BACKGROUND: The denial of death in Western society deprives young people of the tools to derive meaning from experiences of death and dying. Literature shows that death education may allow them to become familiar with this topic without causing negative effects. This article describes the effects of a death education course with adolescents, wherein participants were given the opportunity to meet palliative doctors and palliative psychologists at school and in a hospice, where they were able to converse with the families of the dying.METHODS: This study used mixed methods and included an evaluation of a death education intervention with longitudinal follow-up of outcomes. The course involved 87 secondary school students (experimental group) aged between 16 and 20years. We also recruited a control group of 76 similarly-aged students to observe differences. The variables we examined were: alexithymia, representation of death, value attributed to life and spirituality. These were measured with the following instruments: the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20, the Testoni Death Representation Scale, the Personal Meaning Profile and the Spiritual Orientation Inventory, respectively. To better understand how the students perceived the experience, we asked the experimental group to answer some open-ended questions. Their answers were analysed through thematic analysis.RESULTS: The study showed that death education and the hospice experience did not produce negative effects, but rather allowed students to decrease alexithymia, improving their ability to recognise and express emotions. Thematic analysis revealed that all participants perceived the experience as very positive.CONCLUSIONS: Our findings affirm that death education programs can be successfully implemented in high schools, and that they can usefully involve local hospices and palliative care professionals, especially physicians and psychologists.

The hospice as a learning space: a death education intervention with a group of adolescents

Testoni, Ines;Palazzo, Lorenza;Donna, Stefania;Cottone, Paolo Francesco;
2021

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The denial of death in Western society deprives young people of the tools to derive meaning from experiences of death and dying. Literature shows that death education may allow them to become familiar with this topic without causing negative effects. This article describes the effects of a death education course with adolescents, wherein participants were given the opportunity to meet palliative doctors and palliative psychologists at school and in a hospice, where they were able to converse with the families of the dying.METHODS: This study used mixed methods and included an evaluation of a death education intervention with longitudinal follow-up of outcomes. The course involved 87 secondary school students (experimental group) aged between 16 and 20years. We also recruited a control group of 76 similarly-aged students to observe differences. The variables we examined were: alexithymia, representation of death, value attributed to life and spirituality. These were measured with the following instruments: the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20, the Testoni Death Representation Scale, the Personal Meaning Profile and the Spiritual Orientation Inventory, respectively. To better understand how the students perceived the experience, we asked the experimental group to answer some open-ended questions. Their answers were analysed through thematic analysis.RESULTS: The study showed that death education and the hospice experience did not produce negative effects, but rather allowed students to decrease alexithymia, improving their ability to recognise and express emotions. Thematic analysis revealed that all participants perceived the experience as very positive.CONCLUSIONS: Our findings affirm that death education programs can be successfully implemented in high schools, and that they can usefully involve local hospices and palliative care professionals, especially physicians and psychologists.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3388947
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