Receiving a gift and feeling robbed: a phenomenological study on parents’ experiences of Brief Admissions for teenagers who self-harm at risk for suicide

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Background: Brief Admission by self-referral is a preventive intervention here intended for individuals who recurrently self-harm and have a history of contact with emergency psychiatric services. Individuals with access to Brief Admission are empowered to self-admit to inpatient care for up to three days per stay and are encouraged to do so before experiencing crisis. Brief Admission was implemented relatively recently in child and adolescent psychiatric settings in Sweden. The purpose of this study was to phenomenologically explore the lived experience of parents whose teenagers, who recurrently self-harm and experience suicidal thoughts, use Brief Admissions. Methods: This is a qualitative study using phenomenological psychological analysis. We interviewed 17 parents who had experienced their teenagers using Brief Admissions. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim and analyzed to arrive at the essential meaning structure of the phenomenon of Brief Admissions for the parent. Results: We identified two essential meaning structures of the parent’s experience of their teenager’s use of Brief Admissions: being gifted relief and hope or being robbed of everything you believed in. The experience of Brief Admissions as a gift was structured by the following constituents: ‘a sense of safety and containment’, ‘liberation from a hostage situation’, ‘a return to wellbeing’, and ‘catalysts for relational shifts’. In contrast, the constituents of the experience of being robbed included ‘a tug of war for control’, ‘an unworthy wasteland’, ‘abandonment and collapse of authority’, and ‘no sense of purpose and plan’. Conclusions: Brief Admissions may come across as challenging, futile and painful in the life of the parent, yet they may also support a process of recovery and healthy development for the entire family. To realize the full potential of the intervention, mental health professionals providing Brief Admission must be mindful of the challenges the parent may face as their teenager starts self-admitting, tactfully and sensitively preparing the parent for a new parental role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychiatry

Free keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Brief Admission
  • Parents
  • Phenomenology
  • Prevention
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-admission
  • Self-harm
  • Self-referral
  • Suicidal ideation


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