Secondary school represents a key developmental stage- the transition to adolescence and the brink of adulthood, and a time when mental health problems often emerge. It is also a time when transitional age youth try psychoactive substances for the first time, presenting a unique opportunity for early detection and intervention, with the potential to make significant impact on their future health and development. An ongoing challenge for schools and health systems is providing early supports and services that are not only sufficiently available, but also accessible and acceptable for this age group. Many services only become available when disorders are evident, missing a critical window for preventative and psycho-educational early intervention. Young people may face excessive wait times for counsellors or physicians and encounter additional challenges due to issues of privacy, stigma, not feeling comfortable sharing these issues with parents or educators, and lacking information about available support options.
The Younger Minds project will leverage ongoing screening tools and administrative data to ascertain substance use and mental health needs at the neighbourhood, school, district and regional levels and develop an evidence-based digital intervention to increase coverage, acceptability and utilization of services that promote wellbeing, build resilience and prevent disordered substance use and mental health problems. Building on the successful development of Minder, an app created as part of the Student e-Mental Health Project – a multi-site trial that seeks to improve both mental health and substance use outcomes for university students, the Younger Minds Project will adapt, implement, and evaluate Minder within a secondary school context.
The Younger Minds Project is a 2-year Health Canada funded study to promote mental health wellbeing and prevent disordered substance use among secondary school students.