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Two Area Hospitals are Working to Stem Mental Health and Substance Abuse Concerns

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Officials at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School recently launched a program designed to address mental health and substance abuse concerns.

“We are in the middle of a youth mental health crisis,” the report states, adding that “far too often,” mental health matters and substance abuse go undetected.”

The increased need for help “far exceeds the resources available at school and in the community,” according to the report.

The number of available hospital beds for mental health issues is not enough. So the two entities are aiming to “address these concerning trends.” The Harvard funded program partners with schools across the country, and helps to identify adolescents in need of emotional help.

The program is for those teens who have never used addictive substances and also for those who have.

There are two phases to this program: 

  • the school-wide assessment
  • the clinical research projects.

School-Wide Assessment (First Phase): 

✓ All students will complete a very brief one-time survey about substance use and mental health. ✓ This will take place during the week of November 12. Study staff from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School will distribute and collect surveys during homeroom or advisory periods. ✓ 

The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete and will be confidential! ✓ During the survey, your child will be asked about a variety of different things. For example:

Basic demographics (e.g., age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity)

✓ Mental health (e.g., symptoms of depression, anxiety, emotion dysregulation)

✓ Substance use (e.g., lifetime and current use of alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine)

✓ Others have been used to create a unique, ANONYMOUS code (i.e., it cannot be used to identify a student) for all completed surveys (e.g., eye color, hair color, first three letters of their street name in 5th grade, middle initial) ✓

Clinical Research Projects (Second Phase)

If your child is interested in learning about the second phase of our research programming (which will be described below), they will complete a separate optional form with their contact information so that we can reach out to them about details of our current offerings and convey the need for parental consent for any further participation. ✓ 

If you do NOT want your child to participate in this survey: you must email projectarches@mgh.harvard.edu by November 8. There will be no penalty or consequence to you or your child for opting out of the survey. If the study staff does not hear from you by November 8, it will be assumed that you consent to your child completing this brief and confidential questionnaire. Even if you do not object to your child completing this survey, your child is in no way required to do it if they do not want to. 

✓ If your child completes the survey and would like to be involved in the second phase of this program, we will provide you with more details on the projects available, give you the opportunity to ask any questions you have, and will require your written consent if your child is under the age of 18 before they are enrolled in any of our projects. Clinical Research Projects 

(Second Phase):

 If your child completes the school-wide assessment, wants to take part in the second phase of the program, and you give your written permission for enrollment (if they are under the age of 18), they will be matched to a project currently offered by our team. Examples of some of our current projects include: 

✓ A drug education and youth empowerment curriculum aimed at teaching adolescents about how drugs affect their brains and bodies, challenging them to make healthy decisions in line with their core values. ✓ A one-month and six-month marijuana abstinence study investigating the effects of marijuana use on cognition, mood, sleep, and other substance use. This study recruits both users and non-users to participate. ✓ The first ever clinical trial evaluating the benefits of group-behavioral counseling and pharmacotherapy to help youth stop vaping. ✓ A parent and child resiliency intervention for adolescents at risk for serious mental illness. Adolescents who are not currently receiving treatment and their parents can take part in group-based, clinician organized therapy sessions meant to provide guidance, training and support as families address mental health concerns and symptoms. ✓ A virtual reality group intervention for adolescents at risk for mental health concerns. 

What about privacy and confidentiality? 

We ensure that all information provided to us remains confidential. All questionnaires, interviews, and other information provided to us will only have an identification number on them; none will have names or other identifying information. None of the information your child provides will be available to anyone, including school officials or personnel. How do I find out more information? If you would like to learn more about our program, please reach out to Dr. Randi Schuster at (617) 643-6673 or Rschuster@mgh.harvard.edu. If you would like to opt your child out of the school-wide assessment, please contact our team directly at   projectarches@mgh.harvard.edu by November 8th. If you would like to see the school-wide assessment to learn more about the content of the survey, please contact our team directly at rschuster@mgh.harvard.edu. If you’d like to speak to someone not involved in this research about your rights as a research subject, or any concerns or complaints you may have about the research, contact the Mass General Brigham IRB at (857) 282-1900. 

How do I find out more information?

If you would like to learn more about our program, please reach out to Dr. Randi Schuster at (617) 643-6673 or Rschuster@mgh.harvard.edu. If you would like to opt your child out of the school-wide assessment, please contact our team directly at projectarches@mgh.harvard.edu by November 8th. If you would like to see the school-wide assessment to learn more about the content of the survey, please contact our team directly at rschuster@mgh.harvard.edu. If you’d like to speak to someone not involved in this research about your rights as a research subject, or any concerns or complaints you may have about the research, contact the Mass General Brigham IRB at (857) 282-1900