In Lebanon, approximately one in four adolescents suffers from a psychiatric disorder. Alarmingly, 94% of adolescents with a mental disorder have not sought any treatment. A new study, conducted by researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Medicin at the American University of Beirut, University of Iowa, Edith Cowan University and Harvard Medical School, assessed the effectiveness of an evidence-based school-based universal mental health intervention (the FRIENDS program) in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms in middle school students in Lebanon.
A total of 280 6th graders aged 11–13 years were recruited from 10 schools in Beirut. The FRIENDS program was translated into Arabic, adapted, and then implemented by trained mental health professionals during 10 classroom sessions over 3 months. The researchers assessed sociodemographic and relevant psychological symptoms by self-report, using the Scale for Childhood Anxiety and Related Disorders (SCARED), Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ), and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), at baseline.
The study finds that the FRIENDS program was effective in reducing general emotional and depressive symptoms among middle school students in this Lebanese study population. This intervention provides an opportunity for promoting mental health in Lebanese schools and reducing the treatment gap in mental health care.