Bethany Hills, an undergraduate student from Bishop Grosseteste University, tells us a bit about her research project, looking at the impact of support charities on parents of children with alopecia.

Why did you decide to do this research? 

The semester before I started my Psychology dissertation, we had to do a pilot study in health psychology. During this module, I realised I could have done mine on Alopecia but was too late to change my idea. When it came round to thinking of ideas for my dissertation, I wanted something that I was interested in as well as something that had a personal connection. I started writing ideas down and the two that stood out to me was mental health and Alopecia, so I decided to combine the two topics. I also have someone very close to me who has Alopecia and have seen the amazing work Alopecia UK have done so wanted to incorporate them into my project too. 

How did you do this study? 

I completed the study by asking 13 different questions about a parent or guardian’s experience of their child having Alopecia, and how this affected them, their child, and their family. The questions looked at the experience of diagnosis as well as their experience with Alopecia UK. 

This survey was done online due to the specific requirements of participants and difficulty of meeting them in person. 

What were the main findings of the study?

The study showed that Alopecia UK had an overall positive effect from the work they do with people living with Alopecia and their families. They seem to provide excellent services that show an improvement in participant’s mental health. 

Other findings from the study showed that participants believed that environmental factors could influence their child developing Alopecia. The study also revealed that participants felt that there was lack of support or understanding from doctors or GPs, who were usually the family’s first point of contact in the process.

Another important finding was that parents usually found the diagnosis of Alopecia a lot harder to come to terms with than their child. They showed signs of grieving when going through this process. 

What do these results actually mean?

The study suggests that support charities like Alopecia UK have positive effects from the work that they do, such as setting up support groups and having day trips out together. It was noted that there were positive mental health effects for the child living with Alopecia as well as their parents.

A huge thank you to Alopecia UK for advertising for participants and to all the families who have volunteered to take part and shared their stories with me.