Horse-assisted therapy for children and young people with mental illness. A randomized controlled longitudinal study.
Mental illness among children and young adults is increasing in Sweden. Horse-assisted therapy (HUT) has shown biopsychosocial benefits and therapeutic results in various types of mental illness. The project is aimed at children and young people with mental illness in the form of an anxiety-driven illness such as anorexia.
Mental illness among children and young adults is increasing in Sweden. It is both a self-perceived ill health where children or young people themselves report more mental health problems as well as more people receiving a psychiatric diagnosis (National Board of Health, 2017). In parallel with the increased ill health, more children and young people are being prescribed psychotropic medication. Early psychosocial interventions for children at risk of developing lasting mental illness are important so that the mental illness does not worsen and negatively affect important aspects such as schooling and peer relationships.
Animal-assisted therapies have been shown to be a complementary treatment for children and young people with mental illness. Horse-assisted therapy (HUT) has shown biopsychosocial benefits and therapeutic results in various types of mental illness, and in today's high-tech care with an emphasis on medical treatment, it is of great importance to consider non-traditional treatment methods that can bring about significant change for individuals. The project is aimed at children and young people with mental illness in the form of an anxiety-driven illness such as anorexia.
Development and implementation of horse-assisted therapeutic activities as part of the treatment range for children and young people with mental illness can contribute to improved conditions for children and young people to avoid exclusion, lack of schooling and difficulties in entering the labor market. The study is a randomized controlled longitudinal study. The design of the study combines qualitative (interviews) with quantitative methods (standardized questionnaires and physical measurements).
Participants and selection
Inclusion criteria for participation in the study are children and young people between the ages of 7–18 who show signs of psychological stress and anxiety in the form of, for example; eating disorders, refusal to go to school, stomach aches and difficulties in peer relationships, and which are deemed suitable for horse-assisted treatment at Humlamaden by the school health care student care team or therapists within BUP in Skåne.
To be included in the studies, participants must be able to understand and speak Swedish, recruitment must take place consecutively. Written and oral information about the study is given by staff at BUP or alternatively by staff in school health care to both the child/youth who meets the inclusion criteria and their next of kin during the period from January 2023 until enough study participants are recruited.
The application for ethical approval at the ethics review authority for the project has been submitted to the ethics review authority. The project is expected to generate two to four scientific publications.