Integrated, overwhelmed, and distanced: Narratives of mental health among young adults with prior public system involvementedit
Objective: Young adults who have been involved in child welfare and other public systems of care often have elevated rates of mental health disorders and low rates of mental health service utilization. This study explores the mental health narratives of young adults who previously were involved in public systems of care to understand how they make meaning of their symptoms and professional treatment. Method: We conducted in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 40 young adults (ages 18–25) who have mood disorders and histories of involvement in public systems of care. We used narrative and case-study strategies to identify and examine the mental health experiences of participants. Results: Three types of mental health experiences—classified as integrated, overwhelmed, and distanced— emerged from the analyses. Differences between these types are described. Conclusions: Young adults with histories of involvement in public systems of care have distinct mental health experiences. Practitioners should consider the diversity of these experiences to help young adults improve their overall well-being.