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Literature Review

Literature Review: Metal Illness, American Youth, and the Education System
Sarah Valadez
University of Texas at El Paso

Mental illness is being found in American youth now more than ever. The majority of those
diagnosed with mental illness in are between 18-25. Illnesses or disorders that are common are
depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD. Other forms of mental illness that are more seriousinclude
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia begins early in adulthood. Despite the rie there
is still a misconception on those with mental illness or disorders, many are not seen as real
illnesses or disorders. There is the stigma of those with mental illness being likely to be violent
and commit crimes. There has been a lack of policy in promiting assistance and awareness for
this, only being enacted after an incident in the media has occurred. Organiziations exist in place
of the lack of policy.

Literature Review

There has been a rise in mental illness and mental disorders among Americans in recent years
ranging from depression to schizophrenia. Misconceptions over mental illness and disorders and
their consequences have also risen with many Americans ignorant of the symptoms, seriousness,
and stigma of many of these illnesses and disorders. Thirteen percent of American youth are
afflicted with mental illness yet there is lack of school involvement in the United States in
helping and raising awareness for youth and young adults with mental illness diagnosed or
undiagnosed. This lack of intervention paves the way for mental illness symptoms to progress
and take their toll on youth through forms of self-harm such as suicide, drug abuse, alcohol
abuse, and dropping out of the education system altogether.
Questions pertinent to researching mental illness in American youth, and lack of school
Involvement, include:
1: What are the statistics of United States youth mental illness compared to public awareness of
the issue?
2: What are the effects of mental illness on the individual and on the community?
3: What current policies are in place to deal with mental illnesses in United States youth?
4: What policy changes have been proposed to help alleviate the problem of mental illnesses in
United States youth?
Many students par secularly in the teen to young adult range (in the United States) are diagnosed
with mental illness.

What are the statistics of United States youth mental illness compared to public awareness of the

As seen in the image above, these students are usually in the 18-25 range. The most prominent
mental illnesses/disorders in this age range includes depression and anxiety, illnesses such as
schizophrenia begin to manifest themselves at the age of 18. Many of those with mental illness
or disorders are at higher risk for suicide and other forms of self-harm. Those between ages 1825 report having suicidal tendencies more so than any other age group. Despite the inclinations
towards self-harm, the linkage between crime and mental illness is a small percentage. It is more
common for the mentally ill to be victims of crime rather than criminals themselves.
Youth with mental illness have been proven to have difficulty completing school. A survey done
by the American Journal of College Health surveyed college students from across the nation and
compared them to fellow students that were mental ill, a portion of the survey displayed that
those with mental illness often had a hard time retaining g information and raising their
incentives to succeed I'm the social and academic aspects of college life.

Literature Review

What are the effects of mental illness on the individual and on the community?
In a study using database results from 1990 to 2014 from Medline, Embass, PsyINFO, and
Education Information Resources Center results showed that teenagers with disorders such as
ADHD were "2.7 times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers with other
disorders" and schizophrenia, 45.8% of those would go on to drop out of school. (Page 10
Ansseau) Dropout rates by default were found to lead to a predominant increase in abuse of
substances such as cannabis and nicotine. For my primary research I plan on conducting a survey
that compiles my four questions and asking a pool of students (100-300) on Facebook or Reddit
to answer them. I would also like to ask 10-30 teachers and instructors from high school to
university level to answer the survey. The purpose of this would be to see how these
demographics perceive mental illness in students in the United States.
Those with mental illness find it difficult to find employment opportunities and higher
education opportunities due to their symptoms or stigmatization by employers and employees. In
a study conducted by the Bridge Program (an occupational therapy program that helps those with
mental illness find employment and education opportunities) which ran from 2005 to 2012,
results showed that "barriers specific to higher education and employment" (Page 34 Schindler
and Kientz) included, "...fears and anxieties, progression of psychiatric symptoms,
unmanageable stress, lost motivation, and unable to concentrate." (Page 34 Schindler and Kantz).
Besides the symptoms of mental illness affecting work performance, discrimination against job
candidates with mental illness also plays a role in their unemployment (Salzer). A study done by
the Illinois Institute of Technology yielded results of social distance, fear, coercion, and
dangerousness in correlation to having ever worked, worked in the past three months, or worked

