Affiliation: Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.
Objective: Mental health treatment today incorporates neurobiology, genetics, neuro-imaging, and pharmacologic mechanisms, offering more options to patients. For some, these modern approaches are not viable choices due to reasons such as limited access to care, cost, intolerable side effects, and, in the pediatric population, fears of potential long-term effects. With the growing prevalence of chronic health conditions, concerns for age of onset, (McGorry, Purcell, Goldstone, & Amminger, 2011) and a growing population of mental health patients, cost-effective and evidencebased treatment options should be evaluated. Integrative treatments, also known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), may offer interventions that meet today’s clinical needs.
Method: To evaluate evidence-based treatment options, we initiated the school-based integrative health program (IHP) in January 2011 at three high schools located in Massachusetts. Our goal was two-fold: first, to design a holistic treatment program and evaluate several integrative modalities, and; second, to determine the feasibility of providing a CAM health program through school clinics. Our protocol utilized three integrative treatments that addressed stress and anxiety conditions. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness affecting over 40 million adults in the US (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).
Results: The program has been successfully implemented. Preliminary results indicate that this intervention decreased anxiety in these youth.
Conclusion: Providing integrative techniques to students in the school setting has the potential to decrease barriers to accessing care, lowering treatment costs and decreasing school absenteeism by instituting care on-site. Offering a holistic approach to treatment in schools is feasible. Because utilizing these approaches involves their active participation, adolescents can acquire life-long skills that improve their ability to cope and confront inevitable life stressors.