Sunday, 29 July 2007

Awareness of impending child's death from cancer and future mental health issues

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Unnur Valdimarsdottir and team, from the Karokinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, recently published a study in Lancet Oncology reporting on how the length of the time parents were aware of a child's impending death affected their future mental health risk.

The team gave about 450 parents who had lost a child to cancer a questionaire, which included questions on how long before their children's death they became emotionally and intellectually aware of the impending death.

One quarter of the parents said that their intellectual awareness of their child's impending death came less than 24 hours before the death. 45 percent said that emotional awareness came also came less than 24 hours before the death.

The risk of future mental health issues was increased if the intellectual awareness time was very short. Such mental health issues include depression, missing work and taking drugs for psychological problems in the future.

The authors advise that healthcare providers should work to provide information and encourage discussion about a child's impending death from cancer, well in advance of the death.

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