Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Sarah Hayes-Skelton

Second Advisor

Tahirah Abdullah

Third Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney


Black transition-aged youth (TAY) diagnosed with mental health challenges may be at risk for internalizing negative messages associated with mental illness (self-stigma). In addition, Black Americans have historically and contemporarily held negative beliefs towards mental health care and those receiving mental health services (Thompson, Bazile, & Akbar, 2004), which may create a cultural environment more prone to endorsing stigmatizing beliefs toward mental health. Interventions to reduce self-stigma found to be most effective are usually multi-modal in nature and include a combination of psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, group work and support, narrative therapies, and strategies specifically designed to increase self-esteem, empowerment, and participants’ motivation to act (Mittal, Sullivan, Lakshminaravana, Allee, & Corrigan, 2012; Yanos, Lucklan, Drapalski, Roe, & Lysaker, 2015). It is out of this backdrop that participatory action research (PAR), a multi-faceted, collaborative, and social-justice oriented approach towards research, emerges as a potentially potent means for addressing self-stigma. Thus, this study aimed to assess whether engaging in the process of PAR could effectively function as a self-stigma intervention among Black TAY. Using qualitative, grounded theory interviews that examined Black TAY’s experiences of a PAR project focused on mental illness stigma, the product of this study was a theoretical model, the PAR Process of Change, that explained: (1) how engagement in a semester-long PAR project facilitated intrapersonal and interpersonal changes leading to reductions in mental illness stigma for Black TAY and (2) the process that facilitated this change and how it developed over time. The grounded theory interviews were guided by three main areas of inquiry and focused on: (1) co-researchers’ subjective experience of the semester-long PAR project, (2) the impact their participation in the PAR project had on how they think and feel about themselves, particularly in relation to mental illness stigma, and (3) the ways in which their intersecting identities related to race, mental illness history, and age impacted their experience of the PAR project. Participants included seven Black TAY with histories of mental health challenges. A majority of participants were Afro-Caribbean and children of immigrant parents. Results from the grounded theory analysis highlighted five phases of change that comprise the Process of Change Model. They include: Joining, Establishing Structure and Safety, Opening Up and Receiving Support, Discovering and Creating Community, and Facilitating Change (outcomes of the PAR process). This study provides sound theoretical and qualitative evidence demonstrating the efficacy of PAR as an anti-stigma intervention for Black TAY.


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