Expanding mental health awareness in adolescents using contemporary Young Adult Literature in the English classroom.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Community concern about adolescent mental health and suicide is increasing. The school is a prime site of influence, and therefore integral to raising adolescent mental health awareness and promoting pro-social behaviours. The English curriculum provides this opportunity. This research aids in bridging the gap between the existing adult views of literature as a tool to increase mental health awareness in adolescents and adolescent readers’ own understanding. Importantly, it presents the adolescent voice that has been lacking in prior research. Using an exploratory grounded theory methodology within an interpretivist paradigm, this research introduced the contemporary young adult novel One Step (Daddo, 2016b), which deals with bullying and mental health concerns, as the class text for Year 10 English students in two regional Australian schools. Using both purposive and snowball sampling, this research recruited 23 participants from three classes. Students studied the selected text and responded to their teacher’s assignments through essays, questionnaires, short answer tasks, and creative tasks as components of their regular classwork. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected in the form of written material produced by the students. Data were analysed using a constructivist epistemology, prioritising the adolescent voice in the discussion of mental health in adolescence. Four key themes emerged: ‘Mirroring student experience,’ ‘The emotional impact of One Step,’ ‘Talking about mental health,’ and ‘One Step should be read by others.’ The result is that students were aware of mental health issues and felt empowered to express their concerns regarding bullying and its impact on mental health. This research informs classroom practice when using contemporary Australian young adult literature to improve adolescent wellbeing. Findings suggest that the teacher’s attitude to discussing mental health is an important factor in raising student mental health awareness. Significantly, it shows that students are seeking support for their mental health in their appeal for greater awareness from peers, teachers, and parents. It also recommends modification of the Australian Curriculum by proposing that mental health be included as a priority, integral to teaching and learning across the curriculum. Further, activities must be extended to support parents’ and carers’ understanding of mental health in adolescents to ensure our young people are also effectively supported in the home environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Garrison, Kasey, Principal Supervisor
  • Macleod, Mark, Co-Supervisor
  • Thomas, Cate, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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