February 14, 2019
2 min read

More evidence-based mental health interventions needed for minority youth

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Image of Armando Pina
Armando Pina

There are now more evidence-based psychosocial interventions for ethnic minority youth than a decade ago, according to an updated review.

Currently, four mental health interventions are well-established, which mainly focus on cognitive and behavioral change procedures and family systems models. However, more interventions are needed for underserved ethnic minority youth, like Asian-Americans and Native Americans, researchers found.

In the review, published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Armando Pina, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, and colleagues reported the current status of evidence-based psychosocial interventions for ethnic minority youth.

“This research offers an important evaluation of the progress scientists have made toward addressing the social and emotional (SEL) needs of ethnic minority youth residing in the U.S.,” Pina told Healio Psychiatry. “Ethnic minority youth are resilient but not invulnerable to stress, and we know that a significant number of ethnic minority families live in poverty and under conditions of high stress.”

Sixty-five studies met the R.1 criterion, meaning at least 75% of participants were ethnic minorities. Their search yielded four well-established mental health interventions:

  • cognitive and behavioral interventions for anxiety in Hispanic/Latino youth;
  • multi-systemic therapy for disruptiveness among African-American teenagers;
  • family-based interventions for Hispanic/Latino youth with disruptive problems; and
  • family-based interventions for Hispanic/Latino with substance use problems.

The interventions that met the “probably efficacious” criteria included interpersonal approaches for depression in Hispanic/Latino teenagers and peer resilient therapy for reducing trauma and stress in African-American youth. In addition, the interventions that met the “possibly efficacious” criteria were mostly variants of cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy and parenting programs, according to the results.

“It is most imperative to provide effective care to diverse youth and families and it is the clinician’s ethical responsibility to learn and deliver effective care. This report reveals to clinicians [the] treatments considered effective,” Pina said. “Moreover, as clinicians become more involved in the research itself, we rely on them to help us think about and resolve issues relevant to reaching minorities and improving access to treatments that work.”

Furthermore, none of the 65 studies included enough Asian-American or Native American participants to evaluate robustness of the interventions for these populations, according to the release. More research that includes underrepresented ethnic minority populations is needed and future studies should focus on streamlining methods to develop and test interventions quickly, the researchers concluded.

“This evaluation also may set the stage for the next generation of scientific priorities in SEL and mental health research, by outlining the need for robust interventions that can serve minority groups, particularly for Asian-American and Native American youth and for those whose language is not English,” Pina told Healio Psychiatry. – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.