Understanding child mental health consultation from the perspective of primary health care professionals

Debra O'Kane, Patricia Barkway, Eimear Muir-Cochrane

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Aim To explore the understanding of mental health consultation and its utilisation from the perspective of primary care workers working with children and young people who experience mental health issues. Background Recognition of mental health consultation is respected and advocated as a way forward to support those professionals who may not necessarily have the training or understanding of child mental health issues, yet come across them frequently as part of their daily practice. Little is known, however, about how primary care professionals understand or utilise mental health consultation. Design A qualitative research design informed by phenomenology. Methods: School nurses (n=6) were purposively sampled. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken, facilitated by the use of open-ended questions. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, followed by vigorous thematic analysis. Results Five overarching themes were identified from the data. These included: communication; crisis identification; hindrances; resources; and expectations. Each main theme consisted of several sub-themes relating to issues of professional identity; blurring of professional boundaries; constraints such as time management and workload; and the participant's own needs, including selfconfidence and educational needs. Conclusions and implications for clinical practice When utilised, mental health consultation proved effective in supporting the participants to address the mental health needs of children and young people; however, there are several factors such as lack of resources, differing perceptions of mental health consultation and personal challenges that prevent full engagement. This research contributes to existing knowledge by advocating that all individuals participating in mental health consultation should be encouraged to embrace the practice and understand what it actually means within the context of their own discipline.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2-9
    Number of pages8
    JournalNeonatal, Paediatric and Child Health Nursing
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


    • Child
    • Consultation
    • Mental health
    • Phenomenology
    • Primary care
    • Support


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