This study examined the impact of practitioner-delivered school-based mental health (SBMH) services in middle school settings.
The negative consequences for victims and perpetrators of school violence are significant, multifaceted and, if left unchecked, can have personal costs that may last well into their adult lives. Universal violence preventive interventions may not be sufficiently effective in mitigating problems among middle school youth who exhibit a risk of violent behavior. School-based mental health (SBMH) approaches show promise for reducing problems among the minority of youth responsible for violence perpetration, although the impact of teacher-delivered SBMH has been somewhat limited. The current study used (a) a three-armed randomized controlled trial (RCT) that compared expanded SBMH and enhanced SBMH to standard SBMH and (b) a separate quasi-experiment that compared the three SBMH arms in the RCT to a separate set of non-randomized, non-SBMH schools. The study found that SBMH schools which expanded their services experienced decreases in aggressive behavior and victimization across both study structures that were either statistically significant, meaningful based on Cohen effect size conventions, or both. These results suggest that the expansion of practitioner-delivered mental health services to youth who are at risk of violence perpetration but would otherwise be ineligible for or unable to afford such services achieves a significant impact on the larger school environment. (publisher abstract modified)