Effects of universal preventive mental health interventions in high School, by Bror Just Andersen, Baerum community mental health center, The Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Div. for Mental health.
Between 15 and 20% of all young people in Norway have mental problems that impact their daily functioning, and between 4 and 7% have problems that need treatment. Psychological problems are often taboo, and many people do not dare to share their problems with others.
In this quasiexperimental study with test and control group and Solomons design I have investigated the effects of universal preventive mental health. The intervention we studied is VIP (Guidance and Information on Mental Health). VIP is a preventive program in Norway targeted at students in secondary school. It aims at increasing understanding and recognition of mental problems and illness and at lowering thresholds for help seeking. We assess the degree of achievement of these goals. A sample of 880 students in a county where the program had been implemented was compared with a sample of 811 students in a county where the program had not yet been implemented. Data was collected through questionnaires prior to intervention (t0) and at 1 (t1), 6, 12 and 24 months after intervention.
At each time, knowledge was measured as percentages of top scores on a set of indices, while level of mental health problems was measured by SDQ-Nor and scale for anxiety. Effect sizes on the various indices are estimated in terms of (a) differences in improvements of percentage scores and (b) Cohen’s d. Total average response rate (t0-t3) is 79,3 % for the intervention group and 76,7 % for the control group. The project uses a quasi-experimental Solomon four-group design. The individual questions are combined in indexes and the power is measured by significance testing (t-values), total percentage differences and Cohen's d.
The thesis is an empirical study of effects. The main findings are that the program provides significant effects in the short term knowledge about mental health and support services. Knowledge about mental health seems to remain fairly well the first year after the intervention, while knowledge of support services seems to be forgotten in a significant degree. After 6 and 12 months we observed a small effect on the help search. On the other hand, there seems to be a moderate but significant beneficial effect on the incidence of problems in SDQ-Nor. The program also appears to have a cost-effective implementation for the schools.