A Pilot Study Evaluating
a Support Programme for
Parents of Young People with
Suicidal Behaviour
Lorna Power, Sophia Morgan, Sinead Byrne, Carole Boylan,
Andreé Carthy, Sinead Crowley, Carol Fitzpatrick and
Suzanne Guerin
ABSTRACT
Background
Deliberate self harm (DSH) is a major public health concern and has in-
creased among young people in Ireland. While DSH is undoubtedly the re-
sult of interacting factors, studies have identied an association between DSH
and family dysfunction as well as the protective role of positive family rela-
tionships. Following a focus group meeting held to identify the needs of par-
ents and carers of young people with DSH, a support programme (SPACE)
164 Social Work and Child Services
was developed. e aims of the current study are to evaluate the eectiveness
of the SPACE programme in decreasing parental psychological distress, re-
ducing parental report of young peoples’ diculties, increasing parental sat-
isfaction and increasing parents’ ratings of their own dened challenges and
goals.
Methods
Participants were recruited from a Mental Health Service within a paedi-
atric hospital, Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Teams and
family support services. All services were located within the greater Dublin
area in Ireland. Forty-six parents of children who had engaged in or expressed
thoughts of self harm attended the programme and participated in the evalu-
ation study. e programme ran once a week over an 8-week period and in-
cluded topics such as information on self harm in young people, parenting
adolescents, communication and parental self-care. Seventy percent (N = 32)
of the original sample at Time 1 completed measures at Time 2 (directly fol-
lowing the programme) and 37% (N = 17) of the original sample at Time 1
completed them at Time 3 (6 months following the programme).
A repeated measures design was used to identify changes in parental wellbe-
ing after attendance at the programme as well as changes in parental reports
of their children’s diculties.
Results
Participants had lower levels of psychological distress, increased parental sat-
isfaction, lower ratings of their own dened challenges and higher ratings of
their goals directly after the programme. ese changes were maintained at
6-month follow up in the 37% of participants who could be followed up.
Furthermore the young people who had engaged in or expressed thoughts of
self harm had lower levels of diculties, as reported by their parents, follow-
ing the programme.
Conclusion
ese ndings suggest that the SPACE programme is a promising develop-
ment in supporting the parents of young people with suicidal behaviour. e
programme may also reduce parental reports of their children’s diculties.
Further evaluation using a randomized controlled trial is indicated.
Background
Deliberate Self Harm (DSH) is a major public health concern [1] which has be-
come increasingly more common among young people. e term DSH describes

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