A Web-based Intervention to Improve Mental Health Outcomes Among Newly Diagnosed Parents with Cancer

2020 Award: $39,997

Parental cancer threatens the mental health of the entire family. High-quality parental communication supports and facilitates psychological adjustment to illness for both parents and children, but many parents do not have timely access to these important mental health services. In this project we will develop and test a novel web-based psychosocial intervention designed to facilitate parental communication about cancer. If effective, this intervention could provide timely, cost-effective mental health support to address the communication concerns of distressed parents with cancer, thus improving mental health outcomes for their children as well.

Need/Problem: Serious illness in a parent threatens the mental health of the entire family. The impact of parental cancer on the family can be reduced by facilitating parents’ communication about illness with their children, but many do have access to this mental health support.

Grant Summary: We will develop a web-based communication intervention to facilitate parent-child communication among patients with cancer and test whether this intervention can decrease parent’s symptoms of anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Goals & Projected Outcomes: Our goal is to improve the mental health outcomes of patients and families affected by parental illness and death. This project will allow us to develop and test a novel web-based intervention to facilitate parent-child communication among patients with cancer.

Eliza Park, MD

Grant Details: More than a million US families with minor children are faced with cancer in a parent, posing a substantial psychosocial challenge to each family member. Parents with cancer commonly experience heightened symptoms of depression and anxiety, commonly linked to their concerns about the impact of their illness on their children. One of the most difficult questions facing parents with cancer is: “What do I tell my children?” While high-quality communication supports and facilitates psychological adjustment to illness for both parents and children, many parents do not have timely access to these important mental health services. To address this gap, we have developed a psychosocial communication intervention to facilitate parent’s communication with their children about cancer. This project will allow us to adapt this intervention for web-based delivery and test its ability to reduce parental anxiety. If effective, this intervention could provide timely, cost-effective mental health support to address the communication concerns of distressed parents with cancer, thus improving mental health outcomes for their children as well.