Patient and public involvement (PPI) in mental health research, including self-harm and suicide research, is desirable (as with other health topics) but may involve specific challenges given the perceived sensitivity of the topic. This is particularly so when involving young people. We explore the experiences and perceptions of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) undertaking youth and adult involvement work in mental health, self-harm and/or suicide research. We consider current practice, barriers and facilitators.
An online survey of a convenience sample of ECRs ( N = 41) undertaking research on mental health, self-harm and/or suicide. Questions examined the perceived value of involvement work, involvement methods used, funding availability and the extent to which researchers felt knowledgeable, supported and confident in their involvement activities. Descriptive statistics are presented with appropriate tests. Open-ended questions, related to barriers and facilitators for involvement work, were subjected to an inductive thematic analysis.
Youth and adult involvement work were valued to a similar extent, though institutions were reported to value youth involvement to a lesser extent. Researchers’ knowledge, confidence and support ratings were comparable for youth and adult involvement. The involvement methods used with young people and adults were also similar, with analysing data being the least popular method used and developing resources (e.g. information sheets) being the most popular method used. Less than a third of participants reported that funding was available for their research involvement activities. Barriers to involvement in research on mental health, self-harm and suicide were: ethical issues and perceived risk; real costs (in terms of money/time) versus perceived value; and the challenge of recruiting people. Facilitators to involvement work were: expert examples, expertise and guidelines; and investment in involvement work.
ECRs in the fields of mental health, self-harm and suicide are engaged in youth and adult involvement work. They value (find worthwhile) youth and adult involvement work to a similarly high extent, but feel their institutions may regard youth involvement slightly less highly than adult involvement. ECRs rate themselves as feeling similarly knowledgeable, confident and supported when doing involvement activities with both age groups. Nonetheless, significant barriers to involvement work on these topics are reported and are generally issues that need to be tackled at an institutional level (ethical/governance issues and lack of funding).