The project aims to develop an intervention for promoting good mental health in adolescents. The project is a collaboration between school health services, non-governmental organizations, adolescents, and researchers from RBUP and PROMENTA research center.
A recent national survey in Norwegian frontline services revealed a pressing need for effective tools to aid adolescents with complex problems. Emotional problems were the most common cause for adolescents to seek help. Research shows that mental health problems are associated with how we relate to intense emotions, which can bring joy but also lead to impulsive and destructive behavior. Being aware of emotions and making mindful decisions when they are intense is called emotion regulation. Research on emotion regulation programs points to potentially beneficial effects on adolescents' mental health.
Developing the intervention
We have identified evidence-informed practices that enhance emotion regulation in adolescents. These findings will be tailored to Norwegian school health services and adolescents. School nurses, adolescents, user organizations, and researchers will all co-create and test the intervention. We will make the intervention feasible for school nurses, their time, and resources, and useful for adolescents. The goal is to create an effective, brief, and flexible intervention to prevent mental health problems in adolescents.
Optimizing the intervention
We will evaluate and revise the intervention in stages, collecting feedback from co-creation, interviews with school nurses and adolescents, and an app for adolescents receiving the intervention. Finally, adolescents in multiple schools will participate in a large-scale study testing the effects of the intervention and its components. Based on the results, the intervention will be adjusted and/or used in other school and frontline health services.
Adolescence is a time for prolific change; biologically, socially, and cognitively. Although many flourish in adolescence, bringing positive experiences and habits with them into adulthood, adolescents increasingly struggle with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The accelerating threat of climate change and the constraints imposed upon us due to the covid-19-pandemic exacerbates this development. Meanwhile, Norwegian frontline health care workers report lacking tools to aid adolescents seeking help for mental health problems, despite the high prevalence of such consultations. We will develop and test an intervention that targets a single underlying factor associated with a range of mental health problems – emotion regulation. The ability to endure or accept intense negative emotions or having strategies to employ when overcome by them may counteract and modify the development of mental health problems into disorders. Emotion regulation may therefore be an optimal target for frontline services in promoting resilience and good mental health. In this project, the use of Multiphase Optimization Strategy and feedback loops enables a malleable intervention and a fully transparent process in which adolescents, practitioners and researchers engage equitably. In a factorial experiment, we will test the intervention’s effect and the interplay between intervention elements, including delivery methods and implementation strategies. This warrants an intervention that is relevant for adolescents and practitioners, and that can prevent a range of mental health problems, addressing the need for local preventive mental health care services for youth. It will also generate empirical evidence on implementation and supervision factors of relevance to other service systems. The project will be located at the Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and involves collaboration with PROMENTA, WHO’s Healthy Cities, and several Norwegian municipalities.