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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring perceptions of positive mental health in young adults with intellectual disabilities Bailey, Darcie-Anne


Individuals with intellectual disabilities are at a greater risk of developing mental health difficulties than typically developing individuals (Munir, 2016). One way that mental health difficulties have been targeted and treated in recent years is by providing people with education about mental health, what it is and strategies to promote it. Mental health literacy is the process by which people learn how to obtain and maintain positive mental health; understanding mental disorders and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental disorders; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy (Kutcher, Wei, & Coniglio, 2016). When individuals understand what positive mental health is, they are more likely to take steps that contribute to it (Barry & Jenkins, 2007). While individuals with intellectual disabilities experience higher than average levels of mental health difficulties, especially young adults, there is limited research about how they view mental health, specifically, positive mental health. The researcher in this study sought to gain a better understanding of how young adults with intellectual disabilities conceptualize and define the concept of positive mental health, by employing a phenomenographic methodology. Eight participants were interviewed by the researcher and the qualitative interviews were analyzed in accordance to the phenomenographic method. Categories of description were identified through data analysis, which provided insight into how study participants defined positive mental health. The main categories of description that emerged from the data included defining positive mental health as related to physical health, and participants expressing that they were not sure what positive mental health was. Additionally, positive qualities were part of some individual’s definition (including happiness and positive actions), and mental health issues. This study provides important information to clinicians as it highlights the need for further research about how to best support individuals with intellectual disabilities in their psycho-education around mental health issues.

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