Background: Despite the high prevalence of mental health concerns, few young adults access treatment. While much research has focused on understanding the barriers to service access, few studies have explored unbiased accounts of the experiences of young adults with mental health concerns. It is through hearing these experiences and gaining an in-depth understanding of what is being said by young adults that improvements can be made to interventions focused on increasing access to care.
Objective: To move beyond past research by using an innovative qualitative research method of analyzing the blogs of young adults (18-25 years of age) with mental health concerns to understand their experiences.
Methods: We used an enhanced Internet search vehicle, DEVONagent, to extract Internet blogs using primary keywords related to mental health. Blogs (N = 8) were selected based on age of authors (18-25 years), gender, relevance to mental health, and recency of the entries. Blogs excerpts were analyzed using a combination of grounded theory and consensual qualitative research methods.
Results: Two core categories emerged from the qualitative analysis of the bloggers accounts: I am powerless (intrapersonal) and I am utterly alone (interpersonal). Overall, the young adult bloggers expressed significant feelings of powerlessness as a result of their mental health concerns and simultaneously felt a profound sense of loneliness, alienation, and lack of connection with others.
Conclusions: The present study suggests that one reason young adults do not seek care might be that they view the mental health system negatively and feel disconnected from these services. To decrease young adults' sense of powerlessness and isolation, efforts should focus on creating and developing resources and services that allow young adults to feel connected and empowered. Through an understanding of the experiences of young adults with mental health problems, and their experiences of and attitudes toward receiving care, we provide some recommendations for improving receptivity and knowledge of mental health care services.