Date of Award

Spring April 2013

Access Restriction

Research Projects

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Einat Metzl


This research explores the experience of stigma and its effect on identity formation in young adults who suffer from chronic mental illness. Data was gathered in the form of personal narratives and art-making through a a semi-structured, qualitative focus group. It was categorized and coded in order to better understand the experience of both public and internalized stigma in relation to the developmental milestones that characterize the important transition from adolescence to adulthood. Analysis of the data resulted in the emergence of three overarching themes: 1) The challenges of coping with a stigmatizing system, 2) Internalized stigma as it relates to the formation of adult identity, and 3) The use of art to combat stigma and facilitate self-discovery. These themes were examined against existing literature pertaining to the stigma of mental illness, identity formation in young adults, and the use of art to combat stigma and promote healthy identity. The findings of this research emphasize the insidious nature of stigma and ofer support for the ability of art-based programs to empower young adults who face the challenges of mental illness.