Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


College students-Mental health, Identity (Psychology), Social constructionism, Mental health, Mental health identity, Constructivism and mental health, Social constructivist lemns on mental health, Postmodernism and mental health


This study uses a qualitative approach to capture the voices of nine students who self identified as having mental health experiences and who were also taking actions to cope with their mental health experiences from a small private arts college on the west coast. Students participated in one hour-long interviews that focused on students’ conceptions of mental health in relation to their identity, students’ actions related to mental health and students beliefs about the role of mental health in their sense of mattering. The findings suggest that mental health is constructed within student experience and identity differently depending on the individual, their context, and history in line with a constructivist and intersectional lens. The data also shows that distress and isolation are consistently related to mental health experiences. Findings suggest that participants generally use a multi-modal approach to manage their mental health with the most valued forms being therapy and art practice, and regardless of their placement of mental health in their sense of identity, participants feel that mental health is fundamental part of daily living. Finally, findings show that all participants are selective in their decisions about when and how much to disclose about their mental health experiences and that concealing their mental health leads to added psychological pain.




iii, 104 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 86-92)

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Social Work Commons