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.
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.
 Kadison, R. and Digeronimo, T. (2004) College of the over-whelmed. Jossey Bass, San Francisco.
 Blanco, C., Okuda, M., Wright, C., Hasin, D., Grant, B., Liu, S., et al. (2008) Mental health of college students and their non-college-attending peers: Results from the national epidemiologic study on alcohol and related conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry, 65, 1429-1437.
 Leavey, J. (2005) Youth experiences of living with mental health problems: Emergence, loss, adaptation and recovery. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 24, 109-126.
 Kroger, J. (2007) Identity development: Adolescence through adulthood. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.
 Eisenberg, D., Golberstein, E. and Hunt, J. (2009) Mental health and academic success in college. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 9.
 Goffman, E. (1963) Stigma: Notes of the management of spoiled identity. Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs.
 Karp, D. (2006) Is it me or my meds? Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
 Link, B. and Phe-lan, J. (2001) Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 363-385.
 Corrigan, P. and Watson, A. (2002) The paradox of self-stigma and mental illness. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 9, 35-53. doi:10.1093/clipsy.9.1.35
 Kranke, D., Floersch, J., Kranke, B. and Munson, M.R. (2011) A qualitative investigation of self-stigma among adolescents taking psychiatric medication. Psychiatric Services, 62, 893-899. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.62.8.893
 Herrick, C. and Brown, H. (1998) Underutilization of mental health services by Asian-Americans residing in the United States. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 19, 225-240. doi:10.1080/016128498249042
 Mathews, A., Corrigan, P., Smith, B. and Aranda, F. (2006) A qualitative exploration of African Americans’ attitudes toward mental illness and mental illness treatment seeking. Rehabilitation Education, 20, 253-268.
 Romero, A. and Roberts, R. (2003) The impact of multiple dimensions of ethnic identity on discrimination and adolescents’ self-esteem. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 2288-2305.
 Williams, D., Costa, M. and Leavell, J. (2010) Race and mental health: Patterns and challenges. In: Scheid, T. and Brown, T., Eds., A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health: Social Contexts, Theories and Systems, Cambridge University Press, New York, 268-290.
 Dixon, C. and Vaz, K. (2005) Perceptions of African Americans regarding mental health counseling. In: Harley, D. and Dillard, J., Eds., Contemporary Mental Health Issues among African Americans, American Counseling Association, Alexandria, 163-174.
 Kranke, D. and Bartholomew, J. (2010) Minority college student mental health: Gaps and future directions. Council of Social Work Education, Port-land.
 Rusch, N., Lieb, K., Bohus, M. and Corrigan, P. (2006) Brief reports: Self-stigma, empowerment, and perceived legitimacy of discrimination among women with mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 57, 399.
 Zimmerman, M. and Warschausky, S. (1998) Empowerment theory for rehabilitation research: Conceptual and methodological issues. Rehabilitation Psychology, 43, 3- 16. doi:10.1037/0090-5518.104.22.168
 Linhorst, D. (2006) Em-powering people with severe mental illness. Oxford University Press, New York.
 Corrigan, P., Mueser, K., Bond, G., Drake, R. and Solomon, P. (2008) Principles and practice of psychiatric rehabilitation. The Guilford Press, New York.
 Golberstein, E., Eisenberg, D. and Gollust, S.E. (2009) Perceived stigma and help-seeking behavior: Longitudinal evidence from the healthy minds study. Psychiatric Services, 60, 1254-1256.
 Floersch, J., Townsend, L., Longhofer, J., Munson, M., Winbush, V., Kranke, D., et al. (2009) Adolescent experience of psychotropic treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry, 46, 157-179. doi:10.1177/1363461509102292
 Jenkins, J. (1997) Subjective experience of persistent psychiatric disorder: Schizo-phrenia and depression among US Latinos and Euro-Americans. British Journal of Psychiatry, 170, 20-25. doi:10.1192/bjp.171.1.20
 Jenkins, J., Strauss, M., Car-penter, E., Miller, D., Floersch, J. and Sajatovic, M. (2005) Subjective experience of recovery from schizophrenia-related disorders and typical antipsychotics. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 51, 211-227. doi:10.1177/0020764005056986
 Muhr, T. (1993) Atlas.ti Software Development, Berlin.
 Patton, M. (2002) Qualitative research & evaluation methods. Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks.
 Floersch, J., Longhofer, J., Kranke, D. and Townsend, L. (2010) Integrating thematic, grounded theory and narrative analysis: A case study of adolescent psychotropic treatment. Qualitative Social Work Journal, 9, 407-425.
 Boeije, H. (2002) A purposeful approach to the constant comparative method in the analysis of qualitative interviews. Quality & Quantity, 36, 391-409.
 Kranke, D., Guada, J., Kranke, B. and Floersch, J. (2012) What do African American youth with a mental illness think about help-seeking and psychiatric medication? Origins of stigmatizing attitudes. Social Work in Mental Health, 10, 53-71. doi:10.1080/15332985.2011.618076