Research In Brief
Prevention Research Centers Contribute to Mental Health Strategies
May is Mental Health Month, an occasion for recognizing the Prevention Research Centers' (PRCs) contributions to mental health research. Several PRCs research ways to promote mental health among diverse populations. The mental health research projects of four PRCs are highlighted here.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University PRC work with a Baltimore-based youth program that offers job training for adolescents who have dropped out of school and are unemployed. The researchers are testing an intervention that screens these adolescents for depression. Participants with no symptoms of depression learn about mental health to help them guard against depression, while participants with symptoms receive interventions that are selected according to the severity of their symptoms. This project builds on previous research in which participants who attended at least six depression prevention intervention sessions reported a decrease in depression symptoms.1 Additional research found that inexpensive 2-day mental health training of job training staff at the youth program increased the percentage of program participants who discussed mental health issues with staff and who received a referral to mental health services from staff.2 This finding is important because research has found that mental health problems present a significant barrier to completing employment training programs.3
At the UCLA/RAND PRC, researchers worked with partners in the Los Angeles school district to develop a cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention for trauma in schools (CBITS). 4 School-based mental health professionals use the intervention to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in students who have witnessed or experienced violence. Several national organizations recommend CBITS, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is disseminating the program through its National Child Traumatic Stress Network. CBITS has been implemented in many U.S. cities, including Madison, Wisconsin, where a significant reduction in PTSD and depression symptoms was reported. 5 CBITS also has been implemented abroad in Australia, China, Japan, and Guyana. Researchers at the University of New Mexico PRC tested CBITS for use with American Indian youth who had witnessed or experienced violence. Participants reported fewer PTSD symptoms and less depression and anxiety immediately after and three months after the students completed the 10-week program, but PTSD symptoms returned to initial levels six months after program completion.6 The researchers say a longer program may be needed to help American Indian youth address the psychological effects of violence.
People with serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder are at increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and early death. Researchers from the Dartmouth College PRC are evaluating a program in Keene, New Hampshire, that promotes physical activity and healthy nutrition among adults with serious mental illness. The program helps participants form peer networks that provide social support and encourage healthy choices. Building on CDC's support of this project, the Dartmouth PRC received $10 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a program involving cash incentives that promotes physical fitness, improved nutrition, and smoking cessation among Medicaid recipients at New Hampshire mental health centers. State public health officials are co-directors of the CMS project.
For more information on these and similar projects, go to the Research Projects page and search Health Topics for “Mental health.”
- Tandon D, Mendelson T, Mance G. Acceptability and preliminary outcomes of a peer-led depression prevention intervention for African American adolescents and young adults in employment training programs. Journal of Community Psychology 2011;39:621–28.
- Tucker MG, Tandon SD, Sonenstein F. Training for staff of an employment training program to promote mental health discussions and referrals with out-of-school youth, Baltimore, Maryland, 2007. Preventing Chronic Disease 2012;9:110164. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2012/11_0164.htm
- Stein BD, Jaycox LH, Kataoka SH, et al. A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 2003;290(5):603–11.
- Goodkind JR, Lanoue MD, Milford J. Adaptation and implementation of cognitive behavioral intervention for trauma in schools with American Indian youth. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 2010;39(6):858-72.
- CBITS. The Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) Web site. Available at http://cbitsprogram.org/.
- Goodkind JR, Lanoue MD, Milford J. Adaptation and implementation of cognitive behavioral intervention for trauma in schools with American Indian youth. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 2010;39(6):858–72.