Treatment needs can be reduced by focusing on prevention

January 31, 2022

Many common childhood mental disorders can be prevented. A review conducted by the CHPC identified seven effective self-directed interventions for preventing or reducing symptoms of the five most common childhood mental concerns — anxiety, ADHD, problematic substance use, behaviour problems and depression. The results suggest the following five implications for practice and policy.

  • Reach more children, youth and families with self-directed prevention programs. Encouraging prevention will allow more children, youth and families to be reached, in turn reducing the burden of mental health problems in the population.
  • Provide extra support when needed. Extra supports should be added to self-directed programs according to need.
  • Ensure everyone can participate. Self-directed programs can come with specific barriers to participation for some families such as those lacking online access or mobile phones. As well, some self- directed programs can come with costs for families. Consequently, some families will need support to access these interventions.
  • Recognize the role of culture. Some programs may require adaptations to ensure cultural fit and relevance, especially those that target parenting practices.
  • Use mental health practitioners wisely. Investments in prevention can help reduce the need for specialized mental health practitioners who are in high demand. This will leave them free to care for more children and youth with the highest levels of need.

Including self-directed interventions in overall service planning can enable providers to reach many more children, youth and families, in turn potentially lowering the need for treatment. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.