Young people's experiences of mental health difficulties

Electronic versions


  • Freya Spicer White

    Research areas

  • D Clin Psy, School of Psychology


This thesis contains three related pieces of work that considered young people’s experiences of mental health difficulties. The first is an original piece of qualitative research. Semi-structured interviews wereused to investigate the lived experience of eight females with mental health difficulties, aged between 15 and 17 years. Through interpretative phenomenological analysis, five themes emerged; these were ‘keep it hidden’, ‘the stickiness of a diagnosis’, ‘life is different now’, ‘relationships are different now’ and ‘other young people with difficulties’. How these young women related to their diagnosis became a topic of interest and therefore the focus of the second piece of work, a literature review. Thisreview identified 15 studies. Ten studies employed quantitative methods to assess mental health literacy and attitudes in young people in the general population. Five studies used qualitative methods to investigate the attitudes of young people who had received a mental health diagnosis. The results suggested that many young people in the general population displayed poor, at best moderate, mental health literacy and that many young people held negative preconceptions about mental health diagnoses. Individuals who had received a diagnosis described themes that suggested high levels of shame and an altered sense of identity. Both the research and review papers considered the concept of pre and post diagnostic counselling as a potential clinical implication and this was discussed in the third piece of work. The discussion paper summarised that there are few specific recommendations for sharing a mental health diagnosiswith adults or young people. It was suggested that further research is required to assess whether pre and post diagnostic counselling could be an effective way of improving the diagnosis experience for young people. Finally my personal reflections of completing the thesis are shared.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award dateJan 2012