Children and adolescents are among the most vulnerable groups affected by natural and man-made disaster. To better understand research and practice concerning mental health and psychosocial support efforts in humanitarian settings, the authors conducted a comprehensive review of all intervention programmes within the past decade that universally targeted children and adolescents who were exposed to a natural and/or man-made disaster.
We searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Cochrane Library and CINAHL for mental health and psychosocial interventions (MHPSS) involving children and adolescents. A total of 11 studies, 4 from natural disasters and 7 from conflict-affected areas met the inclusion criteria. Effect sizes were calculated using a random effects model for studies in post-natural disaster and war/terrorist-affected settings separately.
The weighted mean effect sizes for interventions in both settings were statistically significant: -0.308, 95% CI=-0.54- -0.07, z=-2.58, p=0.010 after a natural disaster, and -0.514, 95% CI=-0.80 to -0.23, z=-3.57, p<0.001 in conflict areas. This indicates that MHPSS interventions in both disaster settings resulted in a reduction in PTSD symptoms compared to the control.
This review suggests that school-based, universal programmes that are conducted by teachers or local paraprofessionals are effective in reducing PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents. The few studies meeting the inclusion criteria of this study demonstrate the need for further expansion of statistical methods and study designs to test for the effects of interventions in challenging humanitarian settings.
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