Drugs and Mental Health: Practical strategies for early intervention
“Several decades of research have shownthat the promise and potential lifetimebenefits of preventing mental, emotional,and behavioral (MEB) disorders are greatestby focusing on young people and that earlyinterventions can be effective in delaying orpreventing the onset of such disorders.” National Academy of Sciences (2009) Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities
Did you know......fewer young people are drinking,smoking or taking other drugs than10 or 20 years ago.
But the health andsocial impacts oflegal and illegaldrugs leave noroom forcomplacency.
Is drug education in schools up to the challenge?“The year 11s are getting the same boringdrugs PowerPoint as the year 7s...”“I am 16 years of age;colouring pictures ofsmiley face Ecstasytablets will not makeme less inclined to takeit.”
Simply giving the facts aboutalcohol, tobacco and otherdrugs... has little impact on young people‟s decisions
Dire health warningsalso seem to be ineffective
So what does work?• Approaches based on „life skills‟ or „social influences‟ are the most effective at changing young people‟s behaviour and wellbeing.• Programmes such as „Life Skills Training‟ and „Unplugged‟ have been tested in other countries and found to reduce alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use.• Their approach has a lot in common with „good‟ PSHE teaching.
„Life skills‟ include...• Making and keeping positive friendships• Assertiveness and negotiation• Thinking carefully about decisions• Coping with emotions such as anxiety
One element of life skillsapproaches is to challengeyoung people‟s ideas aboutwhat is normal andaccepted.For example, youngsmokers think smoking ismuch more common than itactually is.
Research suggeststhat how drugeducation is taught isas important as whatis taught.
Lecturing studentsis much lesseffective thaninteractive drugeducation.
Interactive learning is key:“You can‟t learn life skills from a book”
• Successful drug prevention programmes demand time for reflection, review and building on knowledge• In contrast, schools often teach drug education in one-off drop-down days.
Social Determinants of Health“While downstream interventions dohave a mitigating impact and canreduce the extent of health problems,they usually fail to address the root ofthe problems. This will be bestaddressed by tackling the causes ofthe causes further upstream andusing a whole system approach todelivering interventions effectivelyand according to an area’s needs.”Intervening in the social determinants of health to improvepriority public health conditions and reduce health inequalities, Institute of Health Equity (2012)
The effect of bullying at age 14/15Source: Understanding vulnerable young people: Analysis from theLongitudinal Study of Young People in England, DfE (2011)
In the last year...• one in three (29%) 10-15 year olds had been bullied.• at least 7.6% of 10-15 year olds suffered a violent crime. That equates to over half a million young victims of violence.• there were 13,000 emergency hospital admissions for assault among 13-24 year olds. One in seven involved a knife or sharp object.Source: Protecting people, Promoting health; A public health approach to violence prevention for England,Department of Health (2012)
Starting even earlier• Young people disengaged from school are at greater risk of harmful substance use and mental health problems• One programme, the „Good Behaviour Game‟ helps disruptive young children to settle down and work quietly.• Later in life these children were less likely drop out of education, develop mental health problems or develop drug problems.
Oxfordshire TrialSource: Improving Child Behaviour Management: An Evaluation of the Good Behaviour Game inUK Primary Schools, Oxford Brookes (2012)
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