Outcomes and Moderators of a Preventive School-Based Mental Health Intervention for Children Affected by War in Sri Lanka: A Cluster Randomized Trial

Citation:

Tol, Wietse A., Ivan H. Komproe, Mark J.d. Jordans, Anavarathan Vallipuram, Heather Sipsma, Sambasivamoorthy Sivayokan, Robert D. Macy, and Joop T. De Jong. 2012. “Outcomes and Moderators of a Preventive School-Based Mental Health Intervention for Children Affected by War in Sri Lanka: A Cluster Randomized Trial.” World Psychiatry 11 (2): 114–22. doi:10.1016/j.wpsyc.2012.05.008.

Authors: Wietse A. Tol, Ivan H. Komproe, Mark J.d. Jordans, Anavarathan Vallipuram, Heather Sipsma, Sambasivamoorthy Sivayokan, Robert D. Macy, Joop T. De Jong

Abstract:

We aimed to examine outcomes, moderators and mediators of a preventive school-based mental health intervention implemented by paraprofessionals in a war-affected setting in northern Sri Lanka. A cluster randomized trial was employed. Subsequent to screening 1,370 children in randomly selected schools, 399 children were assigned to an intervention (n=199) or waitlist control condition (n=200). The intervention consisted of 15 manualized sessions over 5 weeks of cognitive behavioral techniques and creative expressive elements. As- sessments took place before, 1 week after, and 3 months after the intervention. Primary outcomes included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive, and anxiety symptoms. No main effects on primary outcomes were identified. A main effect in favor of intervention for conduct problems was observed. This effect was stronger for younger children. Furthermore, we found intervention benefits for spe- cific subgroups. Stronger effects were found for boys with regard to PTSD and anxiety symptoms, and for younger children on pro-social behavior. Moreover, we found stronger intervention effects on PTSD, anxiety, and function impairment for children experiencing lower levels of current war-related stressors. Girls in the intervention condition showed smaller reductions on PTSD symptoms than waitlisted girls. We conclude that preventive school-based psychosocial interventions in volatile areas characterized by ongoing war-related stress- ors may effectively improve indicators of psychological wellbeing and posttraumatic stress-related symptoms in some children. However, they may undermine natural recovery for others. Further research is necessary to examine how gender, age and current war-related expe- riences contribute to differential intervention effects.

Keywords: armed conflict, political violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, school-based intervention, prevention, Sri Lanka

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Girls, Boys, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Violence Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2012

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