Adolescent self-harm: Parents’ experiences of supporting their child and help-seeking

Publication Name

Journal of Child Health Care


Self-harm in children and adolescents is a growing public health issue. Parents are forefront in identifying, responding to and supporting their child to seek help. A sequential mixed-method study which included an online survey (N = 37) and a semi-structured interview (n = 10) was conducted to understand parents’ experiences of supporting and accessing help for their child. Parents (M = 45.70 years, SD = 6.18) with a child who has engaged in self-harm behaviours (M = 16.89 years, SD = 3.91) participated. Parents sought help from a range of services and perceived psychiatrists, private psychologists and friends as the most helpful and school psychologists, paediatricians, Emergency Department (ED) and the national youth mental health organisation as the least helpful. Two themes were interpreted from the qualitative data: (1) An emotional journey into the dark unknown, and (2) The promise of psychological help. A series of recommendations for other parents in similar situations, as well as health professionals were made. Parents want health professionals to provide appropriate referrals, work collaboratively with families, meaningfully connect with and validate parents, provide practical and psychological support for families and establish parent support groups. There remains a need for widely available evidence-informed resources, information and support for parents.

Open Access Status

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