Promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents in Malaysia

  • Monday, December 19, 2022

Researchers, led by Professor Cecilia A. Essau at the University of Roehampton London, are set to begin a 3-year study that will examine the effects of a school-based programme after being awarded with £680k of funding by the Kavli Trust Programme for Health Research.

Image - Promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents in Malaysia

In collaboration with the University of Exeter, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and 5 universities in Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Sunway University, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Malaya), Professor Essau and her team will undertake a new study evaluating a school-based psychosocial intervention among adolescents who are at high risk of developing anxiety and/or depression.

From May 2023 to April 2026, the research team will evaluate whether Super Skills for Life (SSL) – a psychosocial intervention delivered by school staff – is successful in reducing anxiety and depression and at promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents, age 12-14 years, from low-income communities in Malaysia.

The study will be conducted across 20 schools in economically deprived regions in the Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah, and Selangor. If proven to have significant impact on adolescent’s outcomes and represent good value for money, the study will influence health and education policy and practice and provide a model for promoting mental health in Malaysia and other low- and middle-income countries.

The study will also generate new knowledge that will enhance the understanding of interventions to promote mental health in vulnerable adolescents.

Professor Cecilia A. Essau, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the School of Psychology said, “We are absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity to undertake this research, particularly as adolescents from low-income households who are at high risk of developing anxiety and/or depression often do not have access to treatment due to cost and stigmas related to mental health problems.

Training school staff to facilitate psychosocial intervention has the potential to reduce the treatment gap and deliver sustainable and accessible services by leveraging existing mental health care systems in low- and middle-income countries.”