This review synthesised research exploring the views of children and young people (CYP) who had used mental health services after suicidal behaviour.
The researchers used a method of synthesising qualitative research (called meta-ethnography) to analyse four studies involving 44 participants aged 11 to 24 years. Studies were conducted in the UK, Canada and Sweden.
The review was limited by a small number of eligible studies, which reduces the generalisability of the findings. Given this is an under-researched but critical area, however, the study findings have been outlined below.
The synthesis found that children and young people who had used mental health services following suicidal behaviour:
- did not know “what mental health support services are available to them, or how to access them”.
- did not feel listened to by mental health practitioners.
Other key findings included:
- There may be a “potential silence around suicide in conversations between CYP and mental health practitioners” (p. 217).
- Using the term “self-harm” to include suicidal behaviour may be contributing to this silence through avoiding the use of the term “suicide.” This may also be contributing to CYP’s feelings of not being listened to (p. 217).
Potential implications of the findings for mental health practitioners, service providers and policy-makers are considered, including that:
- Strategies appear warranted to increase awareness of, and accessibility to, mental health services for children and young people with suicidal ideation and behaviour.
- It may be helpful for practitioners to consider whether clearly referring to and discussing suicide may be appropriate (rather than only referring to self-harm). This may help practitioners to reduce missed opportunities to address suicide risk.
- Practitioners may wish to keep in mind the potential barriers that may arise when working therapeutically with this sub-group of children and young people (e.g., feelings of not being treated with respect, feelings of not being listened to. Practitioners may be able to reduce these barriers by making sure that young people feel acknowledged, respected and heard.
Given that this review included studies with participants aged 11 to 24 years, further research is needed with younger aged children. Further, the small number of studies and participants available for review limit its generalisability. Additional studies with larger sample sizes are required, as well as exploration of marginalised or vulnerable groups. Despite the limitations, this review offered potentially useful findings in a critical but under-researched area.
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