Mental Health Research

‘Preventing adolescent mental illness and substance use through teacher-delivered interventions targeting personality risk factors.’

University of Sydney, NSW
Awarded 2019

“Anxiety, mood and alcohol use disorders have significant social and economic impacts, due to their high prevalence, early age of onset, and chronic disabling course.”

Researcher Profile

Dr Erin Kelly is a Clinical Psychologist at The Matilda Centre, University of Sydney. She completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales, for which she was awarded the Australian Rotary Health and the Alliance for the Prevention of Mental Disorders for Research Excellence Award, PhD Researcher Award (2018). Her research interest is prevention and early intervention for substance use and mental disorders, with a particular focus on adolescents.

She is the lead trainer of the Preventure program in Australia, a personality-focused brief intervention for preventing substance use and mental disorders in adolescents.

Project Summary

Anxiety, mood and alcohol use disorders are common disorders that contribute to significant harm. There is a critical need to intervene early in the trajectory of these disorders to prevent chronic and debilitating harms in adulthood. Existing prevention programs for mental health and alcohol use among adolescents typically show only modest effects and their implementation is limited. Despite the established co-occurrence and shared risk factors between anxiety, depression and alcohol use, existing interventions typically target single disorders, rather than adopting an integrated approach.

The aim of the current project is to test the effectiveness of a brief personality-targeted program, Preventure, in preventing the escalation of anxiety, depression and alcohol use in young Australians by targeting shared risk factors. The Preventure program has been shown to be effective in reducing alcohol use and symptoms of depression and anxiety among high-school students in Australia when delivered by clinical psychologists, however, the next crucial step is to examine whether these effects remain when Preventure is delivered by teachers.

A cluster randomised controlled trial will be conducted with six high-schools allocated to receive the Preventure intervention, and six high-schools allocated to a control condition who will receive their usual Health and Physical Education curriculum. The Preventure program components equip adolescents to better cope with their personality styles. Preventure will be delivered by trained teachers of high-risk adolescents in the intervention schools. Students will complete assessments of their mental health and alcohol use at baseline and at 6- and 12-month follow-up.

Co-Investigators: A/Professor Nicola Newton, Dr Louise Birrell & Dr Lexine Stapinski