Universal school-based mental health programmes in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review and narrative synthesis

Melissa Bradshaw, Hermine Gericke, Bronwyne Coetzee, Paul Stallard, Suzanne Human, Maria Loades

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Depression and anxiety pose a significant burden during adolescence, which may have consequences for adulthood and future generations. The mental health needs of children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries are not adequately addressed due to a lack of availability and access to services, and limited intervention research in these contexts. Universal school-based interventions provide a unique and potentially scalable opportunity to prevent and address mental health concerns amongst children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. This systematic review aimed to identify and provide a narrative synthesis of universal school-based programmes delivered to children (aged 6–18 years) in low- and middle-income countries reporting on anxiety and/or depression outcomes. We searched Academic Search Premier, ERIC, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and ProQuest Dissertations using a pre-specified search strategy. Of the 12,478 articles identified, 12 studies met our inclusion criteria and were included in this review. The included studies report on a variety of interventions differing in approach, format and content. Given the small number of studies and concerns with study quality, we are unable to conclude that universal school-based interventions may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in children in low- and middle-income countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106317
JournalPreventive Medicine
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2021

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