Social Participation in Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness

Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

Department or Program Chair

Ruth Ramsey, EdD, OTR/L

Thesis Advisor

Bonnie Napier-Tibere, EdD, OTR/L

Second Advisor

Ruth Ramsey, EdD, OTR/L


Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are in a transitional stage to adulthood, where many decisions are made and close relationship are formed which help determine future life roles. A diagnosis of serious mental illness(SMI) can lead to disability and disadvantage through the disruption of educational, vocational, and social pursuits, resulting in daily routines and occupational domains being impaired causing changes in social relationships.

In-depth qualitative interviews were used to collect descriptive information from five participants’ who had a SMI to gain an understanding of how young adults with SMI adapt to changing social relationships after a diagnosis of SMI.

Changes in social relationships and daily occupations occurred after a diagnosis of serious mental illness. Major themes that emerged were: (1) stigma on social participation, (2) peer group social participation, (3) decrease in self- confidence on social participation, and (4) adjustment of life goals in educational and work pursuits.

The study highlights the need for programs to help young adults with SMI to develop social skills and seeking leisure interest in the reestablish of age-appropriate occupations

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