Mental health services for parents who lost a child to cancer: If we build them, will they come? Journal Article


Authors: Lichtenthal, W. G.; Corner, G. W.; Sweeney, C. R.; Wiener, L.; Roberts, K. E.; Baser, R. E.; Li, Y.; Breitbart, W.; Kissane, D. W.; Prigerson, H. G.
Article Title: Mental health services for parents who lost a child to cancer: If we build them, will they come?
Abstract: Purpose To examine bereavement mental health service use, barriers to use, and factors associated with use in parents bereaved by cancer. Patients and Methods A multicenter, cross-sectional study of 120 parents bereaved by cancer between 6 months and 6 years after their loss was performed. Parents completed self-report assessments of mental health service use and barriers, prolonged grief, depression, anxiety, attachment styles, and sense of meaning by phone, in person, or on their own. Results Forty-one percent of bereaved parents were currently using mental health services (talk therapy, psychotropic medication, and/or a support group), most commonly within the first 2 years after their loss. Talk therapy was the most frequently used service, although 36% of parents who discontinued therapy did so because it was not helpful. Forty percent of parents who wanted bereavement support reported they were not receiving services. The most common barriers to service use were that it was too painful to speak about the loss (64%) and too difficult to find help (60%). Factors associated with current mental health service use included more recent loss, prior mental health service use, subclinical/increased depression, insecure attachment styles, and a decreased sense of meaning. Minority parents were more likely to have unmet needs than nonminority parents. Conclusion Parents appear to need, want, and often access bereavement mental health services, which could be offered in oncology settings. However, barriers to service use must be addressed, particularly for those with more debilitating grief symptoms and for minorities. High treatment dropout rates suggest the importance of improving retention, training providers, and developing effective grief interventions. © 2015 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Keywords: adult; middle aged; brain tumor; follow up; childhood cancer; self report; sarcoma; health care utilization; depression; neuroblastoma; lymphoma; bereavement; cross-sectional study; anxiety; childhood leukemia; psychotropic agent; psychotherapy; grief; support group; parent; mental health service; human; male; female; priority journal; article; child death; talk therapy
Journal Title: Journal of Clinical Oncology
Volume: 33
Issue: 20
ISSN: 0732-183X
Publisher: American Society of Clinical Oncology  
Date Published: 2015-07-10
Start Page: 2246
End Page: 2253
Language: English
DOI: 10.1200/jco.2014.59.0406
PROVIDER: scopus
PMCID: PMC4486343
PUBMED: 26033819
DOI/URL:
Notes: Export Date: 2 October 2015 -- Source: Scopus
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MSK Authors
  1. Yuelin Li
    138 Li
  2. Raymond E Baser
    65 Baser
  3. William S Breitbart
    338 Breitbart
  4. David W Kissane
    160 Kissane
  5. Kailey Erin Roberts
    23 Roberts
  6. Geoffrey Winston Corner
    19 Corner
  7. Corinne Raphel Sweeney
    17 Sweeney
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