Extracurricular activities and resilience training in school may help prevent mental health problems

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Experts say these services can be beneficial for kids' emotional well-being

A new study conducted by researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute explored how initiatives in schools may help boost kids’ mental health. Their work showed that extracurricular activities and resilience training may help improve kids’ mental health and prevent future mental health concerns. 

“With about 50 percent of mental health disorders beginning before the age of 14 years, prevention and early intervention are paramount if we want to reduce the lifetime prevalence of mental health disorders and allow children to live their best possible lives,” said researcher Harriet Hiscock. 

Prioritizing kids’ mental health

The researchers interviewed over 140 clinicians to better understand how schools can be doing more to support kids’ well-being and mental health. They answered questions on their experience working with kids through mental health struggles and what role schools can play in supporting children’s mental health. 

The clinicians believe schools have a powerful platform for helping prevent long-term mental health disorders for kids. They say administrators should either train school personnel to provide mental health support or integrate more mental health professionals into school buildings.

“Schools as buildings act as a trusted physical space where mental health clinicians could offer services that are otherwise challenging to access,” said researcher Kate Paton. “Clinicians believed teachers can offer prevention by supporting children through school-wide psycho-education, sport and social skill, and coping programs.” 

The researchers found that focusing on extracurricular activities and sessions that focused on developing strong coping skills geared toward resilience were the best options for children’s mental health at school. By offering these programs, the clinicians believe teachers will be able to identify children who have a higher risk for mental health concerns while providing them with the right tools and resources to promote well-being. 

“Whilst educators have identified many challenges to providing this support, including perceived stigma, lack of resources, and an overcrowded curriculum, understanding clinicians’ views on the roles of educators and schools and how they could work together to achieve good mental outcomes are important questions,” Paton said. 

“It’s important to understand whether different perspectives may exist between educators and mental health clinicians which need to bridged if these professionals are to work successfully together to achieve both good education and mental health outcomes.” 

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