Positive socio-emotional environments in schools boost student mental health. A project led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) has shown that promoting a positive socio-emotional environment in schools can improve student mental health.
Last year, the Wellcome Trust’s Active Ingredients for Youth Anxiety and Depression Commission announced the 21 research teams from around the world who had received funding to examine the evidence for an “active ingredient”, a promising intervention to prevent, treat or manage anxiety and depression. among 14-24 year olds. The goal was to identify the next generation of approaches that tackle youth mental health issues.
Dr Monika Raniti, Dr Divyangana Rakesh, Professor Susan Sawyer and Professor George Patton were commissioned to explore the role of school connectedness, defined as the extent to which a student feels accepted, valued and supported in their environment educational, in the prevention of future depression and anxiety. The review was undertaken in partnership with a group of youth advisers from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The systematic review of 36 international studies, published in BMC Public Health, overwhelmingly found that higher levels of school connection predicted lower levels of depressive and anxious symptoms in high school youth.
Dr Raniti said improving school connectivity was a beneficial way to promote well-being and a promising intervention to prevent mental health problems in adolescents.
“Schools are an important resource for influencing the mental health of young people,” she said. Current approaches to youth mental health have primarily focused on the development of mental health literacy and the provision of mental health services. Our findings focused on prevention and reorienting the role of schools by expanding the repertoire of levers to include developing social-emotional skills, creating safe and inclusive environments, and providing a sense of community and safety. support for students, parents and families.
“School connectedness recognizes the profound effects of young people’s socio-emotional environments on mental health, which in turn can benefit learning.”
Depression and anxiety affect around one in four young people, with evidence of increasing prevalence in recent years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as multiple lockdowns.
Professor Sawyer said that while improving access to effective treatment was important, prevention was key to reducing the incidence and burden of mental health symptoms.
“Approaches to preventing depression and anxiety in young people have typically focused on schools, viewing the school curriculum as a platform for intervention,” she said. Yet, overall, these interventions have small effects that are not sustained over time. School connectivity can be seen as two sides of the same coin, an active ingredient that is potentially as relevant to health as it is to learning outcomes. What we need now are mental health interventions coupled with whole school environments.
Through the project, youth counselors shared that school connectedness encompasses feelings of recognition, relationships characterized by empathy, and the creation of an authentic and welcoming school environment.
A 16-year-old youth counselor from Australia said: “You have that social aspect, but you also have extra-curricular activities, how you spend your studies, your classes, if you enjoy them, it’s the commitment …to be supported in all aspects of your well-being is about positive emotions, it’s about relationships, it’s about meaning, it’s about commitment, about fulfillment, it’s all about it. Once you feel supported in all of these areas, you feel connected.
Another youth adviser, 18, from Indonesia, said: “If I had all the money in the world… it would be if everyone in the school really cares about their students, they know their learning centers. interest and their names, and every time they talk about something they just connect in a really authentic way
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