Exploring How Marginalized Youth Are Constructed and Represented in the Language Used by Mental Health Professionals

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Bowden, Kristine
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The purpose of this study is to explore how the meaning and identity of marginalized youth are negotiated and constructed through the language used by mental health professionals. Terms such as ‘vulnerable', ‘at risk' and ‘high risk' have been used by professionals and organizations to explain who they serve and the services they offer. But these terms may be misrepresenting and misidentifying this demographic and rather, serve more meaning to the professionals and system structures than the youth. Through a critical discourse analysis design, data is collected through close readings of texts from various sources within the discourse, as well as interviews. Three mental health professionals in various supportive roles to this youth demographic participate in a semi structured interview to offer their perspectives and understandings. Twenty different texts from various sources including Canadian newspaper articles, research literature and government press release documents are included in the analysis that are identified as using language focusing on representing or speaking about youth. An analysis will combine these sets of data to explore the recurring themes and meanings that appear across the discourses. A discussion will follow on the possible implication the discourse has in shaping not only the relationship between youth and mental health professionals but also how youth are portrayed and represented in the language used.
at risk , vulnerable , marginalized youth , mental health professionals , discourse analysis