Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Sandra Thomas

Committee Members

Andria Yates, Samereh Abdoli, Megan Wright


Adolescence is a unique developmental period marked by opportunities and challenges. During this time, adolescents begin to rely on their peers as sources for support to manage challenges. They may seek support for mundane things such as help with homework or more serious issues such as mental health concerns. Receiving support from peers is beneficial and can help mitigate negative aspects of anxiety and depression and promote overall well-being. However, providing support can have adverse consequences. Little is known about friends who provide support related to mental health issues in the adolescent population. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the experiences of adolescents who provide support to friends with mental health concerns. A phenomenological research design was used to answer the question: what is the lived experience of adolescents who provide support to friends with anxiety, depression, or who express suicidal ideation?” Participants for this study were ages 16-17 and included both males (n=2) and females (n=3). Data collection involved unstructured interviews lasting 25-75 minutes. Participants described their experience as “Kids Helping Kids” which is defined by the following themes: Being Fearful, Maintaining Vigilance, Seeking Knowledge, Keeping Secrets, Involving Others, Setting Boundaries, and Feeling Honored. Knowing the experiences of these adolescents provides a more well-rounded understanding of the issues surrounding adolescent mental health with several important implications for practice, research, and policy. Helping a friend with mental health concerns can be challenging yet rewarding. Nurses and other professionals should be aware of this role that some adolescents have and include the friends of adolescents with mental health concerns as part of plans and interventions to improve outcomes surrounding adolescent mental health.

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