Mental Health

Compositive Model

Mental Health

Here is the World Health Organization’s definition of mental health: “A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Generally, girls and boys demonstrate different mental health vulnerabilities, with girls displaying a susceptibility to internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety and depression) and boys experiencing higher levels of externalizing problems (e.g., delinquent behaviors).

  • Girls demonstrate an increased likelihood of depression around puberty and during adolescence.
  • Mental health issues are widespread. In a nationally-representative sample of adolescents from the United States, about half of the sample evidenced at least one mental health disorder and about one-fourth of the sample had more severe impairments.
  • In the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey, 7.8 percent of high school students reported that they attempted suicide in the previous year and 28.5 percent felt sad or hopeless every day for two or more weeks in a row, leading to changes in their daily activities during the past year.
  • Adolescents of parents who never graduated college were at an increased risk for all types of disorders.
  • Mental health problems during adolescence can have long-term consequences; for example, depression during the adolescent years is associated with a number of negative outcomes, including increased suicide attempts and employment problems. 

Promising practices:

  • Coping Power is a preventative intervention that targets children and early adolescents at risk for substance use and delinquency. It can last as long as 15 to 18 months. It includes a child component (cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions) and a parent component (parent training groups).
  • According to What Works Clearinghouse, Coping Power significantly improves the external behavior of children with an emotional disturbance.
  • First Step to Success is an intervention program that targets children who are at risk for developing conduct problems (e.g., aggressive or antisocial behaviors). It uses a behavior coach that works with the child, as well as the friends, teachers, and parents of the child. The intervention lasts 50-60 hours over the span of three months.
  • According to What Works Clearinghouse, there is significant evidence that participation in First Step to Success improves the external behavior of children with an emotional disturbance and some evidence that there are improvements in emotional behavior, social outcomes, and academic performance. 
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction trains individuals in mindfulness meditation and yoga in an effort to reduce stress and other stress-related issues (e.g., sleep and psychological problems).
  • Adolescents who received the treatment demonstrated significant benefits immediately after the program and at the follow-up assessments. There were improvements in social, occupational, and psychological functioning, perceived stress, anxiety, self-esteem, sleep quality, and psychological symptoms such as depression, obsession-compulsion, somatization, and interpersonal sensitivity.

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