Coming to an Understanding: Mainstream Pupils' Perceptions of Mental Health Problems
Waples, Patricia Ann
With the introduction of the UK Government’s inclusive ideology in the late 20th century, increased pressure was put on schools serving adolescent psychiatric units to support their pupils to return to mainstream education. However, there is a perception that a factor that makes the transition process difficult is the attitude of mainstream pupils towards their peers with mental health problems. The purpose of this research was to explore mainstream pupils’ perceptions of mental health problems and the extent to which their understandings might lead to stigmatising attitudes. A theoretical perspective encompassing the ideas of social constructionism, interpretavism and symbolic interactionism, combined with a linguistic based approach, underpinned the development of an empathetic methodological approach to researching sensitive topics with adolescents. The research involved collecting data using a sequence of questionnaires, individual interviews and group interviews with pupils in three secondary schools within socially diverse communities. The questionnaire was presented in comic booklet form and included such techniques as cartoons, vignettes, and adapted familiarity and social distance scales. This dissertation reveals ways in which young people create their personal constructs around mental health and the complexities of the nature of stigma. It also highlights the implications that these findings have for staff and pupils involved in the transition process and for the development of practice in this field.