Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Jay Dee

Second Advisor

Dwight E. Giles

Third Advisor

Michael Kocet


Art and design institutes may have a higher percentage of students with diagnosed or self-reported cases of mental illness compared to other types of institutions. Furthermore, the art and design culture may to a certain extent glorify mental illness, given that many famous artists are known to have had a mental illness. Whereas the general population tends to stigmatize mental illness, art and design students may interpret mental illness experiences as a catalyst toward enhancing their creativity. If students associate mental illness with their ability to be creative, then they may forgo treatments such a prescription medication. At art and design institutes, campus norms may endorse unhealthy behaviors based on misperceptions about mental illness, creativity, and help-seeking. This impact in turn may be detrimental to retention, persistence, and graduation.

This study collected data from a national sample of students at art and design institutions. The theoretical framework was based on social norming theory, which suggests that there may be disparities between perceived and actual social norms on a college campus. Survey results indicated that 49% of the sample self-reported having a diagnosed mental illness, and an additional 15% indicated that they believe they have a mental illness but have not yet been diagnosed. These percentages are significantly higher than previous research on the general college student population. Results also indicated that there was a perceived social norm that mental illness enhances creativity. Among students who self-reported a mental illness, there was an individual belief and a perceived social norm that prescription medication interferes with creativity. And students who believed that prescription medication interferes with creativity were unlikely to choose prescription medication as a type of treatment.

This study provides strong evidence suggesting that individual beliefs and perceived social norms may have an impact on help-seeking behaviors, and has implications for administrators working within art and design institutions.


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