Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Clovis L. White

Committee Member(s)

Greggor Mattson
Cynthia McPherson Frantz
Matthew Hayden


Mental illness, Psychology, Sociology, Healthcare, Stigma, Self-image, Stress, Privilege, Support, Social capital


Previous research shows that mental health issues often manifest in the late teens and early twenties, the age of many college students (Kessler et al., 2007). This report is a case study about mental illness at Oberlin College. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that the subculture of Oberlin may incentivize students to maintain their identity with mental illness. Three hundred and eighty-four Oberlin students were surveyed about their perception of conversations around mental illness and behaviors of mentally ill students at Oberlin. In fifty semi-structured interviews, students were asked to elaborate on how they came to identify with mental illness and factors that may contribute to poor mental health on campus. My results support my hypothesis that while students do not feel as though mental illness is stigmatized at Oberlin, the subculture on campus incentivizes people to prioritize self-image over mental health. An identity with mental illness at Oberlin can give students social capital, a sense of belonging, and contribute to a sense of self. The implication of this study is that social incentives to identifying with mental illness may be an additional variable to poor mental health on campus. Additional research should look into the correlation between motivations to maintain one’s identity with mental illness and reduced help-seeking behaviors.

Included in

Sociology Commons