Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr. Susan Rodger


A mixed-methods research design was employed to explore early adolescents’ experiences of mental health. First, quantitative data from a school board wide survey in southwestern Ontario was analyzed. Next, focus groups were conducted to explore early adolescents’ perceptions and language associated with mental health, causes of distress, and individual coping strategies. Results from the survey demonstrated that knowing where to get help, beliefs that students at school are concerned about each other, and feelings of belongingness account for more variance in feelings of distress in females than in males. Qualitative data revealed that early adolescents do not differentiate between the phrases “mental health” and “mental illness.” Main themes that emerged from the focus group discussions include knowledge of, and attitudes about, mental health, the significance of cognitions and emotions in personal feelings of distress, the role of connection in distress, and actions that accompany feelings of distress. Implications for counselling and future directions are discussed.