Health> Vol.5 No.3A, March 2013

What are college students saying about psychiatric medication?

ABSTRACT

The number of college students who take psychiatric medication has dramatically increased. These students may be at risk for negative mental health outcomes because research shows that mental illness can delay the attainment of developmental milestones critical to adulthood. This article explores college students’ experience with psychiatric medication and how it impacts functioning and stigma. Perceptions of medication treatment could be crucial to understanding the factors that enable college students with mental illness to thrive in a university setting. Seventeen undergraduate college students in a private, Midwestern university who had a psychiatric illness and were taking prescribed psychiatric medication, were enrolled. A semi-structured interview queried college students about their perceptions of taking psychiatric medications and how the use of medication influences their functioning. Authors conducted thematic analysis by using the constant comparative method for coding data and sorting in-vivo codes by shared theme. Respondents generally reported positive attitudes toward medication and minimal stigma. Particular themes included: higher functioning; mitigation of symptoms; willingness to disclose; and positive long-term outlook regarding the use of medication. Students were empowered by their treatment because it positively impacted functioning and integration into the college setting. However, in contrast to the majority of study participants, one minority student reported experiencing significant external and internal stigma due to her use of psychiatric medication. Although the study’s qualitative nature, small sample size,and lack of ethnic diversity of respondents limit generalizability, important preliminary findings indicate that some college students are benefiting from the use of psychiatric medication with minimal stigma. More research is needed on college students’ experience of psychiatric medication, particularly the experience of minority students, since extant literature indicates their reluctance to utilize psychiatric medications, and a tendency toward negative perceptions of help-seeking for mental illness.

KEYWORDS


Cite this paper

Kranke, D. , Jackson, S. , Floersch, J. and Anderson-Fye, E. (2013) What are college students saying about psychiatric medication?. Health, 5, 595-602. doi: 10.4236/health.2013.53A079.

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