MILLENNIAL WOMEN’S PERCEPTIONS AND COMMUNICATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
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Good mental health supports individuals’ abilities to function well physically, emotionally, and socially (WHO, 2000) while mental health problems may cause dysfunction in every aspect of individuals’ lives (Keyes, 2005). Strategies for managing mental health include building strong social support systems, minimizing stressors, and seeking professional help (British Columbia Emergency Health Services, 2020; Worell & Goodheart, 2006). However, very little is known about how and why individuals are motivated to communicate about mental health, particularly about positive mental health for health maintenance and illness prevention. Instead, much of the literature focuses on mental illness diagnosis, treatment, and stigma. This dissertation uses the situational theory of problem solving to examine how and why millennial women are motivated to communicate about both positive mental health and mental health problems. As of 2019, millennials are the largest generational cohort in the U.S. (Fry, 2020). It is important to understand how this generation thinks about and approaches positive mental health and mental health problems because their perceptions and experiences will shape mental health service needs in the coming decades. 30 interviews were conducted to collect and analyze data for this study. Women between the ages of 26 and 38, residing in the United States, were interviewed. These women were asked to describe their perceptions about, involvement with, constraints towards, and communication about mental health and mental health problems. Findings suggest that millennial women believe that mental health is strongly intertwined with their physical health, and they feel a need to proactively address mental health problems. Many of the participants in this study were knowledgeable about different types of mental health topics and coping strategies; however, many also reported wanting more information and resources. This study identified multiple factors that influence women’s perceptions of mental health, affect their motivation to communicate, and shape their actual communication about mental health. In addition, this study offers insight into how and why millennial women communicate about mental health with family members, friends, coworkers, and health professionals.