Sunday, 20 July 2014

Primary school children should have therapy to cut anxiety, say scientists at University of Exeter

Children as young as nine would benefit from cognitive behavioiural therapy, scientists said

       Children as young as nine would benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, scientists said

Children as young as nine should receive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in school to help them combat anxiety, scientists say.
New research from the Universities of Exeter, Bath, Cardiff and Oxford found such prevention programmes “significantly reduce” anxiety symptoms in Year Five pupils.
The study, of more than 1,300 youngsters aged between nine and ten, also highlighted the benefits of CBT lessons in the classroom for all children – regardless of their anxiety level.
Researchers say the issue is “very common” in children, with 10% affected by an anxiety disorder by the age of 16.
Lessons in CBT involve teaching pupils how to identify and manage their emotions, replace anxious thoughts and develop problem-solving skills to cope with anxiety provoking situations.
Lead author Professor Paul Stallard, of the University of Bath’s Department for Health, said introducing the lessons would be a proactive, preventative approach.
“Schools provide a convenient location to deliver emotional health prevention programmes for children,” Prof Stallard said.
“Whilst there are a number of school based programmes, few have been scientifically evaluated to determine what effect they have on children’s emotional health.
“The results of our study are very encouraging and show that FRIENDS, a CBT programme, teaches children skills to effectively manage their anxiety.”
In the project, Preventing Anxiety in Children through Education in Schools, the researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness of CBT lessons for 9-10-year-olds.
The researchers enrolled 1,362 pupils from 40 state schools in the South West and followed them for one year.
School year groups were assigned to receive either classroom-based CBT lessons led by teachers, CBT lessons led by health facilitators or standard school provision.
Schools classed as following “standard school provision” were those following social and emotional aspects of learning currently within the curriculum.
Pupils were given nine hour-long CBT lessons, which were provided to whole classes as part of the school curriculum.
Results showed the most effective method of reducing anxiety occurred when external health facilitators conducted the lessons, rather than teachers.
Both children with low and high levels of anxiety saw a reduction in their symptoms in the 12 months of the study.
In the study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the authors write: “Universally delivered programmes offer the potential to reduce present symptoms, enhance overall emotional wellbeing, and potentially shift population means over time.
“Our findings support this theory and show that children in the low-anxiety health-led FRIENDS group showed markedly lower anxiety symptoms at 12 months than did those in the usual school provision group.
“Because fears, anxiety and stress are common in children, anxiety prevention programmes might be especially suited to universal delivery.
“However, our data suggests that the same programme can result in different effects depending on those who deliver it.”
The team are now assessing whether reductions in anxiety are maintained after the children transfer to secondary school.
Professor Harry Daniels, from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford added: “These are important findings.
“The intervention offers an affordable and practical response to the challenges of promoting emotional health in schools.
“The need to improve the mental health of children is being increasingly recognised as a global priority given the associated health risks, and the economic and social costs, if such anxieties are not dealt with early on.”
Classroom-based cognitive therapy (FRIENDS): a cluster randomised controlled trial to Prevent Anxiety in Children through Education in Schools was published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

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