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School-Based Mental Health Services, Depression, Suicide Risk and Substance Use and among Students

Berkeley, CA - October 2018

Two recent studies by researchers at the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that the availability of mental health services at health centers  in Oregon public schools was associated with reduced depressive experiences, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior and substance use among adolescents.  These studies were funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for which Dr. Melina Bersamin is the Principal Investigator.

The first study examined whether an increase in the availability of mental health services at health centers in Oregon public schools in 2014 was associated with reduction in incidences of depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts from 2013 to 2015.

The study sample included 168 Oregon public middle and high schools and over 17,000 students who participated in the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey in 2013 and 2015.

The results showed that students at schools with health centers that increased availability of mental health services in 2014 were less likely to report depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts compared to other schools. Significant risk reductions in past year depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts were also found.

The second study examined the associations between increased availability of mental health services at health centers in Oregon public schools in 2014 and changes in the likelihood of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and substance use behaviors 2013 to 2015 among adolescents from who had experienced at least one depressive episode in the past year.

The study sample included 168 Oregon public middle and high schools and over 9,000 students who participated in the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey in 2013 and 2015.

The results indicated that students who had experienced depressive episodes in the past year at schools with health centers that increased mental health services in 2014 were less likely to report any suicidal thoughts and cigarette smoking compared to students in all other schools. Lower frequencies of marijuana and cigarette use, and unauthorized prescription drug use were also observed.

Together, the studies indicate that increasing availability of school-based mental health services can help to reduce depressive episodes, suicide risk and substance use among adolescents.

Lead author M.J. Paschall says: High rates of depressive episodes, substance use and suicide risk among adolescents indicate the need for greater availability of mental health services at schools. Our findings suggest that greater provision of mental health services through school-based health centers can benefit all adolescents who may experience depression, and those at elevated risk for suicide and substance use.

Sources:

Paschall, Mallie J., and Melina Bersamin. "School-based health centers, depression, and suicide risk among adolescents." American journal of preventive medicine 54, no. 1 (2018): 44-50.

Paschall, Mallie J., and Melina Bersamin. "School-based mental health services, suicide risk and substance use among at-risk adolescents in Oregon." Preventive medicine 106 (2018): 209-215.

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