in the past year as being the highest out of all the "Measures of Endorsement of Public Health
and Stigma".
American society is misinformed about mental illness/mental disorders. Most Americans have
misconceptions about diseases such as schizophrenia. In a survey that was conducted many
proved to believe (60%) that schizophrenics were inclined to violence (Corrigan). Other
symptoms such as schizo phasia and drug and alcohol abuse were proven to not be viewed as
extensions of the disease when in fact they are symptoms according to the U.S. Surgeon General
(LeFevre). Statistics revolving around levels of fear or discomfort towards those with mental
illnesses such as schizophrenia were quite high when it came to working or being around
someone who was untreated, 71% believing that their safety would be jeopardized if they were
around an untreated individual according to a Survey conducted by the Surgeon General
(Corrigan). Other illnesses such as clinical depression despite being labelled a "serious medical
illness that affects how you feel" by the APA and an illness that afflicts about 25 million
Americans each year with an episode of it, it continues to have a stigma attached to it especially
when depression ends in suicide (LeFevre). There is also a dispute over the validity of depression
as a disease.
:What current policies are in place to deal with mental illnesses in United States youth?
Organizations to aid those with mental illness do exist. Organizations such as the National
alliance Against Mental Illness have been working to bring their Crisis Intervention team
program to schools as 13% of America's youth have a mental illness. However only 20% of that
13% receive any sort of assistance. The program hopes to give school officials the knowledge
they need to raise awareness in their schools and provide assistance to students. However in a

Literature Review

report done by NAMI in 2009 the reasons behind the difficulty to bring such assistance to
afflicted youth were made apparent.
There is a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists in the country. Schools have been
focusing on standardized testing and college prep and therefore things such as interventions for
youth have taken a backseat to these other issues. School officials that do recognize symptoms of
mental illness do so when the individual has already advanced in the stage of their illness or the
disorder has taken its toll on them, officials see the self-harm. Lastly there is a lack of
communication between students and school officials and school officials and parents throughout
the nation (Salzer). For the second part of my primary research I plan on interviewing 2-3
professors of sociology and psychology here at UTEP. I plan on conducting my research methods
within the week. I would also like to conduct a survey amongst students at college level, students
in high school, and teachers at high school level to see what their views are on the education
system getting involved in this issue.
What policy changes have been proposed to help alleviate the problem of mental illnesses in
United States youth?
After the Sandy Hook incident, President Obama promoted SRO's in schools which has
spawned worries over students with mental illness who do commit harm towards society won't
get the real assistance they need and will instead end up in the Juvenile Justice system. Other
forms of proposed policy include the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) idea to
screen for suicide risk in all Americans, "[this] applies to adolescents, adults, and older adults in
the general population who do not have an identified psychiatric disorder."

The purpose was to examine the involvement of the education system in the United States in
providing assistance and awareness among students with mental illnesses and disorders as well
as examining the perceptions and awareness American society has of those with mental illness
and what students with mental illness and disorders are at risk and displaying how mental illness
and disorders affect society and how society perceives them and all their implications.

Literature Review


Corrigan, P. W., Powell, K. J., & Rsch, N. (2012). How Does Stigma Affect Work in People
With Serious Mental Illnesses?. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 35(5), 381384.


Esch, P., Bocquet, V., Pull, C., Couffignal, S., Lehnert, T., Graas, M., & ... Ansseau, M. (2014).
The downward spiral of mental disorders and educational attainment: a systematic review
on early school leaving. BMC Psychiatry, 14(1), 136-161. doi:10.1186/s12888014-


Figure 1. Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness Among U.S. Adults by Sex, Age, and Race in
2008. This figure illustrates a wide range of statistics in regards to mental illness
prevalence in the U.S.
Figure 2. The Young Adult Danger Zone. This figure illustrates statistics of the ages at which it
is most common for Americans to be contemplating suicide.
LeFevre, M. L. (2014). Screening for Suicide Risk in Adolescents, Adults, and Older Adults in
Primary Care: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Annals
of Internal Medicine, 160(10), 719-726.
Salzer, M. S. (2012). A Comparative Study of Campus Experiences of College Students With
Mental Illnesses Versus a General College Sample. Journal Of American College Health,
60(1), 1-7. doi:10.1080/07448481.2011.552537


Schindler, V. P., & Kientz, M. (2013). Supports and barriers to higher education and
employment for individuals diagnosed with mental illness. Journal Of Vocational
Rehabilitation, 39(1), 29-41. doi:10.3233/JVR-130640
THE BROKEN GENERATION. (Cover story). (2012). Maclean's, 125(35), 54-58.