Substance Misuse Prevention and Mental Health Prevention

I’ve been asked to give a talk at a conference in November in a session on the links between substance misuse and mental health and looking at practical things that schools might do to prevent problems across these interlinked areas.

The causal effect of substance use and mental health problems are complex and contested, but what is more clear is that there are some programmes that seem to effect both substance misuse and mental health outcomes.

Yesterday Claire sent me a link to a presentation about the Good Behaviour Game – a primary school strategy which is particularly good at protecting vulnerable boys from early school failure and subsequent drug and alcohol misuse.

There is a very telling slide [above] on the effects the programme has on the idealisations and attempts of suicide that makes it clear just what an effect the programme can have on mental health.

And today I’ve come across a paper which looks at a depression prevention programme and describes the secondary benefits the programme appears to have for substance misuse.

The programme that was being tested was an indicated prevention programme – one that works with young people who are already at risk for depression because of the presence of elevated depressive symptoms.

The trial randomised over 300 high school students who were judged to be at risk into one of four groups, a group that received the programme, one that had a “supportive-expressive group intervention”, cognitive–behavioural (CB) bibliotherapy, or receiving an educational brochure as a control group.

The researchers found that:

Participants in Group CB had significantly lower rates of substance use compared with brochure control participants at both 1- and 2-year follow-up and lower substance use at 2-year follow-up relative to bibliotherapy participants.

As you’ll appreciate being able to show an effect over that sort of period of time is potentially quite important.

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