Systematic review of resilience-enhancing, universal, primary school-based mental health promotion programs
Dahlberg, Emma E.
Thompson, Sandra C.
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Background: Wellbeing and resilience are essential in preventing and reducing the severity of mental health problems. Equipping children with coping skills and protective behavior can help them react positively to change and obstacles in life, allowing greater mental, social and academic success. This systematic review studies the implementation and evaluation of universal, resilience-focused mental health promotion programs based in primary schools. Methods: A systematic review of literature used five primary databases: PsycINFO; Web of Science; PubMed; Medline; Embase and The Cochrane Library; and keywords related to (a) health education, health promotion, mental health, mental health promotion, social and emotional wellbeing; (b) school health service, student, schools, whole-school; (c) adolescent, child, school child, pre-adolescent; (d) emotional intelligence, coping behavior, emotional adjustment, resilienc*, problem solving, to identify relevant articles. Articles included featured programs that were universally implemented in a primary school setting and focused on teaching of skills, including coping skills, help-seeking behaviors, stress management, and mindfulness, and were aimed at the overall goal of increasing resilience among students. Results: Of 3087 peer-reviewed articles initially identified, 475 articles were further evaluated with 11 reports on evaluations of 7 school-based mental health promotion programs meeting the inclusion criteria. Evaluation tools used in program evaluation are also reviewed, with successful trends in evaluations discussed. Encouraging results were seen when the program was delivered by teachers within the schools. Length of programing did not seem important to outcomes. Across all 7 programs, few long-term sustained effects were recorded following program completion. Conclusions: This review provides evidence that mental health promotion programs that focus on resilience and coping skills have positive impacts on the students’ ability to manage daily stressors.