Conceptualizing Adolescent Mental Illness Stigma: Youth Stigma Development and Stigma Reduction Programs

  • Joseph S. DeLucaEmail author
Narrative Review


The majority of mental illnesses develop during the teenage years, and such mental health conditions can significantly derail psychosocial development. However, many adolescents are reluctant to pursue mental health services or do not know how to help their peers who may be struggling. Stigma and low mental health knowledge have been identified as leading barriers to such mental health help-seeking. In response, there has been increasing interest in understanding the development of stigma among youth and evidence-base interventions to reduce stigma. The focus of this narrative review was to summarize findings from the adolescent mental illness stigma literature and to link findings to a multidimensional and theoretical model of stigma and adolescent development, with the goals of informing future research and evidence-based stigma reduction practices. Existing evidence suggests that stigma is well-documented among adolescents, but that little consensus exists regarding how to implement successful adolescent-focused mental illness stigma reduction programs. Suggestions for improvement include evaluating the multiple dimensions of mental illness stigma when conducting research, considering the impact of adolescent development on program development and evaluation, using reliable and valid outcome measures, and employing strong research designs (e.g., randomized trials with fidelity checks and long-term follow-ups) to evaluate standardized programs.


Adolescence Youth Mental illness Mental health Stigma 



This review benefitted from conversations and feedback from Drs. Philip T. Yanos, Maureen A. Allwood, Kevin L. Nadal, and Roger J. R. Levesque, as well as two anonymous reviewers.


This study did not receive funding.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The author reports no conflicts of interest.

Ethical statement

This article did not make use of participants or a research design. No ethical approval or informed consent were required.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal JusticeCity University of New York (CUNY) and CUNY Graduate CenterNew YorkUSA

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