Effectiveness of early interventions for preventing mental illness in young people: a critical appraisal of the literature

Nicholas B, Broadstock M
Record ID 31998009892
Authors' objectives:

This review aims to provide an evidence-based review of the effectiveness of early intervention programmes for youth mental health.

Authors' recommendations: This review of the literature of early interventions in youth mental health confirmed that, in line with mental health prevention generally, there has been little good quality research done on programme effectiveness). The lack of research may reflect a focus by programmes on intervening in middle childhood rather than in adolescence. Reducing the suffering from mental illness in our young people has traditionally focussed on improving treatment and access to treatment for individuals. The move toward intervening with a group, before conditions develop to a clinical level, is well advanced in some mental health domains (e.g. substance abuse and conduct disorder) but in its infancy for disorders of mood, anxiety and eating. This discrepancy may reflect the more publicly disruptive nature of these disorders compared with the more hidden aspects of mood and eating disorders. Given the paucity of work relating to internalising disorders and eating disorders, and the very different manifestations of these disorders, we cannot make conclusions that generalise across all conditions considered in this review. The lack of clear consensus about the benefits of certain approaches (e.g. community-focused compared with classroom-based, skills training compared with social support) is possibly an artifact of the many other factors that effect the success or otherwise of a programme. It isnt always clear whether a programme that succeeded in one community failed in another. Potential influences on a programmes success may include: - the "social capital" of the community (Baum 1999) in terms of its networks and cohesion - the social-demographic make-up of the community (e.g. ethnicity, employment levels) - the programme providers motivation and commitment - the resources available, including time, expertise, and financial support. Given the lack of any rigorous outcome evaluations conducted since 1995 in New Zealand, it is not possible to make conclusions confidently about which of the many early intervention programmes available for youth mental health are demonstrably effective here. Moreover, given the variety of programmes, settings and mental health conditions considered internationally, and the early stage of primary prevention approaches, there is a lack of consensus about what approaches work best in what circumstances.
Authors' methods: Systematic review
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 1999
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: New Zealand
MeSH Terms
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Community Health Services
  • Depression
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Mental Health Services
Organisation Name: New Zealand Health Technology Assessment
Contact Address: Department of Public Health and General Practice, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, P.O. Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Tel: +64 3 364 1145; Fax: +64 3 364 1152;
Contact Name: nzhta@chmeds.ac.nz
Contact Email: nzhta@chmeds.ac.nz
Copyright: New Zealand Health Technology Assessment
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.