Global Review Identifies Successful Mental Health Interventions for Teens

(U.S.) – A global meta-analysis of mental health interventions for teenagers found the three most effective and consistent preventive approaches focused on interpersonal skills training, emotional regulation and alcohol, and drug education.

The review, “Adolescent Mental Health Program Components and Behavior Risk Reduction: A Meta-Analysis,” published in the August 2019 issue of Pediatrics (published July 1 online) was sponsored by the World Health Organization, with the goal of contributing to the creation of a universal, cost-effective package of evidenced-based psychological interventions to promote adolescent mental health and prevent mental disorders and risk behaviors.

Past reviews of prevention models have focused on single-issue interventions and not on the active ingredients that make interventions successful across a range of outcomes. A comprehensive approach using program components that affect several outcomes is potentially more cost-effective than utilizing multiple single-focus models and therefore more feasible for use in low- and middle-income countries.

The authors reviewed 14,600 records, including 158 studies. The authors found that interpersonal skills training, emotional regulation and alcohol, and drug education were successful across a range of mental health issues. Other components that were successful in preventing problems in a single mental health domain only were mindfulness, problem-solving, assertiveness training and stress management.

For instance, mindfulness was associated with a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms. The authors noted that most interventions were conducted in high-income countries and would have to be tested for their applicability in low-income countries.

Editor’s note: A solicited commentary, “Universal Mental Health Prevention for Adolescents: Real-World Implications,” will be published in the same issue of Pediatrics.

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