Schoolchildren’s perspectives on the meaning of mental health.




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Peer reviewed



Purpose – Mental health of children and young people is often discussed in terms of mental illness, however, such an approach is limited. The purpose of this paper is to explore young people's views of what mental health is and how to stay mentally healthy.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper investigated young people's views on these two issues through a series of workshops. In total 218, 13-year-old schoolchildren produced posters with their impressions of the issues. Themes that young people identified were then discussed with them in terms of the existing Bright Futures definition of mental health. Poster responses were subsequently transcribed and thematically analysed.

Findings – The paper identified a number of themes for each question. Mental health was viewed in terms of personal attributes of an individual, illness, ability for personal management and establishing social relations. Young people saw mental health maintained through a combination of lifestyle choices, personal attributes, management of self and environment, social support and relationships, as well as treatment of illness. These themes corresponded to the ones identified by the Bright Futures.

Research limitations/implications – This study highlights the complexity of young people's views on the meaning of mental health. They were also more positive, open and competent in discussing mental health than previously suggested. However, a more systematic investigation of views and attitudes is necessary, including younger children. Additionally, health care professionals are likely to benefit from young people's engagement in planning and implementing strategies for better mental health.

Originality/value – This paper is one of the few to investigate the positive meaning of mental health with young people.



child and adolescent mental health, good mental health, qualitative


Svirydzenka, N., Bone, C., and Dogra, N. (2014) Schoolchildren’s perspectives on the meaning of mental health. Journal of Public Mental Health. 13 (1), pp. 4-12.


Research Institute

Institute for Psychological Science
Mary Seacole Research Centre