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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Young people, socioeconomic processes, and youth mental health promotion Laliberte, Shari


Little is known regarding current relational dynamics among young people, their mental health, and socio-economic processes and implications for mental health promotion initiatives. Social praxis, underpinned by a Hegelian-Marxist historical-dialectical perspective was used to deepen understanding regarding ways that young people’s socio-economic environments are influencing their mental health, their processes of seeking to realize their mental health, and mental health promotion from a socio-economic perspective. The experiences of 30 diverse young people between the ages of 15 and 28 years were explored and compared to ways that socio-economic determinants of mental health are addressed within provincial mental health policy. There were four central findings in this study. First, participant reflections indicated eight inter-related mental health needs as having relevance in this current socio-economic context. Second, needs and affective experiences are important sites for deepening understanding regarding the inter-relation between young people’s mental health and socio-economic processes. Participant reflections illustrate the relational nature of mental health. They show how mental health is a phenomenon that emerges from the inter-relation between young people and the socio-economic processes that young people participate in within their day-to-day lives. Affective states indicate the degree to which a young person’s mental health needs are met, and play an inter-related role with socio-economic processes in influencing young people’s engagement in socio-economic processes as they seek to realize their needs. Third, there are several key ways that individualistic, wealth-oriented capitalist socio-economic practices and processes threaten young people’s mental health needs across the socio-economic spectrum. Fourth, young people’s control over realizing their mental health needs is limited by the ways they are oriented to seeking realization of their mental health within the inner and inter-personal contexts of their lives, despite the important role that socio-economic processes play in enabling their needs. A close reading of mental health policies shows their positioning in support of capitalist socio-economic processes. This limits the potential of mental health promotion in supporting synergistic relations between young people and socio-economic processes in realizing young people’s mental health. Based on insights gained from this study, I propose multi-level approaches for future praxis-oriented mental health promotion initiatives.

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