School Mental Health Curriculum Effects on Peer Violence Victimization and Perpetration: A Cluster-Randomized Trial

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John Wiley & Sons, Inc / American School Health Association


Addressing school violence is an important public health goal. To assess the role of school mental health curricula in violence prevention, we evaluated effects of an anti-stigma curriculum on violence victimization/perpetration. METHODS
An ethnically/socioeconomically diverse sample of 751 sixth-graders (mean age 11.5 years) across 14 schools in Texas were block-randomized by school (2011-2012) to receive singly or in combination: (1) a mental illness anti-stigma curriculum; (2) contact with 2 young adults with mental illness; or (3) merged control (printed materials/no intervention). Pre- and post-test assessments were self-completed during health education classes; prior to randomization, 484 (64.5%) agreed to 2-year, home-based longitudinal assessments. Statistical models tested short- and long-term effects on physical, verbal, and relational/social violence victimization/perpetration. RESULTS
At 1-month post-test, students who received the curriculum versus control made fewer verbal threats (p < .05). Those with high-level mental health symptoms in the curriculum group versus control used less violence overall and received fewer verbal threats from peers short-term (p < .05). Curriculum effects of reducing violence perpetration sustained long-term among adolescents with high-symptoms (p < .01). The comparator contact intervention was ineffective short- and long-term. CONCLUSIONS
Implementing efficacious mental health curricula can serve as a multi-pronged strategy with anti-bulling efforts to prevent violence and improve mental health.