Too Young to Be Mad: Disabling Encounters with 'Normal' from the Perspectives of Psychiatrized Youth


  • Maria Liegghio School of Social Work, York University



children, youth, Mad Studies, Disability Studies, psychiatrization


In this paper, the psychiatrization of children and youth is explored, as well as their representation within Mad and Disability Studies. Presented are the outcomes of a photo voice project conducted with seven (N=7) youths between 14 and 17 years old constructed as having a “serious mental health issue.” The self-identified research question the young people asked and answered was: What is ‘normal mental health’ for children and youth? Through the photographs and explanations of the images, we learn that ‘normal’ is a matter of perspective, an ambiguous and shifting standard against which young people are compared, and from which constructions of ‘mental disorder’ as difference and abnormal are imposed on their experiences of distress. As a mechanism for psychiatrization, the difference becomes the rationale for prejudice and discrimination at the intersections of childhood and adultism, distress and sanism, and (in)competence and ableism. The implications of expanding children’s theorizing and activism for Mad and Disability studies are discussed.

Author Biography

Maria Liegghio, School of Social Work, York University

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, York University