Children with mental illness have a variety of services available to them through state, community, and private organizations. But when children enter adulthood, they often lose many of those opportunities. It is during this time that many young people first experience symptoms of mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia. However, when they reach adulthood, many of those most at need for assistance and mental health services may not be eligible. Katy Kaplan of the College of health Professions and Social Work at Temple University in Pennsylvania wanted to find out how young adults with mental illness were adjusting when compared to older mentally ill adults.
In a recent study, Kaplan assessed 233 emerging adults with mental illness and 1,594 mature adults with mental illness. She looked at their participation in several areas of life, including volunteering, work, college, parenting, civic orientation, religious/spiritual engagement, group activity, friendships, peer networks, and intimate romantic relationships, and evaluated how involvement in these areas affected their overall quality of life and life satisfaction. She found that although both mature and emerging adults had achieved appropriate milestones for their developmental stage, emerging adults’ quality and meaning of life scores were much higher than those of mature adults. This was the case even though college enrollment and active employment were much lower in the emerging adults. Also, spirituality and peer support were higher in the mature adults, but did not significantly improve their quality of life measures.
Kaplan believes many factors contribute to these results. First, older adults have lived with mental illness longer than young adults. They may be more skeptical of taking a positive outlook and may have more experience with the challenges presented by their mental illness than younger adults. Also, young adults may have lower levels of spirituality as a natural way of exploring their own identity and rejecting any religious or spiritual associations of their parents. Regardless of the high levels of life satisfaction among the young participants, these results clearly show that more needs to be done to meet their mental health and social needs. “Emerging adults should have access to programs designed to support their transition to adulthood, such as supported education and employment programs,” said Kaplan.
Kaplan, Katy, Mark S. Salzer, and Eugene Brusilovskiy. Community participation as a predictor of recovery-oriented outcomes among emerging and mature adults with mental illnesses. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 35.3 (2012): 219-29. Print.
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