Purpose: To investigate the effectiveness of a universal intervention designed to reduce depressive symptoms experienced by adolescents at high school. The results from annual assessments during the 3-year intervention and a 2-year follow-up are reported. Methods: Twenty-five pairs of secondary schools matched on socio-economic status were randomly assigned to either an intervention or a comparison group (n = 5,633 year 8 students, mean age = 13.1 years, SD = .5). The intervention used a comprehensive classroom curriculum program, enhancements to school climate, improvements in care pathways, and community forums. A range of measures completed by students and teachers was used to assess changes in depressive symptoms, risk and protective factors relevant to depression, and the quality of the school environment. Results: Changes in the levels of depressive symptoms and in the levels of risk and protective factors experienced by students in the two groups did not differ significantly over the 5 years of the study. Statistically significant differences in the ratings of school climate across this time were found only for teacher-rated assessments. Conclusions: There was little evidence that a multicomponent universal intervention delivered over a 3-year period reduced levels of depressive symptoms among participating students. Implementing universal interventions to improve student mental health is difficult in school settings that commonly have a crowded agenda of educational and health-related programs. Successful implementation will require programs which are perceived by teachers and students as relevant to educational and learning goals, and which can be effectively delivered in conjunction with other school programs.
- Universal intervention