Schools Might Want to Cool It With the Mental Health Stuff

Recent research suggests the increased focus on mental health might not improve mental health
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2024 5:15 PM CDT
Schools Might Want to Cool It With the Mental Health Stuff
   (Getty Images / Drazen Zigic)

The increase in mental health education and support at schools can only be a good thing, right? Turns out it might not be quite that simple: Research from recent years finds that a focus on mental health awareness can sometimes backfire for young people, the New York Times reports.

  • In the UK and Australia, researchers looked at students who participated in mental health intervention programs at school that included training in mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy. Not only did they find those students were not any better off than students who didn't take part, they found some of them actually had worse outcomes, at least temporarily. Per PsyPost, in the Australia study, teens who participated in the program reported slight increases in anxiety and depression symptoms and other mental health problems, including a decrease in overall quality of life. Six months on, while most of the differences between that group and the control group had vanished, those in the intervention group still reported worse relationships with parents.

  • Similarly, recent research in the US found an association between young people who self-label as having anxiety or depression and poor coping skills including rumination and avoidance. A study on self-labeling (using psychiatric language to describe your own distress, per Mad in America) in Texas also found that such behavior had a harmful effect on self-esteem for young people.
  • Two research psychologists last year came up with the "prevalence inflation hypothesis," or the idea that an increased focus on mental health awareness is "leading some individuals to interpret and report milder forms of distress as mental health problems," which then in turn causes an increase in symptoms as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
(More mental health stories.)

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