Adolescence is a stage of life where youth go through significant social, physical, and psychological changes. For some adolescents, symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression also develop during this period. Research shows that roughly half of all lifetime mental health disorders begin in adolescence and three quarters by mid-late 20s. In addition to this, substance use and symptoms of mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety) often occur together. To address this a Mental Health module was developed to complement the Climate Schools substance use modules. See below for a snippet of the Mental Health module cartoon.
Recently the Mental Health module was evaluated within the Climate Schools Combined (CSC) trial. This trial was conducted with 6,386 secondary school students from 71 schools across NSW, QLD, and WA. When compared to students who received usual health education, students who received Climate Schools’ combined Mental Health module and Alcohol & Cannabis module had positive student outcomes including:
- Slowed progression of anxiety symptoms.
- Reduced risk of alcohol use and heavy drinking.
- Increased knowledge about mental health.
- Increased knowledge about alcohol and cannabis.
The results highlighted the benefits of combining the Alcohol & Cannabis module with the Mental Health module, compared to delivering only mental health education or usual school-based health education. To assess the long-term effects of combining mental health and alcohol and drug prevention, the project will continue to monitor students’ drug and mental health knowledge, substance use, and mental health symptoms into their early 20s, which is a time when mental health and substance use disorder reach their peak.
You can read more about the Mental Health module and CSC findings in this research paper: Combined prevention for substance use, depression, and anxiety in adolescence: a cluster-randomised controlled trial of a digital online intervention.
If you or your school are interested in implementing the Climate Schools programs check out their website or contact the Climate Schools team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later this year, Climate Schools will be relaunching with an updated website and materials under the new name, OurFutures. While it's not quite ready yet, you can sign up to their newsletter to receive updates about the relaunch.