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Research highlights value of school-based mental health programmes

14/08/2017 Joanna

School-based mental health programmes have been shown to be effective in reaching a large number of children, with mounting evidence that mental health and related outcomes are improved as a result.

In the September/October issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, J Michael Murphy of Massachusetts General Hospital said there was evidence that large-scale, school-based programmes could be implemented in a variety of diverse cultures and educational models.

He also pointed to preliminary evidence that these programmes have significant, measurable positive effects on students' emotions, behaviour and academic performance.

An estimated 13 per cent of the world’s children and adolescents have significant mental health problems, such as anxiety, disruptive behaviour disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression. These disorders often persist into adulthood if left untreated, with lasting effects on many aspects of life.

There is now ample research supporting the idea that school-based mental health interventions can be widely implemented, resulting in population-wide improvements in mental health, physical health, educational and social outcomes.

Most of these interventions were designed to focus on mental health promotion for all of the school's students, while some programmes also targeted students at high risk of mental health problems.

The research offered moderate-to-strong evidence that these interventions are effective in promoting good mental health and related outcomes.

"Data sets of increasing quality and size are opening up new opportunities to assess the degree to which preventive interventions for child mental health, delivered at scale, can play a role in improving health and other life outcomes," Dr. Murphy concluded, adding that school-based mental health programmes could "improve population-wide health outcomes of the next generation".

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