Self-care strategies used by Children and Young People (CYP)

In August 2019, the Anna Freud Centre published a report (Garland, Dazell, & Wolpert, 2019) describing the experiences of CYP in their use of self-care strategies for their anxiety and/or depression, as well as the views of parents and carers. The report highlighted that there was a dearth of research into more widely available self-care strategies that were not delivered by mental health professionals. 

How did the researchers conduct the study?

Two anonymous online surveys were delivered – one for CYP between 11-25 years old who self-reported experiencing anxiety and/or depression, and another for parents and carers of a child who has experienced anxiety and/or depression. Respondents were asked whether they (or child of parent and/or carer) had used (or not) a list of 85 approaches to self-care, whether they would recommend them (or not), or to indicate that they (or their child) had not used a particular approach. The survey also collected qualitative responses. 

What were the results of the study?

Commonly used/recommended strategies

Both groups advocated use of strategies such as listening to music, watching TV or a film, and going outside, amongst others. CYP individually specified that they would use strategies such as maintaining personal hygiene and walking, whereas parents and carers specified strategies such as socialising and spending time outside in nature.

Not recommended/used again 

Both groups specified that they would not recommend/use eating more/a lot, spending time alone, and avoiding thinking about a difficult situation, amongst others as a strategy for managing their low mood and/or anxiety. CYP individually specified that they would not use strategies such as daydreaming and distraction, and parents and carers highlighted strategies such as avoiding conflict and gaming, amongst others. 

Qualitative responses

What is important to you when selecting a strategy?

All groups highlighted that freedom, support from others, as well as accessibility were important factors for consideration when selecting a self-care strategy. CYP also felt that they did not want to put any stress on others. 

Why do they work for you?

All groups highlighted that self-selection, distraction and support were key factors as to why the strategies selected worked. As a group, CYP also specified that being alone, routine, and no pressure were also factors. Parents and carers highlighted the increased confidence or enjoyment that the self-care strategies brought to their child.

Further research

Responses were varied and the groups felt that creative activities (e.g., art), sport and exercise (e.g., dance), as well as social strategies should be further investigated, amongst others.

Conclusions

The report concluded that further, detailed evaluations of self-care strategies were needed (what works, or does not, and why), as well as for the research agenda to be informed by the lived experience of CYP, parents and carers. The current work described is ongoing and feedback can be given here

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss, Research Associate for the Office for Students funded PGR Wellbeing project, based within the School of Education and Sociology (EDSOC) at the University of Portsmouth.