This study investigated the experience of stigma among adolescents taking psychiatric medication for the treatment of a diagnosed mental illness. Although medications are intended to improve functioning and reduce mental disorder symptoms, little research has examined the potential stigma associated with taking them. This study recruited forty adolescents, ages 12-17, who met DSM-IV criteria for a mental health disorder and who were taking a psychiatric medication at the time of the study. Data were collected using a semi-structured interview instrument and were thematically analyzed using Link, Cullen, Struening, Shrout, and Dohrenwend's (1989) modified model of labeling theory. Results indicate that many adolescents did experience stigma. In particular, 90% of the sample endorsed at least one of Link et al.'s (1989) constructs of secrecy, shame, and limiting social interaction; four endorsed no stigma themes. Additional themes emerged indicating that the perceptions of adolescents' family members and school environments can accentuate their experience of stigma or serve as a protective barrier against it. The thematic findings of secrecy and shame were used to construct hypothetical models for how adolescents limited their social interaction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science
- Adolescent mental health
- Mental illness stigma
- Psychotropic treatment
- Qualitative research