, and economic spheres. This study also highlights the need for social work as a profession to consider the ways in which macro forces impact communities subjected to environmental racism or exploitation.




iv, 68 pages : color illustrations. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma. 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 56-60)

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