Academic journal article Advances in Mental Health

Impact of a Mental Health Promotion Program on Substance Use in Young Adolescents

Academic journal article Advances in Mental Health

Impact of a Mental Health Promotion Program on Substance Use in Young Adolescents

Article excerpt

Early adolescence is a developmental period where the prevalence of mental health problems (Sawyer et al., 2001) and health risk behaviours like alcohol and tobacco use, and using illicit drugs increases (Botvin & Griffi n, 2007). Mental health problems impact on health risk behaviors and vice versa (Bond, Toumbourou, Thomas, Catalano, & Patton, 2005). Hence, mental health promotion programs that focus on life skills and improving parent-child relationships may also prevent the uptake of substance use. The Aussie Optimism Program (AOP) is a universal mental health promotion program that includes school and family-based components. AOP has shown reduced levels of internalizing problems in young adolescents (Roberts et al., 2010) and prevention of depression and anxiety over three years in rural school children (C. Roberts, Kane, Bishop, & Matthews, 2004). This study investigated the impact of AOP in limiting substance use in young adolescents transitioning to high school.

According to the Australian burden of disease and injury study (Begg et al., 2007), tobacco and alcohol use are the top two lifestyle behavioural risks to health in Australia. In 2004, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 25% of 14-19 year olds drank alcohol on a daily or weekly basis (Begg et al. 2007). In the same year the National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported that many males had their fi rst cigarette at 15.2 years, with females at 16.5 years. However, the frequency of adolescent tobacco use rises signifi cantly between 12 and 13 years (Health Department of Western Australia, 2000; Hill, White, & Effendi, 2002), whilst increases in alcohol consumption occur between the ages of 13 and 14 years (Odgers, Houghton, & Douglas, 1997; Trudeau, Spoth, Lillehoj, Redmond, & Wickrama, 2003). The younger teenagers start using alcohol and tobacco, the more likely they are to smoke heavily and become more addicted (McDermot, Russell, & Dobson, 2002). The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2005) found that 12.7% of males aged between 14 and 19 years currently used tobacco, while the corresponding fi gure for females was14.5%.

Risk factors for teenage alcohol and tobacco use include anxiety and depression (Dudas, Hans, & Barabas, 2005; Goodman & Capitman, 2000), low levels of self-esteem and optimism (Carvajal, Wiatrek, Evans, Knee, & Nash, 2000), and social infl uences including peer, sibling, parental and school factors (Donovan, 2004; Kuntsche, Knibbe, Gmel, & Engels, 2005; Tyas & Pederson, 1998). Furthermore, adolescents with mental health problems report using alcohol and tobacco more frequently than those without such problems (Sawyer et al., 2001).

Experimental tobacco use in pre-adolescence is a strong predictor of later daily use (McGee, Williams, & Stanton, 1998), and early onset predicts higher levels of dependency and lower quitting rates (Takakura & Wake, 2003). Excessive alcohol use in older adolescents is also associated with a younger age of onset for alcohol and tobacco consumption (Best, Manning, Gossop, Gross, & Strang, 2006). Early onset of alcohol use also increases the risk of adult alcohol misuse and alcohol-related health and social problems (Rohde, Lewinsohn, Kahler, Seeley, & Brown, 2001). The transition to secondary school is therefore an opportune time to intervene for health risk behaviours and mental health problems.

Botvin and Griffi n (2004) found that life skills programs focusing on social and personal competence and social resistance skills can have positive and lasting effects on adolescent alcohol and tobacco use, and illicit drug taking, up to the end of high school. Also, Bond et al. (2005) found that cognitive and social skills can reduce health risk behaviors. AOP incorporates both social and cognitive life skills (see Table 1) to promote mental health in the fi nal two years of primary school (Roberts et al. …

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