Two 90-minute group sessions could prevent mental health issues in teens

Updated: Oct 04, 2013, 10:47 AM IST

Washington: Two 90-minute group sessions among teens in high schools significantly reduced anxiety, depression and behaviour problems over a 2-year period, a new study has claimed.

Dr. Patricia Conrod of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, said that their study shows that teacher delivered interventions, which 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 participated 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 an established personality scale. The scale measures different personality factors that are known to be correlated strongly with behavioural issues: for example, a person with high level of impulsivity is more than five times likely to develop severe conduct problems within the next 18 months.

The researchers looked for impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity and sensation seeking. The schools in the intervention condition were trained to delivery interventions to their high risk students the control schools were not.

The two-session interventions included cognitive-behavioural strategies for managing one's personality profile. The interventions included real life "scenarios" shared by the high risk youths within their focus group. The groups discussed thoughts, emotions and behaviours within the context of their personality type-identifying situational triggers, for example-and with the guidance of the teacher, explored ways to manage their issues.

The effects were clinically significant, with a 21-26 percent reduction in severe depression, anxiety and conduct problem symptoms over the course of the trial.