What was this study about and why was it done?
Row of pencil crayonsObsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric disorder that affects both children and adults. It often makes many parts of youths’ and their families’ lives challenging, including school. Direct disclosure of an OCD diagnosis to school staff and classmates may improve school functioning by increasing awareness and accelerating the initiation of supports. There have not been many studies looking at the disclosure process of an OCD diagnosis within a school setting. This is an important area to study because previous studies have shown that quality of life improves when a disclosure is made within a positive environment. 

What was done in the study?
We interviewed 12 youth between the ages of 13-17 years old over videoconference to better understand their experiences with disclosing or concealing their OCD diagnosis in the high school setting, the currently availably school-based supports for someone disclosing their diagnosis, and their recommendations for improving the supports. The results were qualitatively analyzed to create a single visual model called “Journey from concealment to disclosure of OCD”.

To see the disclosure model and learn more about what was done in the study and the results, click here.

What did we learn from this study?

  1. Shame and stigma are initial barriers to disclosure. Meaningful and improved education surrounding OCD and mental illness is needed to change the biases held by school staff and classmates.
  2. Youth only disclose information that fits within their individually decided boundaries. A safe space created by school members allows them to independently choose how much they want to disclose and to whom.
  3. School suppliesBuilding trust with target(s) of disclosure is essential for success. Superficial and unrelatable connections were barriers to developing trust, as opposed to deep and reciprocal (i.e., sharing struggles, interests) connections.
  4. Youth feel empowered when they are treated as a person rather than a diagnosis after a disclosure. Confidential and personalized supports can assist to empower them. 

Why does it matter?
The “Journey from concealment to disclosure of OCD” model can inform school disclosure strategies and optimize support for youth with OCD in the high school setting. Future research and explore its’ utility and the perspectives of school staff and parents on its’ applicability. 

What are the next steps?
We have shared these results with researchers and mental health workers and are working towards sharing them with youth living with OCD and their parents, classmates, and school staff. 

Who can I contact for more information about the study and results?
Please email Tanisha at tanisha.vallani@bcchr.ca or you can call 604-875-2000 ext. 3068. 
The Principal Investigator for this study is Dr. Evelyn Stewart.