Social networks of university students with mental illness
University of Wisconsin--Stout. Research Services
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Previous research shows that negative perceptions of mental illness can cause social distancing and negative perceptions of self. Friendships are one social support that helps to fight these negative effects. This research attempts to understand friendships and support systems for university students with mental illness, including why such support and friendships are pursued. In-person interviews of students with mental illness and their friends, along with a survey based social network analysis, help to create a clearer picture of who students with mental illness are creating these relationships with and why. This study shows that the friendships of individuals surveyed were based upon homophily: physical (age and gender) and social similarities (mental illness, interests, and values). Not found in previous literature, but shown in this small study, is that connectedness of non-mentally ill individuals was higher within their social networks compared to social networks of individuals with mental illness. This study also found that mental illness could affect moods occasionally, but their friends often saw the symptoms of the people with the mental illnesses in this study as positive attributes of the person with the mental illness.