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Join a Twitter chat about involving children and parents in research and service development

Eva Alisic is a trauma psychologist, research fellow at Monash Injury Research Institute, blogger and Tweeter. 

If you’ve ideas for how children and parents could be empowered to contribute to the design of mental health research and care, you might like to join her in a Twitter chat tomorrow afternoon.

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An invitation to contribute to the design of better mental health research and care

Eva Alisic writes:

How do we involve children and their parents when we design new research? And how do we engage them in the development of interventions? In other words, how can we make sure that the studies we conduct and the care we provide are answering their needs?

Giving children and parents a voice in research and clinical work is the topic of tomorrow’s #traumaresearch Twitter chat (Thurs 12 April, 5pm Melbourne time). The Tweetchat takes traumatic stress research as a starting point and is open to anyone interested in mental health more broadly.

The topic of empowerment is inspired by last week’s TEDx event in the Netherlands: The Future of Health.

Among 25 talks on innovations in healthcare (including a hilarious, inspiring talk on fighting malaria), the presentation by Lucien Engelen was particularly moving. Accompanied by the video message of a late, young cancer patient, he encouraged professionals to listen more carefully to patients.

Now we could argue that in mental health care and research it is our job to listen to clients. But in my view we can still improve and give them more opportunities to tell us what they find important. At The Future of Health, Clarissa Silva, a former psychiatry patient, underlined this message from a personal standpoint.

In the academic world, clients’ views, and in particular, children’s perspectives, aren’t easy to ‘sell’.

We tend to favor publications using standardized instruments over child-centered methods that just do not fit our traditional view of ‘good research’. Our standardized questionnaires are often directly derived from adult measures, assuming that the same will apply to children and that a few language adjustments will suffice.

They won’t; children are not little versions of adults. As an example, interviews with primary school children about their  experiences of trauma recovery showed that cuddly animals played a supportive role.

Several children explained that their cuddly animal had cheered them up during difficult times and would recommend having a cuddly animal to other children. This is a finding, with clinical implications, that we would not have known about if standardized adult measures were applied.

We won’t be able to fully understand and act upon children’s and parents’ unique perspectives without actively involving them in the design of research projects and interventions.

So how should we do it? And how should we motivate researchers and clinicians to engage in these activities? Or would you argue we already do enough?

Please join the #traumaresearch chat tomorrow at 5pm.

• Eva Alisic is a trauma psychologist and research fellow at Monash Injury Research Institute. She writes for the Trauma Recovery blog. You can also find her on Twitter: @EvaAlisic

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