Developing a model of mental health self-care support for children and young people through an integrated evaluation of available types of provision involving systematic review, meta-analysis and case study

Steven Pryjmachuk, Rebecca Elvey, Susan Kirk, Sarah Kendal, Peter Bower, Roger Catchpole

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


The mental health of children and young people (CYP) is a major UK public health concern. Recent policy reviews have identified that service provision for CYP with mental health needs is not as effective, responsive, accessible or child-centred as it could be. Following on from a previous National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study into self-care support for CYP with long-term physical health needs, this study explored self-care support’s potential in CYP’s mental health.

To identify and evaluate the types of mental health self-care support used by, and available to, CYP and their parents, and to establish how such support interfaces with statutory and non-statutory service provision.

Two inter-related systematic literature reviews (an effectiveness review with meta-analysis and a perceptions review), together with a service mapping exercise and case study.

Global (systematic reviews); England and Wales (mapping exercise and case study).

Participants (case study):
Fifty-two individuals (17 CYP, 16 family members and 19 staff) were interviewed across six sites.

Main outcome measures (meta-analysis):
A measure of CYP’s mental health symptomatology.

Data sources (literature reviews):
MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PsycINFO, All Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) Reviews, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts (ASSIA) and Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

Review methods:
Titles and abstracts of papers were screened for relevance then grouped into studies. Two independent reviewers extracted data from studies meeting the inclusion criteria. A descriptive analysis and meta-analysis were conducted for the effectiveness review; descriptive analyses were conducted for the perceptions review. These analyses were integrated to elicit a mixed-methods review.

Sixty-five of 71 included studies were meta-analysable. These 65 studies elicited 71 comparisons which, when meta-analysed, suggested that self-care support interventions were effective at 6-month [standardised mean difference (SMD) = −0.20; 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.28 to −0.11] and 12-month (SMD = −0.12; 95% CI −0.17 to −0.06) follow-ups. However, judged against Cochrane criteria, the studies were mostly low quality. Key elements of self-care support identified in the perceptions review were the acquisition of knowledge and skills, peer support and the relationship with the self-care support agent; CYP also had different perceptions from adults about what is important in self-care support. The mapping exercise identified 27 providers of 33 self-care support services. According to the case study data, effective self-care support services are predicated on flexibility; straightforward access; non-judgemental, welcoming organisations and staff; the provision of time and attention; opportunities to learn and practise skills relevant to self-care; and systems of peer support.

Mental health self-care support interventions for CYP are modestly effective in the short to medium term. Self-care support can be conceptualised as a process which has overlap with ‘recovery’. CYP and their families want choice and flexibility in the provision of such interventions and a continued relationship with services after the nominal therapy period. Those delivering self-care support need to have specific child-centred attributes.

Future work:
Future work should focus on under-represented conditions (e.g. psychosis, eating disorders, self-harm); the role of technology, leadership and readiness in self-care support; satisfaction in self-care support; the conceptualisation of self-care support in CYP’s mental health; and efficacy and cost-effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages242
JournalHealth Services and Delivery Research
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


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