Closing the gap between screening and depression prevention: A qualitative stdy on barriers and facilitators from the perspective of public health professionals in a school-based prevention approach
Braam, M.W.G., Rasing, S.P.A., Heijs, D.A.M., Lokkerbol, J., van Bergen, D.D., Creemers, D.H.M., & Spijker, J.
Background: The prevalence of depression has increased among adolescents in western countries. Prevention is needed to reduce the number of adolescents who experience depression and to avoid negative consequences, including suicide. Several preventive interventions are found to be promising, especially multi-modal approaches, for example combining screening and preventive intervention. However, an important bottleneck arises during the implementation of preventive intervention. Only a small percentage of adolescents who are eligible for participation actually participate in the intervention. To ensure that more adolescents can benefit from prevention, we need to close the gap between detection and preventive intervention. We investigated the barriers and facilitators from the perspective of public health professionals in screening for depressive and suicidal symptoms and depression prevention referral in a school-based setting. Methods: We conducted 13 semi-structured interviews with public health professionals, who execute screening and depression prevention referral within the Strong Teens and Resilient Minds (STORM) approach. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded in several cycles using ATLAS.ti Web. Results: Three main themes of barriers and facilitators emerged from the interviews, namely "professional capabilities," "organization and collaboration," and "beliefs about depressive and suicidal symptoms and participation in prevention". The interviews revealed that professionals do not always feel sufficiently equipped in terms of knowledge, skills and supporting networks. Consequently, they do not always feel well able to execute the process of screening and prevention referral. In addition, a lack of knowledge and support in schools and other cooperating organizationorganizations was seen to hinder the process. Last, the beliefs of public health professionals, school staff, adolescents, and parents -especially stigma and taboo-were found to make the screening and prevention referral process more challenging. Conclusions: To further improve the process of screening and prevention referral in a school-based setting, enhancing professional competence and a holding work environment for professionals, a strong collaboration and a joint approach with schools and other cooperating organizations and society wide education about depressive and suicidal symptoms and preventive intervention are suggested. Future research should determine whether these recommendations actually lead to closing the gap between detection and prevention.