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Priority 6

What mental health supports can be provided to parents, families and children and youth while hospitalized on the general paediatric inpatient unit (GPIU)? 

Concrete Wall

The hospitalization process can be a psychologically stressful experience for children, youth and their families in GPIUs. Stressors associated with this period include feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and fear, frustrations with clinician-caregiver communication, disruptions to routine family functioning, separation from family members, and social withdrawals.  

Gaps in Evidence

Evidence has identified interventions demonstrating promise in reducing psychological stresses among paediatric patients and their families. These include:

  • access to outdoor “green” spaces, referring to areas of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes;  

  • implementing parental support and empowerment programs dedicated towards enhancing parents’ knowledge, awareness, and ideas about their hospitalized child;  

  • and music therapy (e.g. auditory stimulation, environmental music therapy).  

However, most studies are focused on specialized settings of care, such as oncology units, or the ICU, or evaluate accessing green space outside hospital settings. There are knowledge gaps on the optimal mental health supports that should be provided to parents, families, and children and youth while hospitalized in GPIUs. 

Directions for Future Research

Potential research questions and/or directions for future studies include, but are not limited to: 

Patient Support

  • How does hospitalization impact anxiety levels in children in the short and long term? 

  • How can hospitals meet the mental health needs of children and youth admitted to hospital? 

  • What mental health supports should be put in place for children and youth before they need it (i.e. before reaching a crisis)? 

  • How are children and youth socially supported throughout the hospitalization period (e.g. encouraging social groups or friendship formation)?

  • What are some strategies that hospital staff may use to help children and youth navigate hospital anxiety?

  • How and what mental health practices and resources can be integrated to support patients and families of long-stay patients, both throughout hospitalization and at the time of discharge?

Parental/Familial Support
  • What help can hospitals provide for parents and families of hospitalized children during the inpatient stay?  

  • What strategies should be used to reduce the stress of parents when a child is admitted to the hospital?


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