Citation: Williams I, Vaisey A, Patton G, Sanci L. The effectiveness, feasibility and scalability of the school platform in adolescent mental healthcare. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2020;33(4):391-6.



Purpose of review: Schools are increasingly at the forefront of mental healthcare for young people internationally. This review aims to describe recent developments in school-based mental health activities to respond to mental health needs in adolescents, with a focus on empirical studies aimed at preventing, ameliorating or treating mental disorders.

Recent findings: The field is characterized by substantial heterogeneity in program design and research methods. Evidence for effectiveness of single-faceted school-based mental health programs is equivocal. Recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses have reported mixed findings across a variety of single-faceted universal and targeted programs at post-intervention, short-term and long-term follow-up. The largest and most recent review and network meta-analyses conclude there is limited evidence in support of these forms of school-based anxiety and depression prevention programs. Feasibility studies, which include consideration of appropriate service providers, suggest a need to consider schools as complex systems when designing interventions. Recent models adopting whole-school approaches appear feasible, effective and potentially sustainable with modest levels of resourcing.

Summary: Greater evidence is needed regarding long-term impact and sustainability of interventions. Recent trials of multifaceted and multilevel interventions show particular promise. Future research should further explore strategies embedded within school systems and processes.

About The Authors


Dr Ian Williams is a postdoctoral research fellow within the Children and Young People’s Research Pr...


Lena Sanci is Head, Department of General Practice, Director of Teaching and Learning, Chair of the ...