Adolescents with Chronic Conditions: Engagement with Children’s Mental Health Systems During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Courtwright, Suzanne E.; Jones, Jacqueline; Barton, Amy; Peterson, Kerry; Eigen, Karen; Feuerstein, Jessica; Pawa, Anil; Pawa, Akhil; Northridge, Jessica; Pall, Harpreet

Purpose: The Covid-19 pandemic contributed to adverse adolescent mental health outcomes globally. Adolescents with chronic conditions have four times the odds of self-harm than peers. Little evidence exists to guide pediatric nurses on how to engage this vulnerable population with mental health supports as the pandemic continues. In adults with chronic conditions, positive health assets (health access literacy, health self-efficacy, and emotional wellbeing) are directly related to improved patient engagement. The objective of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of engagement with mental health supports in adolescents with chronic conditions to inform practice.

Design and Methods: Using mixed methods, we surveyed and interviewed adolescents with chronic conditions aged 10-20 years. Random sampling was applied to avoid bias. Valid and reliable scales were used to measure health access literacy, health self-efficacy and emotional wellbeing. Textual data was collected using a semi-structured interview guide. Integrated data analysis was conducted using structural equation models and interpretive phenomenology.

Results: 154 participants provided numerical data and 17 participants provided textual data (mean age 15.5 years; 56% female, 5.8% agender; 56% white; 16.9% Black or African American, 4.5% Asian; 51.9% Hispanic or Latinx; 23.4% LGBTQ+). The structural model was an acceptable fit for the data (CFI = 0.97, TLI = 0.95). Participants reported higher levels of health access literacy (M=3.88, SD=0.848) than health self-efficacy (M=2.98, SD=.646), and engagement (M=1.78, SD=1.71). Health access literacy predicted emotional wellbeing (B = .33, p < .001, 95% CI [.20, .50]) and health self-efficacy (B = 0.52, p < .001, 95% CI [0.42, .062]). Emotional wellbeing positively predicted health self-efficacy (B= 0.21, p < .003, 90% CI [0.10, .033]). Health self-efficacy predicted engagement (B = 0.20, p < .01, 90% CI [0.07, .034]). Participants reported not engaging until “it was really, really bad” citing fear, stigma, and lack of connectedness with providers as barriers.

Practice Implications: Regardless of health access literacy and health self-efficacy, adolescents with chronic conditions may not engage until crisis levels. Pediatric nurses can aim to engage with this vulnerable population proactively.


Also Published In

Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
February 10, 2023


This is the accepted version of the following article: Courtwright S.E., Jones J., Barton A., Peterson K., Eigen K., Feuerstein J., Pawa A., Pawa A., Northridge J., Pall H. (in press). Adolescents with Chronic Conditions: Engagement with Children’s Mental Health Systems During the Covid-19 Pandemic. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. DOI: 10.1111/jspn.12403. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the Wiley Self-Archiving Policy [].