When we first started thinking about topics for Junior Theme, one of the general topics I was thinking of doing my paper on was mental illness. I have always found treatments for mental illness in American history, such as histerectomies and ice-pick lobotomies, to be horrifying and wrong, and I knew that if I did a Junior Theme on mental illness I would want my "look back" to include how mental illness was treated in the past. Then I began to wonder why mental illness was treated so horribly in the past. I thought this could be a result of stigma in society against mental illness, or this could be a cause of the stigma. This is what led me to the first topic that I wanted to do: Why is there a stigma against mental illness in American society?
This seemed like the perfect topic for my Junior Theme: I am passionate about it, and already had ideas for a historial look back. The problem with it was that it was too broad and also could not be quantified. It is difficult to find statistics directly dealing with stigma against mental illness; I did find some statistics about if people with mental illness felt that others were "compassionate and understanding" towards mentally ill people (only 25% of mentally ill people felt this). This does show stigma against mental illness, but it seemed too general and subjective to be the basis of my entire paper.
After further research on stigma against mental illness, I found that a huge outcome of stigma is people not seeking treatment for their illness. This effect of stigma seemed like it could be a good topic for my paper, so I continued searching for statistics about people with mental illness that have not been treated for it for whatever reason. I found a few statistics that I thought I could base my "why question" on: in any given year, 20% of mentally ill children are identified and actually receive treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and in 2012 59% of adults with any mental illness were not receiving treatment and 37.1% of people with serious mental illness were not receiving treatment.
These statistics led me to the "why question" that I am currently basing my research on: Why are so many people with mental illness not receiving treatment? I am still working to refine this so it can be more specific, possibly by basing it on serious mental illness, which is defined federally "having, at any time during the past year, a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment, that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities". This includes bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression, among others.
One more way I may refine my topic is by possibly focusing on what happens to people with serious mental illness when they go untreated. Therefore, I may look at if many people with untreated serious mental illness end up in prison or homeless. If after some research I find a trend that I can base my paper on, I may make that my why question instead of what I have now. For now, though, I am basing my research on my current "why question".