A growing body of evidence suggests that mental health education programmes can be very effective in reducing the prevalence of problems for young people. A recent review published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry analysed the findings of multple studies of programmes that have been designed to deliver preventive mental health services in schools, where children and teens spend so much of their time.
Substantial research now shows that school-based mental health interventions can be widely implemented and can lead to population-wide improvements in mental health, physical health, educational, and social outcomes.Dr. Murphy and colleagues identified and analyzed school-based mental health programs that have been implemented on a large scale and have collected data on specific mental health outcomes. The authors estimate that the eight largest programs have reached at least 27 million children over the last decade.The interventions vary in their focus, methods, and goals. The largest program, called "Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports" (PBIS), focuses on positive social culture and behavioral support for all students. The second-largest program, called "FRIENDS," aims to reduce anxiety and to teach skills for managing emotions and coping with stress--not only to children, but also to parents and teachers.Most of the school-based mental health interventions were designed to focus on mental health promotion or primary prevention for all students in the school; some programs also target students at high risk of mental health problems. Most of the programs have been implemented across school districts, while some have been introduced on the state or national level.Available research provides "moderate to strong" evidence that these interventions are effective in promoting good mental health and related outcomes.