Case Western Reserve University

“Adolescents are concerned with fitting in and being 'normal,' so when medications make them feel different, that impacts everything.”

The Other Half of the Battle
Alumnus Derrick Kranke says controlling symptoms is just one part of the fight to support teens with mental illness

TeensAdolescence can be tough.

Almost everyone can remember when an unfortunate outfit choice or unflattering haircut prompted ridicule from classmates and ignited a bout of woeful self-deprecation. But for teenagers who are bullied not for the music on their iPods but for illnesses that are beyond their control, humiliation at the hands of peers can have dire consequences.

In one of the first studies on the effects of stigmas on adolescents who take medication for mental illness, Case Western Reserve University researchers found at least 90 percent of participants reported feeling ostracized because of their illness. These feelings can cause the teen to limit his or her social interactions, drop out of school and can even lead to suicide.

"Adolescents are concerned with fitting in and being 'normal,' " says Derrick Kranke, PhD, a former postdoctoral scholar at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, where he earned his doctoral degree in 2009. "So when medications make them feel different, that impacts everything."

Kranke led the study, published in the April 2010 issue of Children and Youth Services Review, and says stigmas experienced at a young age can follow teens with mental illness throughout their lives, especially for those who don't have strong support from their parents or from adults at school.

Parents who accept their child's mental illness and support him or her through the ups and downs can help counteract these stigmas. On the other hand, parents can just as easily contribute to the teen's feelings of being different.

Kranke, a former elementary school teacher, says the youths' experience at school can similarly affect them throughout their lives.

"Rather than being a place where young people with mental illness feel ostracized, school should be a haven where they feel a sense of belonging, especially for those who aren't getting that comfort in their home lives," he says. "School can be a pathway to success for many of these kids."

See more of the picture: Read more at Think.

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