Smiling female students wearing school uniforms walking through school corridor

Proposing school-based interventions as an effective route to prevent later psychotic experiences

  • Research
  • Society

Psychotic experiences are hallucinations/delusions which can occur outside of a psychotic disorder and in the general population. They are generally transitory and remit but are considered an early marker of developing mental ill health.

Within the adolescent population, psychotic experiences are particularly common and are associated with a four-fold increased risk for psychotic disorder, and a three-fold increased risk for any mental disorder.

With the number of mental health problems among schoolchildren rising, there currently stands an unmet need to identify effective prevention-based approaches to stop cases before they occur.

Prevention is key

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences found that a school-based screen for mental health problems, combined with a referral system, can be effective at improving and protecting the mental health of adolescents.

The research, published in BMC Public Health, is the first study to examine the impact of school-based interventions on preventing psychotic experiences, an early indicator of developing mental disorders in children and adolescents.

Of the interventions tested, one consisting of a two-stage screening and selective intervention was found to significantly reduce the rates of and prevent psychotic experiences at 12-month follow-up.

Prevention for mental health has two key objectives: to reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders; and to prevent new incidences of symptoms. This study demonstrates that school-based interventions have the potential to be effective at both key aims of prevention, making a positive impact on public mental health.

Support and funding

The lead authors of this study were supported through funding provided by the European Research Council Consolidator Award (iHEAR).

The SEYLE project was supported through Coordination Theme 1 (Health) of the European Union Seventh Framework Programme.

Further support was provided by a Wellcome Trust Innovations Award, a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the European Regional Development Fund and FutureNeuro industry partners.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.