Navigating an unfamiliar world: how parents of young people who self-harm experience support and treatment

Anne Stewart (Corresponding Author), Nicholas D Hughes, Sue Simkin, Louise Locock, Anne Ferrey, Navneet Kapur, David Gunnell, Keith Hawton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Self-harm in young people is a common reason for contact with clinical services. However, there is little research focusing on parents’ perspectives of care following self-harm. The aim of this study was to explore parents’ experiences of treatment and support for the young person and for themselves.

A qualitative design was used to explore parents’ perspectives. Semi-structured narrative interviews were conducted across the UK with 37 parents of young people who had self-harmed. Thematic analysis was undertaken to identify themes relating to how parents experienced the help and treatment received.

Parents reported differing reactions to contact with helping services. Many found these helpful, particularly in keeping the young person safe, developing a trusting relationship with the young person, encouraging skills in managing self-harm and giving them an opportunity to talk about and find solutions to their difficulties. They spoke about the importance of practical help including prompt access to care, the right intensity of care, practical strategies and information and support. Some aspects of services were perceived as unhelpful, particularly a judgmental approach by professionals, lack of early access to treatment, inadequate support or failure to listen to the perspective of parents.

Parents’ views highlight the need for clinicians to consider carefully the perspective of parents, involving them wherever possible and providing practical help and support, including written information. The need for training of clinicians in communicating with young people and parents following self-harm is also highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalChild and Adolescent Mental Health
Issue number2
Early online date19 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Parents
  • self-harm
  • treatment
  • support
  • health services


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