A new UBC study highlights the need for improved training when it comes to helping young people with mental illness determine their sense of identity.
“Identity development is a normal part of growth and generally occurs when someone is in late adolescence or early adulthood,” said Sherry Ben David, assistant professor and lead author of the study at the UBC Okanagan Social Work School. Explains. “It’s at that point in life that young people start asking who they are and exploring their goals, their values, and their role in life.”
But at this stage of life, young people may experience mental health problems for the first time, such as mental illness, when personal identities are explored and recognized-if that happens, they will be themselves. Identity, and even values, can be difficult to clearly define an individual.
“The development of psychosis in adolescence or young adulthood can dramatically disrupt identity-related processes,” said David Kealy, co-author of psychiatry and research at UBC Vancouver. “This creates an overall level of vulnerability for young people to tackle early recovery from mental illness.”
Keeley explains that psychotic disorders are stigmatized in society, which can lead to negative self-sensation in young people.
“This can be a serious obstacle for someone in early adulthood,” he adds.
Ben David states that some of the solutions are early interventions, as the longer the mental illness is left untreated, the worse the results.
“Current psychosis treatments tend not to focus on identity development, and in fact our research shows a lack of training in this area,” says Ben David.
With that in mind, the researchers surveyed more than 300 multidisciplinary clinicians working in British Columbia’s early psychosis intervention programs. They found that only half of the people surveyed felt that they had a high level of confidence in their ability to deal with identity-related issues in treatment-clinical to the importance of identity as a concern. Clients with this problem in a consistent and meaningful way have revealed a gap between their perceptions and their ability to help them.
“Our findings show the need for an early psychosis program to invest in identity-related training for clinicians,” says Ben David. “The next step is to work closely with the community to investigate the impact of identity-focused interventions in the early stages of mental illness.”
“Our goal is to help as many young people as possible.”
Their research, funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the UBC Collaborative Research Mobility Award, recently Early intervention in psychiatry.
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