Miércoles 24 de Septiembre de 2008, Ip nº 248

Pupils to get lessons in fighting depression
Por Anthea Lipsett

Thousands of pupils at schools across the UK are to learn how to fend off depression through classes in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

More than 7,000 students will take part in a trial of a "positive thinking" programme led by the University of Bath and aimed at preventing teenagers developing problems with depression.

Around one in 10 children have symptoms that place them at high risk of becoming seriously depressed. If left unmanaged, these problems could have a significant impact on their everyday lives and increase the possibility of mental health issues in young adulthood.

The £1.25m NHS-funded programme is targeted at 13- to 16-year-olds at schools in Bath, Bristol, Nottingham, Swindon and Wiltshire.

The programme is based on CBT, which teaches people to think positively, cope with difficult situations and problem solve.

As part of Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE), pupils will be taught to acknowledge their personal strengths, identify negative thought processes and develop problem-solving skills.

Researchers believe this kind of positive health intervention could reduce the risk of vulnerable pupils developing mental health problems, and say all children will benefit from developing a robust approach to the challenges of life.

Prof Paul Stallard, a clinical psychologist in Bath's Mental Health Research and Development Unit and the academic leading the project, said: "Depression is a serious problem among adolescents. Studies have shown that if we give young people the tools that can help them build resilience, they can avoid this becoming a problem in later life.

"If this trial is successful, we would to be able to roll out this programme to schools throughout the country."

"We're particularly excited because it's whole school groups and an evidence-based programme that we're trialling," Stallard said.

Teenagers are more prone to depression, he said, and the whole school nature of the exercise will mean that no children are stigmatised and they will all become more emotionally resilient.

"It's a large study so it has the potential to get some meaningful results and it's a randomised trial so we'll be able to explore a bit more what makes these programmes effective," he said.

The programme should also prove how many savings are made by fewer costly mental health referrals and pupils taking days off school.

The programme involves academics from the universities of Bath, Bristol and Nottingham and the Peninsular medical school, and is linked to local clinical services.

Following an initial screening, the CBT programme will be delivered in 10 weekly classroom sessions. The researchers will compare the effects of the programme being delivered by teachers and by specially trained facilitators from outside the school.

Further assessments will be carried out immediately after the CBT programme and at six months and one year after the trial.

These will look at whether the rates of depressive symptoms among the children have been reduced, particularly those who were initially identified as having serious symptoms.

A pilot programme is due to start in January next year, with the main study taking place between September 2009 and July 2010.

"CBT works by improving the individual's ability to deal with negative situations and to acknowledge and focus on more positive skills and outcomes," said Stallard.

Stallard's book on CBT - Think Good, Feel Good – has been highly commended by the British Medical Association and translated into 13 languages.

He will be presenting his latest findings at a conference at the university tomorrow.


  18/09/2008. The Guardian.