Identity in mental health: A focus for early intervention and improving social functioning

Personal identity–one's psychological sense of personal continuity–is an important aspect of mental health, informing one's motivations, behaviours, and social relations. Disruptions in identity can contribute to prevalent conditions such as personality disorders. Indeed, distorted identity is a core aspect of personality dysfunction and disorder, contributing to considerable negative health and social outcomes–and a prominent challenge for health care providers and systems. Interventions that strengthen identity during young adulthood may be a potent way to mitigate personality dysfunction, preventing entrenched impairment and setting a course for positive mental health.

This proposal features a novel psychosocial intervention aimed at strengthening identity and reducing personality-related dysfunction among vulnerable young adults–tested in a randomized controlled trial. The intervention is designed for use by non-specialists to maximize transferability and impact on access and quality of care. Building on the applicant's work in maladaptive personality and identity, the project is set within a broader program of research on identity-focused intervention, including within early psychosis and recovery from alcohol misuse.