Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Youth within the juvenile justice system have a higher prevalence of mental illness when compared to the general population, with some literature revealing up to 80% of incarcerated youth possess a diagnosable disorder (Shufelt & Cocozza, 2006; Underwood & Washington, 2016). Today, mental health stigma is widely prevalent and results in prejudice, discrimination, lowered self-esteem, and other negative outcomes for individuals struggling with mental health related issues (Corrigan & Watson, 2002; Dalgin & Gilbride 2003). With this in mind, the role mental health stigma plays in the lives of youth in the juvenile justice system should not be overlooked. Although stigma towards adult mental health is a well-studied area, stigma of child and adolescent mental health is an area that remains largely under-conceptualized and underresearched (Heflinger & Hinshaw, 2010). Thus, the current study seeks to examine the perceptions of youth within the juvenile justice system regarding their own experience with mental illness stigma. Participants were sampled from the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Facility (KJCC). Youth were asked to complete several questionnaires to assess their views toward mental illness as a whole, personal experiences with stigma, adverse childhood experiences (ACE), feelings toward available mental health resources at the facility, and the role of mental illness stigma in their incarceration. First, researchers hypothesized youth with greater self-stigma would indicate stigma played a greater role in their incarceration than those youth who indicate less self-stigma. Next, researchers hypothesized youth with a high number of adverse childhood experiences would indicate stigma had a greater influence on their incarceration. Finally, researchers hypothesized perceived self-stigma would be positively correlated with perceived stigma of mental illness overall. i The hypotheses of the current study were found to be non-significant. Thus, exploratory analyses were conducted. When assessing only those youth indicating an experience with internalized stigma of a mental illness, ACEs were able to predict the influence mental health stigma had on incarceration. The more a youth indicated feeling the presence of internalized stigma, the more they felt treatment surrounding their mental illness influenced their incarceration. Despite lacking support for original hypotheses, the current study begins to shine light into mental health, trauma, and treatment experiences of juvenile justice-involved youth. While youth perceptions of mental illness were overall positive in the current study, stigma of mental illness continues to plague society as a whole (see Corrigan & Watson, 2002; Muralidharan et al., 2017). Future studies in this area should continue to examine how these experiences and others guide youth into the system.


Dr. Leo Herrman

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type



© 2020 Ashley Lockwood


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