Category: Dissemination / Implementation


Promoting Youth Mental Health via After-School Activities: Open Trial of Leaders @ Play 2.0

Friday, November 17
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Aqua 310, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Adolescents | Service Delivery | Prevention
Presentation Type: Symposium

About 1 in 5 children have a serious mental health disorder (Merikangas et al., 2010) and up to 50% do not receive services (Simon et al., 2015). Calls for a public health framework (Atkins & Frazier, 2011; Institute of Medicine 2001) propose that services span the prevention to intervention continuum and extend into non-specialty settings, including after-school programs, that can provide refuge from neighborhood violence and opportunities for exercise, social skills development, and positive peer relations (Durlak & Weissburg, 2010).  Leaders @ Play (L@P) is an after-school program for urban middle school youth developed via university-community partnership, co-facilitated by park staff and mental health staff, and designed to teach and reinforce life skills through recreation. Open Trial analyses (n=3 parks, 46 youth, 100% African American, 59% female, M=13.09 years old) revealed high feasibility, improved social skills, and reduced problem behaviors.

Consistent with the Clinic/Community Intervention Development Model (CID; Burns & Hoagwood, 2002), and through stakeholder engagement, data analysis, and participant observation, we continued to iteratively refine and test L@P in parks. Specifically, L@P was refined to (1) prioritize sports and physical activity (versus recreational games) to more closely align with park mission and routines, (2) increase frequency of relaxation skills practice, and (3) provide formal training to park staff. A second open trial (n=5 parks, 6-week summer camp format) explored feasibility of the refined curriculum and impact on youth (n=38 youth, 31% Hispanic; 26% African American; 55% low-income, 57% male, M=13.24 years old). Preliminary analyses reveal high feasibility, with on average 84% of agenda items completed per session and an average attendance rate of 73.6%. Preliminary analyses (Reliable change index; Jacobson & Traux, 1991) indicate that 87% of participants (13 of 15) maintained or improved social skills and 20% or participants (3 of 15) decreased problem behaviors. Implications for workforce development and program refinement of prevention programs are discussed.

Tara Mehta

University of Illinois at Chicago


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Eduardo Bustamante


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