New research suggests an important part of treatment for young mental health patients — especially those in a hospital setting — is improving how they perceive themselves, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.
Researchers found that youth with psychiatric disorders receiving inpatient services reported lower self-concept — particularly global self-worth — compared to those receiving outpatient services.
“This was the first study that examined youth with psychiatric disorders by comparing what type of service they were receiving and whether that was associated with self-concept,” said Dr. Mark Ferro, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo.
“We know that global self-worth is lower in the inpatient group and we know from other research that lower self-concept is a precursor to other more serious mental health problems.”
The study, which appears in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, examined 47 youth aged eight to 17 years who were receiving inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services at McMaster’s Children Hospital in Hamilton.
The participants’ self-concept was measured using the Self-Perception Profile for Children and Adolescents.
Although the terms self-concept and self-esteem are often used interchangeably, they represent different but related constructs, according to researchers. Self-concept refers to someone’s perceptions of competence or adequacy; self-esteem refers to one’s overall evaluation of him- or herself, including feelings of general happiness and satisfaction.
As a result of the findings in this study, researchers believe self-concept might be an important aspect to consider when implementing treatment programs to improve the mental health of youth who are hospitalized.
“Because youths who are in the inpatient service have a lower self-concept, therapies within their overall treatment program aiming to improve self-worth might be worthwhile,” Ferro said.
“Interventions to improve an individual’s self-concept or self-perception would be complementary to some of the more pressing needs within child and youth inpatient psychiatric services.”