MAKINGtheLINK: A school-based intervention to improve help-seeking for substance use problems

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Abstract

Background

Many young people are reluctant to seek professional help for alcohol and other substance use problems, preferring to rely on family and friends. MAKINGtheLINK is a school-based intervention that teaches adolescents how to help their peers overcome barriers to engaging with professional help. The current study examined the effect of the MAKINGtheLINK programme in a sample of 12- to 15-year-old students.

Methods

Participants included 247 Grade 8 students (49% male, 51% female) recruited from 3 schools in Victoria, Australia. Participants completed questionnaires measuring barriers to professional help-seeking, help-seeking intentions and confidence to seek help at 3 time points (pre-intervention, post-intervention and 6-week follow-up). A non-controlled repeated measures design was used to assess the effect of the programme on help-seeking across time points.

Results

The programme decreased barriers, increased intentions to seek help from formal sources, decreased intentions to seek help from family and increased confidence to seek help for a peer. The decrease in barriers was maintained at the 6-week follow-up, as were decreased intentions to seek help from family members, and increased intentions to seek help from school counsellors and alcohol and drug workers. The effects of the intervention did not differ substantially between males and females.

Conclusions

The MAKINGtheLINK is the first intervention to focus on overcoming barriers to help-seeking for substance use problems by helping adolescents develop skills to support their peers. The intervention has promise as a means of facilitating help-seeking during adolescence, although further research is needed to test its effectiveness in a more rigorous design.

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