Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Elder, Anastasia

Committee Member

Young, J. Scott

Committee Member

Wells, Debbie

Committee Member

Underwood, Joe Ray

Committee Member

Holt, D. Lynn

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Counselor Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology


In this study, the role of positive and negative religious coping was evaluated for their interrelationship with demographic variables, religious variables, and the outcome of mental health distress. A sample of 253 United Methodist Church leaders from counties throughout the state of Mississippi completed a survey including measures for demographic characteristics, religious coping, general coping, and mental health distress. Through regression analysis and path analysis, the relationships among the variables were measured to determine the importance of religious coping strategies while controlling for demographic variables and general forms of coping. Through regression analysis, the subjective report of personal losses immediately after Hurricane Katrina, participation in religious activities, and involvement in recovery efforts significantly predicted the presence of mental health distress among United Methodist Church leaders in Mississippi. In particular, religious participation insulated against the presence of mental health distress while personal losses and recovery involvement promoted the likelihood of mental health distress. Positive forms of general coping as well as religious forms of coping provided no significant contribution to the presence or absence of mental health distress, but negative forms of general coping did predict higher levels of mental health distress. Among this religiously oriented sample, religious forms of coping was not significantly predictive of the presence of mental health distress after accounting for general forms of coping which suggested that religious coping may be indistinguishable from forms of coping that are more generalized in nature. Through path analysis, negative religious coping significantly influenced the increased presence of mental health distress but did not serve as a mediator between mental health distress and other religious and demographic variables. A surprising finding in this study was the important mediating role of recovery involvement between mental health distress and other factors including religious participation, religious salience, and status as an ordained minister. Additionally, at nearly three years after the storm, persons reporting to currently live in close proximity to the disaster and persons continuing to experience loss due to the disaster reported a higher prevalence of mental health distress. Implications for the current literature and the need for further research were discussed.