Looked after children and young people (LACYP) are a vulnerable population. Entry into local authority care is associated with numerous adverse health, social, and economic outcomes across the life-course. There is evidence to suggest that status as a LACYP predicts self-harm, suicide ideation and attempts. This may be partly explained by the challenging life events encountered prior to entering care, but may also be a result of negative experiences whilst in the care system. At present self-harm and suicide in LACYP remains under-examined, and more research is required to contribute to preventative efforts and social care improvement.
The study seeks to answer the following research questions:
- What is the prevalence of self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviours in LACYP?
- What are the preventative and risk factors that influence self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviours within the context of public care?
- What are practitioners’ and carers’ experiences of assessing and intervening with, or caring for, LACYP who engage in self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviours?
- What is the acceptability of a training programme for enhancing awareness, assessment and intervention when working with or caring for LACYP who engage in self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviours?
The study comprises of four research components:
- Systematic review synthesising existing literature on the prevalence of self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviours in LACYP.
- Analysis of two UK child psychiatric morbidity surveys to compare prevalence, risk and protective factors amongst LACYP and those living in private homes.
- Interviews with public care practitioners and carers to explore experiences and professional needs regarding their work with, or care for, LACYP who experience self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviours.
- Development and delivery of a training course to support practitioners and carers. Although the proposed content of the training remains unspecified, it will likely include: awareness raising; identification of risk and protective factors; intervening with at-risk individuals; making a referral to specialised support services. Two training courses (1-2 days each) will be delivered to approximately 50 practitioners and carers. Pre-post evaluation will be conducted to assesses awareness; self-efficacy in identifying and intervening with at-risk individuals; and acceptability. Participants will also be asked to take part in a follow-up qualitative interview to identify necessary improvements.
Dr Rhiannon Evans. October 2014-October 2017. Funded by NISCHR