Meaning in life in adolescents with developmental trauma: A qualitative study

Newly published research – Kjersti Olstad, Torgeir Sørensen, Lars Lien, Lars J Danbolt, 2023 (sagepub.com)

https://doi.org/10.1177/00846724221150027

Aim: The purpose of this study was to explore how adolescent patients displaying developmental trauma experience and describe meaning in life. Schnell’s model of meaning in life is applied to explore meaningfulness, crises of meaning and sources of meaning. Method: The study has a qualitative design based on individual interviews with eight adolescents aged 14–18 years in treatment in an outpatient clinic for mental health care for children and adolescents. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using systematic text condensation. Results: The adolescents related meaning in life to the experience of coherence, intrinsic values, progress and belonging, or the absence of these. Examples of sources of meaning among the informants were positive relations with meaningful others, structure and routines, moments of well-being, achieving goals related to education, work and family, and seeking something else outside oneself such as playing computer games, being engaged in politics, being with animals, having a belief in a god or being outdoors in natural surroundings. Conclusion: Although the topic of meaning in life was unknown to this group, they used sources of meaning intuitively. This group seems to have similar preferences to the general population. More knowledge is needed on how the topic of meaning in life can be useful in therapy for adolescents with development trauma.

Patients at risk of suicide and their meaning in life experiences

Newly published research – Ane Inger Bondahl Søberg, Lars Johan Danbolt, Torgeir Sørensen, Sigrid Helene Kjørven Haug, 2022 (sagepub.com)

https://doi.org/10.1177/00846724221137620

Patients in specialist mental healthcare services who are at risk of suicide may experience their struggles as existential in nature. Yet, research on meaning in life has been relatively scarce in suicidology. This qualitative study aimed to explore how patients at risk of suicide perceived their encounters with specialist healthcare professionals after a suicide attempt (SA), with special reference to meaning in life experiences. The study was conducted in specialised mental healthcare services in Norway. Data were collected via individual interviews with eight patients aged 20–75 years. Using a four-step procedure, the interviews were analysed by systematic text condensation. The participants understood their feelings of shame, self-contempt and challenging life experiences as contributing factors to their SA. They perceived that existential themes in relation to financial difficulties, shame and trauma were resolved, while issues associated with the SA, such as death, loss and beliefs, were given less attention. The participants were either ambivalent about continuing to live or wished to rebuild a meaningful life. Overall, their experiences of meaningfulness were hampered. Assisting patients with meaning in life experiences may help them alter their life interpretations and increase their ability to rebuild their lives as meaningful. The present study should be seen as a contribution to meaning-informed approaches in specialist mental healthcare services. More research is needed to equip healthcare personnel in their overall aims of preventing suicide and supporting patients at risk in their efforts to live a meaningful life.