This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by the EPPI Centre Health Promotion and Public Health Reviews Reviews Facility
Young people's views
- Efforts to prevent mental illness or promote mental health should not rely on the presentation of information alone, but should include skill development components using behavioural techniques, which should be reinforced by support at different levels (e.g. classroom, school, home, community, society).
- Mental health problems are a risk factor for poor outcomes. A Rapid Assessment Exercise investigated the risk and protective factors for mental health and looked at systematic reviews of interventions. Full details can be found in the report.
- Few studies provided any useful data that might be used to examine the impact of CBT-based interventions on inequalities in mental health. Although conclusions about impact of cognitive-behavioural therapy on inequalities are therefore tentative, there are suggestions that it might be less effective for people who are more socio-economically disadvantaged.
- Interventions to promote positive self-esteem have been limited in their effectiveness. A six week programme to teach young women how to recognise and restructure self-defeating thoughts was effective for improving knowledge about the technique. A course providing information and skill development for young people and their families to promote self-esteem was judged to have no effect on self-concept and to be unclear in its effects on measures of family adaptability and cohesion.
- Interventions to promote positive self-esteem are more likely to be effective if self-esteem is the main focus of the intervention, rather than just one component of a broad mental health initiative.
- Studies on depression prevention showed that knowledge-based sessions of short duration are not effective in improving long-term depressive symptoms, risk factors, knowledge, attitudes or intentions.
- One systematic review  found that cognitive-behavioural therapy delivered to young people in secondary schools can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Click here for a knowledge page on suicide.
Young people's views
- Young people's views include the inappropriateness of asking young people about mental health, which they tend to equate with mental illness (and so as a problem belonging to other people and not relevant to their own lives); their surprisingly sophisticated understandings of useful coping strategies; their wide range of concerns, from unhealthy school practices to environmental pollution and poverty; and the irrelevance of many traditional health promotion materials and approaches to young people's pragmatic, everyday worries and interests.
Online eating disorder content
- Three main themes were identified from a qualitative evidence synthesis: (1) comparing (2) curating and (3) community. The comparing theme illustrates how young people use online content to evaluate their own and others’ bodies and behaviours. The curating theme explores the ways in which young people manage and create this content. The community theme explores the reasons why young people are drawn to social spaces where content is shared, and what purposes these spaces serve. The complex and contradictory nature of online platforms could be summed up as offering a ‘double-edged sword’; on one hand these online communities offer refuge for young people with lived experience of ED who may feel unsupported, but equally, online content could also trigger and prolong harmful behaviour.' 
1. Young people and mental health: a systematic review of research on barriers and facilitators (2001)
2. Targeted youth support: Rapid Evidence Assessment of effective early interventions for youth at risk of future poor outcomes (2008)
3. Inequalities and the mental health of young people: a systematic review of secondary school-based cognitive behavioural interventions (2009)
4. Young people and online eating disorder content: a qualitative evidence synthesis (2023)