Preventing mental illness in schools
Published: 4 November, 2016
A global research analysis conducted by the Black Dog Institute shows that national delivery of school-based prevention programs will reduce incidence of depression and anxiety.
Depression is the leading cause of disease burden in Australia and predicted to be the leading cause of disease burden across the world by 2030.
In Australia, around 3 million people will experience depression or anxiety every year, and up to 20% of Australians will experience anxiety or depression before turning 18. Early onset of mental illness is associated with poorer health and social outcomes including increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment and suicide.
According to research conducted by Black Dog Institute, and published this week in Clinical Psychological Review, delivery of quality prevention programs via the school system will significantly reduce the community burden of depression and anxiety by preventing or delaying onset, and reducing severity.
“Our meta-analysis of research studies from across the world clearly showed that school-based prevention programs do reduce the impact of depression and anxiety,” says lead author Dr Aliza Werner-Seidler.
‘This is a significant finding, as schools are the ideal location to deliver mental health interventions.’
“Not only do they enable us to reach all young Australians, the integration of programs into the school curricula alleviates the barriers to treatment that we know young people are currently experiencing – stigma, time, access and cost."
The analysis of 81 research trials from across the world showed that the anxiety and depression prevention programs were still having an effect more than 12 months after delivery, suggesting that the benefit is sustained.
Interestingly, for depression prevention programs, effects were greater when programs were delivered to students aged 14 years or younger.
“These findings highlight the enormous potential of school-based prevention,” says Dr Werner-Seidler, “but also demonstrate just how much more we need to understand before we can optimise program delivery.”
“Important factors such as the best time to deliver programs, how they should be delivered and who should deliver have not been clearly established.”
“We strongly believe that the delivery of prevention programs via primary and high schools should be further investigated as a matter of priority as the benefits could be life-saving.”
You can view the paper 'School-based depression and anxiety prevention programs for young people: A systematic review and meta-analysis' published in Clinical Psychology Review here.
Originally published on 4 November 2016