Study findings demonstrated that school-based mental health services delivered by teachers and other school personnel helped reduce mental health issues in elementary-aged children.
“Much remains to be learned about the effectiveness of school-based mental health programs, which in turn can meaningfully inform partnerships and referral practices among child psychiatrists and other mental health professionals,” Amanda L. Sanchez, MS, Center for Children and Families, Florida International University, and colleagues wrote. “A limited understanding of the effectiveness of school-based mental health services when implemented by school professionals could contribute to the limited application of evidence-based mental health practices in schools.”
Using random-effects meta-analytic procedures, researchers examined the overall effectiveness of school-based mental health services delivered by teachers and other school personnel that specifically targeted mental health problems on elementary school-age children. They also examined the effectiveness of multiple school-based intervention models that varied by treatment target, format and intensity. In total, 43 controlled trials that encompassed nearly 50,000 children in elementary school were included in the present study.
Across all outcomes, school-based services delivered by school personnel showed small-to-medium effect in decreasing mental health issues among children. Furthermore, school-based services that integrated mental health services into the school curriculum, targeted externalizing issues, incorporated incident management and were implemented multiple times per week significantly improved its effectiveness.
The largest effects were observed for targeted intervention and selective prevention compared with universal prevention. Targeted intervention and selective prevention showed large and high-medium effects, though small, universal prevention showed significant effects as well (P < .05). For externalizing problems, school-based services conducted daily or several times each week showed medium effect, but school-based services conducted weekly or less did not show a significant effect.
“Given the limited accessibility of traditional mental health services for children — particularly for children from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds — school-based mental health services are a tremendous vehicle for overcoming barriers to mental health care and meaningfully expanding the reach of supports and services for so many children in need,” Sanchez said in a press release. “Treating children in schools can powerfully overcome issues of cost, transportation, and stigma that typically restrict broad utilization of mental health services.” – by Savannah Demko
Disclosures: Sanchez reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.