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Adolescents On Mental Illness

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Dr. Murphy

PSY 100 Spring, 2005

Watson, Amy C., Otey, Emeline, Westbrook, Anne L., Gardner, April L., Lamb, Theodore A., Corrigan, Patrick W., & Fenton, Wayne S. (2004). Changing Middle Schoolers' Attitudes About Mental Illness Through Education. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 30, 563-572.


Eric J. Peсa

Section 6


This article shows the attitudes and intellect of Middle Schoolers about Mental Illness. The investigators are interested in the amount of improvement that the Middle Schoolers receive after being well-informed and educated about Mental Illness. They are especially interested in the changes in the attitudes of the pupils that think pessimistically about Mental Illness. Finding out if a curriculum informing the students about Mental Illness would significantly impact them is the other main interest of the investigators.

Previous studies show that many adults are almost naturally prejudice to people with Mental Illnesses. Most adults automatically stereotype them as people that are dangerous, shouldn't be talked to, and have a slim-to-none chance of recovering. This comes from their lack of knowledge of Mental Illness growing up. In their childhood, they see Mental Illness as a disturbance and sway away from anything related to it. This concept is truly an unnoticed act of discrimination.

Ultimately, the goal of the experiment was to find out how the minds of the students change toward Mental Illness after more knowledge of it is found out.

The investigators supposed that there would be a bit of knowledge or at least some awareness of Mental Illness in the students' minds. They figured that there would be many pessimists in the group (students that initially think negatively about Mental Illness.) Also, they assumed that the curriculum would benefit all of the students (especially the ones with the negative attitudes.)


The investigators used The Science of Mental Illness curriculum to educate the students. This curriculum consists of unique scientific discoveries and case studies that help students understand the link between the sciences and their applications to health care. Some parts of the curriculum are classic, lecture-style teachings and some are more interactive including online programs and situations on video clips. The variety of the curriculum keeps the students interested throughout the 5-week program.

Helping the students understand that Mental Illness can be diagnosed and treated very well (unlike they might have thought) is one of the curriculum's main goals. The other is to make the students more aware of Mental Illness and understand its different aspects. The curriculum is broken up into 5 lessons that cover everything from the brain's functions to recognizing Mental Illness to methods of treatment.

To continue the study, a curriculum evaluation was held. The students (the subjects) had a "Knowledge Test" that had 13 true/false/not sure questions, and 5 short answer questions. The students were to answer the questions as if they were referring to a new student with a Mental Illness. For instance, one of the questions was, "Depression is the same thing as being sad." It was administered in 2 forms: Pretest and Posttest, to see if there was a significant change in knowledge.

The independent variable of the experiment was clearly the enrolling and teaching the students into the curriculum. The dependent variable was the change in knowledge and attitude (the impact) that was due to learning from the curriculum.

The investigators collected the data by reviewing the Pretests and Post tests and measuring the differences of the correct, incorrect and unsure answers.


The investigators recorded results by numbers and percentages. They just subtracted the number of unsure answers from 1500, then divided the number of correct answers by the difference of 1500 and the unsure answers and multiplied that fraction by 100. For instance, for the first question, "Depression is the same thing as being sad," the number correct for the Pretest was 636 and number of questions answered "not sure" was 98. So, 1500-98=1402. Then, (636/1402)*100 = 45.4%, which is the percentage correct on the first question (for the Pretest.)

The investigators found that there was a great improvement in the knowledge about mental Illness from the Pretest to Posttest. The total average score correct increased by 30% (from 6.87 to 9.75!) Also, the attitude score decreased by a small but effective 3% (22.57 down to 21.99.) Also, once at Posttest, the students would most likely say that the new student (with a Mental Illness) is not dangerous and wouldn't feel as sad or sorry for the new student. Also, the students with initially high negative attitudes had much lower pretest knowledge scores than the rest of the group (because their lack of knowledge caused them to think negatively about Mental Illness.)

The investigators expected a more negative attitude during Pretest, but otherwise the significant increase in knowledge and decrease in attitude was expected.


This study was done to experiment upon Middle Schoolers' attitudes and knowledge about Mental Illness. The subjects, the Middle Schoolers, enrolled in "The Science of Mental Illness" curriculum to then be reviewed on the impact to the students' changes in knowledge and attitude. Similar to other studies, the students had some prior knowledge of Mental Illness as an issue with the brain. Also, they initially did not know



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