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Enhancing mental health in schools

Date created
Author: Schwartz, C.
Author: Waddell, C.
Author: Barican, J.
Author: Dickson, S.
Author: Andres, C.
Background: Because children spend more than a third of their waking hours in school, these institutions have tremendous potential to influence young people’s lives. In addition to academics, schools are increasingly focused on trying to enhance students’ emotional and behavioural health. We set out to determine if programs designed to improve school social environments have an impact on students’ well-being.Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions designed to improve school social environments and that measured student’s well-being as an outcome. Applying our inclusion criteria, we accepted three RCTs.Results: The three programs — Beyondblue, Gatehouse Project and Teacher Mentoring — all produced modest results. Beyondblue led to a more positive school climate by teacher reports but not student reports. Gatehouse Project reduced cigarette smoking but only for students who had a positive connection to their schools. As well, Gatehouse Project students who did not smoke cigarettes were significantly less likely to use cannabis weekly or more. Finally, Teacher Mentoring increased grade point average.Conclusions: Given the modest gains achieved by these programs, their widespread implementation does not appear to be justified, especially given the resources and staffing they require. Rather, schools focused on improving students’ mental health may be better served by investing in classroom-based interventions with proven efficacy in preventing mental disorders rather than interventions that aim to change the school environment.
Published as
Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Barican, J., Gray-Grant, D., Dickson, S., Andres, C., & Nightingale, L. (2014). Enhancing mental health in schools. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 8(4), 1–16. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.
Publication title
Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly
Document title
Enhancing mental health in schools
Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
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