A qualitative investigation of self-stigma among adolescents taking psychiatric medication

Derrick A Kranke, Jerry Floersch, Bridget O Kranke, Michelle R Munson
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2011, 62 (8): 893-9

OBJECTIVE: The extant literature describes stigma in two forms, public stigma and self-stigma. Public stigma pertains to negative social behaviors, reactions, attitudes, and beliefs directed toward people with mental illness and among persons with mental illness. Self-stigma concerns the internalized effects of public stigma. Although both types of stigma have negative impacts on people with mental illness, they produce different effects. In particular, self-stigma can negatively affect self-esteem, social relationships, willingness to engage in life opportunities, and adherence to psychiatric services. Few adult stigma models represent self-stigma, and no models exist that examine self-stigma among adolescents with a mental illness. Because of developmental differences, adolescent self-stigma may be distinct from that of adults. This study aimed to develop a self-stigma model to elucidate youths' responses to mental illness labels and how psychiatric services affect self-image and self-efficacy.

METHODS: The qualitative study included a sample of 27 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who took psychiatric medication for a mental illness diagnosis. A semistructured interview, the Teen Subjective Experience Medication Interview, was used to query adolescents about their perceptions of having a psychiatric diagnosis and of taking psychiatric medication. The analytic strategy identified a sequence of narrative plot components that illustrated a self-stigma process among adolescents.

RESULTS: The findings revealed a self-stigma model comprising three narrative components: stereotype, differentiate, and protect.

CONCLUSIONS: The adolescent model was similar to yet distinct from the adult model, and developmental differences may contribute to the variation. The need for future research to validate an adolescent self-stigma model is discussed.

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