Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

A Review of Intervention Programs That Assist the Transition for Adolescence into High School and the Prevention of Mental Health Problems

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

A Review of Intervention Programs That Assist the Transition for Adolescence into High School and the Prevention of Mental Health Problems

Article excerpt


For adolescents, the transition from primary school (junior school) into high school (secondary school) is a stressful life event, and coincides with major developmental changes. This transition is a crucial time frame for establishing positive mental health and social behaviours, for this is also a time when young people are under rapid emotional, physical and social change (1). The importance of a smooth transition to high school is vital to protect the adolescent from developing symptoms of anxiety and depression which could ultimately lead to the development ongoing mental health problems.

Current research reveals that subsequently children and adolescents are experiencing depression at an unprecedented rate (2). For example, the most recent Global Burden of Disease study ranked depressive disorders fourth in the estimate of disease burden and it was predicted that by the year 2020, depression would rank second in the cause of disability worldwide (3). The prevalence of adolescent depression has been estimated at 14% for adolescents aged of 15 and 18 years of age, with 9% of adolescents experiencing their first episode of severe depression by the age of 14 (4). Given the prevalence of depressive disorders and, the impact that they have it is increasingly important that effective prevention and early intervention programs are available to adolescents generally and those at-risk of developing mental health problems.

There are two well documented ways of reducing the burden that depressive disorders place on the public health system. The first being the introduction of tailored treatment programs for new and existing cases, and the second being the introduction of prevention programs targeting specific age cohorts within the population (5). There are many intervention programs developed for the treatment of depression (see 4), however, relatively few have focused on preventing the onset of depressive symptoms (5). Recent literature describes three categories for preventative interventions: universal, selective, and indicated (6). Universal preventive interventions target entire population groups of the general public; selective interventions target individuals or subgroups whose risk of developing mental health issues (due to their biological, psychological or social risk factors) is above average; and indicated intervention programs target individuals who have early signs or symptoms of a clinical disorder but have not yet crossed the threshold for clinical diagnosis (such as sub-threshold symptoms of anxiety and/or depression) (7).

The incidence of major depression peaks between the ages of 15 and 18 years and for this reason depression is described as being a 'developmental phenomenon' (8). It has been suggested that a developmental intervention window exists between the ages of 11 to 15 years, as it is during this time period that depression and anxiety symptoms first manifest themselves, typically only at sub-clinical levels. Hence, it is posited that this early adolescent period may well be the optimum time to introduce preventative intervention programs (9, 10).

Therefore this review focussed on the effective programs that are currently available for the early intervention and prevention of depression and anxiety in adolescence (during the transition to high school 12 to 14 years of age). In particular, this review aims to critique and discuss the different components of programs that assist young people as they transition into adolescence and high school, with the hope of continuing further development of programs that are specific to this cohort.


The studies reviewed and assessed for this article were international prevention programs that were implemented to assist the transition to high school, and specifically for the prevention of adolescent anxiety and depression. These programs were critically analysed for efficacy, content, and delivery techniques. …

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