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Prevention can help break the cycle of poor mental health in families (USA)

October 18, 2012

A review of studies found that children of parents with a mental illness, can benefit from a reduced risk of mental illness and reduced risk of psychological symptoms when support for prevention is introduced. A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies showed that cognitive, behavioural, or psychoeducational interventions reduced the risk of the same mental illness developing in children by 40 per cent. Internalizing symptoms (such as negative emotions in newborns, depressive symptoms and anxiety) were significantly reduced among children in the participating groups compared to the non-participating groups. Externalizing symptoms (such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness) were also reduced, but not by a statistically significant level.

The program interventions included those aimed at improved parenting skills for families/parents and improved mental health literacy among adolescents of parents with mental illness. Thirteen randomized control trials representing a total of 1,490 children were analyzed.

Parent mental health issues included depression, alcohol or drug dependence and anxiety disorders. The authors suggest that since the parents included in the study were predominantly those with affective disorders and depression and most were mothers, the results are mainly applicable to these groups. The program interventions did not include systematic drug treatments for parents which could point to a potential for greater improvement in child outcomes, according to the authors.

See ” Effect of Preventive Interventions in Mentally Ill Parents on the Mental Health of the Offspring: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry available on the JAACAP website.

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