Engaging youths with serious mental illnesses in treatment: STARS study consumer recommendations

Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2012 Sep;35(5):360-368. doi: 10.1037/h0094494.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify better methods of engaging youths in mental health services by asking experienced mental health consumers for suggestions for clinicians.

Methods: 177 members of an integrated health plan, ranging in age from 16-84 years and diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or affective psychosis, completed four in-depth semistructured interviews over 24 months as part of a study of recovery from serious mental illness. We transcribed and coded interviews, extracted a set of common themes addressing consumer recommendations to clinicians, and compared these themes across age groups.

Results: Five primary themes emerged in participants' recommendations: (1) use an age-appropriate approach that reflects youth culture and lifestyles; (2) foster development of autonomy; (3) take a personal, rather than diagnostic, approach; (4) be empathetic and authentic; and (5) create a safe and supportive environment. Consumers age 30 and older described three additional areas in which clinicians could contribute to youths' well being: (1) help find the right diagnosis and the right medication, (2) counsel youths to avoid using alcohol and drugs, and (3) take steps to help prevent social isolation.

Conclusions: Study findings suggest that many strategies recommended for working with adults may benefit young people, but that developmentally appropriate modifications to these approaches are needed to foster treatment engagement among youths.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Bipolar Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Psychotic Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / rehabilitation*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult