Three Hours Is Enough to Help Prevent Mental Health Issues in Teens
Dr. John Schinnerer
Oct. 4, 2013
One in four 8 to 15 year olds have struggled with a mental health problem in the past year. Disorders, such as anxiety, depression and ADHD, are linked to a variety of negative behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, suicidal behaviors, cutting and violence towards others.
Now for the good news…researchers in Britain have found that 2 brief 90 minute group therapy sessions reduced the incidence of …
- depression by 21%
- anxiety by 33%
- conduct problems in ADHD youth by 36%
The study was led by Dr. Patricia Conrod of the University of Montreal and found that teacher led groups discussing mental health were quite effective. Teachers were trained to deliver interventions to high risk students and the outcomes were compared with students in other schools which did not receive the same training (the control group). The two 90-minute sessions taught students cognitive-behavioral tools for managing their thoughts, emotions and personality type. The sessions included real life “scenarios” shared by high risk youths within their small groups. The groups talked about thoughts, emotions and actions within the context of their particular type of personality. For example, situational triggers for anger, sadness or anxiety were shared with the guidance of the teacher. Then productive ways to manage such triggers were taught and discussed.
According to Dr. Conrod, “Our study shows that teacher delivered interventions that target specific risk factors for mental health problems can be immensely effective at reducing the incidence of depression, anxiety and conduct disorders in the long term.”
Nineteen schools in Greater London were involved in the study, which included a control group of schools in which students did not receive any interventions. Students were evaluated for their risk of developing mental health or substance abuse problems using a well-known personality scale. The scale measures different personality factors that are known to be correlated strongly with behavioral issues. For instance, a person with high degree of impulsivity is five times more likely to demonstrate extreme conduct problems within the next 18 months. Key traits focused on included impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity and sensation seeking.
In the two years that followed the interventions, students completed questionnaires every six months that enabled the researchers to establish the development of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, conduct problems and suicidal thoughts. The effects were clinically significant. “The interventions were run by trained educational professionals, suggesting that this brief intervention can be both effective and sustainable when run within the school system,” Conrod said. “We are now leading similar studys in 32 high schools in Montreal to further test the efficacy of this kind of program.”
Educators interested in the program can visit the project’s website at http://www.co-venture.ca
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Source: Université de Montréal (2013, October 3). Three hours is enough to help prevent mental health issues in teens.