Activities in schools can help increase children's satisfaction with their own performance.
The prevalence of childhood mental illness is increasing, and contributes to the likelihood of mood disorders in adulthood for these children. Early intervention, before clinical impairment, would help achieve better mental health outcomes for them, but treatment services are not funded to meet this need. An alternative is to identify and offer preventative interventions.
Ema Tokolahi, one of our lecturers in Occupational Therapy, has been researching this issue, working with collaborators at Auckland University of Technology. They designed an occupational therapy intervention, Kia Piki te Hauora, to increase children's participation in daily occupations, which they hoped would improve self-esteem and prevent symptoms of anxiety and depression. The intervention has been piloted with 142 children with early symptoms who were 11-13 years old in Years 7 and 8 at 14 Auckland schools. The intervention ran for one hour per week over one eight week school term. Data from children, parents and teachers were gathered, with both baseline and post-intervention measures.
Results showed that the intervention had a statistically significant positive effect on the children's satisfaction with their performance when participating in everyday occupations they had wanted to improve. However a reduction in symptoms of anxiety was reported only by teachers, not by the children or their parents; this could be attributable to low baseline levels of anxiety, or to the limited opportunities the children had to engage in the intervention during the study period. The intervention could be more effective if redesigned to embed it into the daily routine of the classroom with teacher involvement in facilitation.
Image credit: Alessandra, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0