Purpose: Child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) problems are common and serious all over the world and are linked to pre-mature deaths and serious dysfunction in adult life. Effective interventions have been developed in high income countries (HIC), but evidence from low income settings is scarce and scattered. The aim of this paper is to identify the most promising interventions in the area of global CAMH.
Method: A systematic review of all randomised controlled trials in CAMH in low and middle income countries (LAMIC) was carried out and supplemented by 1a level evidence from HIC as well as suitable information from child programme evaluations and adult studies in LAMIC.
Results: In behavioural disorders parent training is a highly promising intervention, which can successfully improve children's compliance and bring down rates of conduct problems significantly. In young children cognitive, emotional and behavioural development can be enhanced through nutritional supplements and by stimulation through play, praise and reading. Trauma treatments can bring positive results even in severely traumatised children, who remain in unstable living conditions. In developmental disorders, there are successful prevention strategies as well as programmes that bring children out of isolation and improve their independence. Some classroom-based interventions for adolescents have reduced symptoms of common mental disorders as well as risk taking behaviours.
Conclusions: While many results are still tentative the evidence suggests that it is possible to develop affordable and feasible interventions that significantly improve the lives of affected children, their families and their communities around the world.