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
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