“A turn in the road, but still a rough journey” - Parent and child perspectives of outcomes after pre-adolescent inpatient psychiatric admission

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2023-09-02

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health

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BioMed Central

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Abstract
Background Research regarding the outcomes of child and adolescent psychiatric inpatients appears insufficient and neglected. Where data are available, the majority of studies focus on adolescents. This study aimed (a) to describe child and parental perspectives of short-, medium- and long-term outcomes of children who have had a pre-adolescent inpatient psychiatric admission, and (b) to analyse these dyadic experiential data to identify outcome variables of importance to families and service users that could be used in future outcomes-based research. Methods The study employed a qualitative methodology, using semi-structured in-depth interviews of ten parent-child dyads to (a) collect the perspectives of children who have had an inpatient psychiatric admission at a pre-adolescent unit and their parents, and (b) to analyse the experiences of inpatient admission and perceived outcomes after discharge using thematic analysis. Results Overall, inpatient psychiatric admission was viewed as a positive and empowering experience by parents and children. Clear short-term benefits were reported as a result of new diagnoses, medications and new skills gained through the admission process. More than half of parent-child dyads reported long-term benefits, but many families commented on ongoing challenges. Thematic analysis identified diagnostic certainty, acquisition of cognitive and behavioural skills, appropriate educational environment, peer relationships, sustained follow-up and medication management, and parent-child relationships, as important contributors to outcomes. Importantly, the presence or lack of these elements influenced outcomes. Conclusions The study explored parent-child dyadic perspectives about their experiences of inpatient mental health admissions for pre-adolescents and perceived outcomes after admission. The majority of families found inpatient admission positive and helpful, and thematic analysis identified a number of functional variables that may predict outcome. However, positive outcomes were associated with ongoing difficulties over time, as indicated by the theme “a turn in the road, but still a rough journey”.
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