Teachers and other school-based professionals can effectively treat children’s mental health problems

Broad evidence now supports the potential of school-based services for the treatment of a wide range of child mental health problems

Washington, DC, March 1, 2018

School-based services delivered by teachers and other school-based professionals can help reduce mental health problems in elementary-aged children, reports a study published in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

“Given the limited accessibility of traditional mental health services for children—particularly for children from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds—school-based mental health services are a tremendous vehicle for overcoming barriers to mental health care and meaningfully expanding the reach of supports and services for so many children in need. Treating children in schools can powerfully overcome issues of cost, transportation, and stigma that typically restrict broad utilization of mental health services” said lead author Amanda Sanchez, MS, of the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University.

“More than half of the children in the US who receive mental health care now receive such services in school settings. Our findings are encouraging in showing how—with sufficient training and support—mental health services can be quite effective when delivered by school-based professionals who are naturally in children’s lives” added the study’s senior author, Jonathan Comer, PhD., also of the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University.

The findings are based on a meta-analysis of 43 controlled trials that collectively had almost 50,000 elementary-aged children participate in school-based mental health services. The researchers examined the overall effectiveness of school-based mental health services, as well as the relative effectiveness of various school-based intervention models that differed according to treatment target, format, and intensity.

In addition to supporting the overall effectiveness of school-based mental health care, follow-up analyses revealed that school-based services targeting child behavior problems were particularly effective, relative to services targeting child attention problems, mood and anxiety problems, or substance use. Moreover, treatments that were implemented multiple times per week were more than twice as effective as treatments that were only implemented on a weekly (or less) basis.

The authors caution that many schools—particularly those in low-resourced communities—do not have the personnel, training, or expertise to implement quality mental health services without additional support and partnerships with mental health professionals. In order to optimize the success and sustainability of school-based mental health services, the authors call for increased support, training, and resources for school-based staff as they are increasingly expected to step beyond their traditional roles as educators.

Ms. Sanchez, and co-authors Danielle Cornacchio, Bridget Poznanski, Akejandra Golik, Tommy Chou, and Jonathan S. Comer, PhD., are with the Center for Children and Families, Florida International University, Miami.

This work was supported, in part, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) K23 MH090247 (PI: Comer). Full author disclosures are listed in the article.


Notes for editors
The article is "The Effectiveness of School-Based Mental Health Services for Elementary-Aged Children: A Meta-Analysis," by Amanda L. Sanchez, MS, Danielle Cornacchio, MS, Bridget Poznanski, BS, Alejandra Golik, BA, Tommy Chou, MS, Jonathan S. Comer, PhD., (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2017.11.022). It appears in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 57, issue 3 (March, 2018), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Mary Billingsley at mbillingsley@aacap.org or +1 202 587 9672. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Amanda L. Sanchez, MS, Mental Health Interventions and Technology (MINT) Program, Center for Children and Families, Department of Psychology, Florida International University, 11200 S.W. 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199; e-mail: amasanch@fiu.edu.

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The Journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Mary Billingsley, Editorial Office
+1 202 587 9672