Children's Health Policy Centre

Receive updates for this collection

The Children's Health Policy Centre is an interdisciplinary research group in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. It focuses on improving social and emotional wellbeing for all children, and on the public policies needed to reach these goals. Its work complements the mission of the Faculty of Health Sciences to advance the health of populations locally, nationally and globally.

Helping youth with bipolar disorder

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019
Abstract: 

Background: Although bipolar disorder is rare in young people, effective treatments are critical for those experiencing it.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions for youth with bipolar disorder. Applying our inclusion criteria to the 50 studies identified from our searches, we accepted 12 RCTs.

Results: Among the five medications assessed, aripiprazole and lithium stood out. Aripiprazole significantly reduced disorder severity and manic symptoms while improving overall functioning. Lithium also reduced manic symptoms while improving overall functioning. Still, both had significant side effects. Among the three psychosocial interventions assessed — Multifamily Psychoeducational Psychotherapy, Child and Family-Focused Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, and Family-Focused Therapy — all showed benefit. In contrast, the dietary supplement flax oil was not effective.

Conclusions: Most young people with bipolar disorder will need medication to manage this condition. Aripiprazole and lithium should be considered first, given their effectiveness and their regulatory approval. The three effective psychosocial treatments should also be considered as an adjunct to medication. 

Helping youth who self-harm

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019
Abstract: 

Background: Approximately one in five young people will engage in self-harm at some point during adolescence.  Many of these youth would benefit from treatment to learn better ways of coping.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions for youth who self-harm. Applying our inclusion criteria to the 49 studies identified from our searches, we accepted seven RCTs evaluating five interventions.

Results: All psychosocial interventions were delivered to youth engaging in self-harm.  Among them, four RCTs evaluated treatments that aimed to comprehensively address self-harm and were delivered as stand-alone interventions. The other three RCTs assessed treatments aimed to address self-harm by supplementing standard clinical care.  Of the stand-alone treatments, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Mentalization-Based Treatment both proved effective. DBT stood out for significantly reducing self-harm, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation according to two RCTs, conducted in Norway and the United States.  One supplementary treatment, Resourceful Adolescent Parent Program, also succeeded. This program, provided to parents, was effective in reducing youth self-harm and suicide attempts.

Conclusions: By the time a young person or their family seeks help for self-harm, feelings of distress may be daunting. Consequently, it is essential that effective treatments are provided immediately.