Being treated differently: stigma experiences with family, peers, and school staff among adolescents with mental health disorders

Tally Moses
Social Science & Medicine 2010, 70 (7): 985-93
Stigma directed at adolescents diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders by individuals in their interpersonal network likely undermines their wellbeing, yet little is known about their subjective stigma experiences. In particular, the prospect of diagnosed youth experiencing prejudice and discrimination by family members has not previously been examined. This study examines adolescents' perceptions of being treated 'differently' because of mental health problems by family members, peers, and school staff. Qualitative analysis of narratives from mixed method interviews with 56 adolescents in a mid-western US city demonstrated variation in the perceived extent and nature of stigma and in contextual factors perceived as promoting or protecting from stigmatization, depending on the interpersonal domain. The greatest number of participants experienced stigmatization in relationships with peers (62%); this often led to friendship losses and transitions. Participants reporting no peer stigmatization often reported socializing with others "in the same boat" or concealing problems--methods of avoiding potentially stigmatizing interactions. Close to half (46%) described experiencing stigmatization by family members, which often took the form of unwarranted assumptions, distrust, avoidance, pity, and gossip. About one third (35%) of participants reported stigma perpetrated by school staff, who expressed fear, dislike, avoidance, and under-estimation of their abilities. Fortunately, 22% reported "different" treatment by school staff, but this treatment was interpreted as positive and supportive. Results showed that perceived stigmatization in one domain was associated with perceived stigma in other domains. The results suggest that efforts to combat stigmatization of youth with mental health disorders must help family members, peers, and school staff overcome their inclinations to make negative assumptions and discriminate against these youth.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


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

Related 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"