Children's conversations with their friends about living with a parent experiencing mental distress: An IPA Study
Background and Aims Estimates suggest more than three million children and young people (CYP) live with a parent experiencing mental distress (PEMD). It is suggested that CYP are often left to make sense of the uncertain nature of mental distress on their own. Furthermore, the existence of stigma can silence CYP and their families, as they try and hide from the view of others. CYP have voiced their desire for support. However, there are few services available to them in the UK, despite developments in policy highlighting the need for support. As CYP grow up, greater emphasis gets placed on relationships with friends. Therefore, CYP’s peer group may provide a valuable source of support. This research aims to explore how CYP living with a PEMD gaining support from their friends. Methodology This research used a qualitative design to explore CYP’s lived experiences. A purposive sample of six CYP who were living with a PEMD were recruited. CYP were invited to take part in semi-structured interviews, which were then transcribed. Analysis and Findings The interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The analysis revealed three superordinate themes: ‘Fitting the puzzle together’, ‘Finding the experience of talking risky’, and ‘Coping with the up and down rollercoaster’. The findings support research recognising the importance of understanding mental distress, but CYP’s accounts in this study provide further insight into the intricacies of what is meant by understanding. Furthermore, the research brings to light the challenges that CYP face when trying to build trusting relationships, in order to confide in their friends about their parent’s experience of mental distress. Clinical implications, including recommendations for possible interventions are discussed and suggestions for future research are made.