MA Community Psychology Theses
The Impact of Higher Education, Ethnicity, & the Intersection of Both on Perceptions of People with Mental Illness
Date of Award
Master of Arts in Community Psychology, MA
Reed Mueller, Ph.D.
The purpose of this study was to explore how higher education and ethnicity may individually impact perceptions of people with mental illness, as well as to explore the intersection of higher education and ethnicity on such perceptions. Descriptive phenomenological in design, this study explores the experiences of ten students at a university in Portland, Oregon. In semi-structured, open-ended interviews participants recalled experiences in which higher education, ethnicity, and the intersection of both impacted how they thought about mental illness. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using Colaizzi’s (1978) seven-step process. The analysis resulted in several themes supporting the current literature on higher education and ethnicity, including: perspective shift towards acceptance, increased self-awareness, and cultural value of emotional restriction. New themes were also discovered regarding the intersection of higher education and ethnicity, including: difficulty accepting stigmatizing cultural beliefs, increased awareness of the role of family, no intersection, and clearer understanding of one's own culture. Future research may expand on each theme uncovered in this study in greater depth to provide more insight into what specific mechanisms within each theme are influencing perception of mental illness.