Mental Health Intervention Programming for Youth

Mental Health Interventions: Community & Prevention Programming for Youth

Let’s face it, the world our children live in is different from the one we grew up in. With more exposure to negative factors due to social media, it is understandable that more and more children are experiencing behavioral health concerns.

In fact, 1 in 7 children between the ages of 10 and 19 experience mental health conditions.

A lot of a person’s mental, emotional, and behavioral development happens before they are even old enough to vote.

So what can we do about it? Developing positive promotion programming and mental health interventions.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • 5 ways to promote positive mental health in youth
  • Intensity levels of interventions
  • Prevention by developmental age
  • SAMHSA’s strategic prevention framework

Let’s begin.


Mental health promotion is when you socially engage youth through their communities, schools, organizations, or families.

This approach promotes positive mental health outcomes by utilizing and rewarding the youth’s strengths and providing opportunities and support.

The goal is to help foster positive relationships with their peers and family and build on their strengths.

5 Ways To Promote Positive Mental Health

There are many factors that impact youths’ mental health. Therefore, there are many different areas in their life where you can promote positive mental health.

1. Early Childhood Interventions

Being a parent is hard, we know that first-hand. The things you do as a parent, even while still pregnant, can have lasting effects on your child.

That is why it is important for a parent to learn parenting skills, the different stages of child development, and the appropriate disciplinary actions for each stage. Being able to promote healthy habits and a positive mindset early on can help your child as they grow.

Some ways to promote positive mental health in early childhood include home visits for pregnant parents or preschool psychosocial activities.

2. Providing Support

When children lack support from family or elders in their life, they can look elsewhere. Creating a place where children can feel heard and supported can promote their well-being.

One tactic that helps improve the mental health of youth is to emphasize and support their skills. Creating skills-building programs or child and youth development programs can give them something beneficial to focus their energy and attention on.

3. Vulnerable Population Programs

These are programs made specifically to support children who belong to vulnerable groups, such as

  • Minorities
  • Indigenous people
  • Migrants
  • Those affected by conflicts and disasters

For example, a psychosocial intervention may be necessary after a hate crime or school shooting.

4. Incorporating School

Children spend most of their youth in schools. Much of who they become is from their interactions with peers and teachers at school.

Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate mental health promotional activities in schools. Some examples are programs supporting ecological changes in schools or creating programs for teachers or student support staff to get trained on creating a positive school culture.

5. Community Development Programs

In order to get the community’s involvement, you need to know what protective factors and risk factors influence youth.

5 protective factors that promote positive mental health in youth:

  • Opportunities
  • Skills
  • Recognition
  • Connectedness
  • Standards of behavior

When children are surrounded by a community that has a big presence of drug use, violence, and crime, it can increase the probability of behavioral health issues later on.

There are 5 phases to creating community-wide strategies: asses readiness, get leadership commitment, use data to assess community needs, test effectiveness, and finally implement strategies.



While promotion is done to improve the mental health of youth, prevention is intended to minimize mental health problems by addressing them before they are identified. Prevention programming varies based on the various levels of intensity needed and the developmental phase of the child.

Levels of Mental Health Interventions

As a problem increases so does its level of intensity. As the intensity grows, the prevention becomes more individualized.

Universal Prevention

General mental health interventions are typically used when there isn’t one person in particular who has been identified as having an issue. As the name suggests, mental health interventions can be applied to anyone and is usually used universally.

A good example of this would be a mental health or substance abuse curriculum for all children in the school. This is beneficial because it helps prevent any future issues that might arise, and it also provides children with the tools they need to identify these issues early on and seek help if necessary.

Selective Prevention Interventions

Early intervention is vital for individuals or a sub-group who exhibit biological, psychological, or social risk factors known to be associated with the onset of mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders.

An example of early intervention would be a support group for children exposed to domestic violence or substance abuse at home. Children who are exposed to this type of thing by their family may not show any signs now, but could later down the road. We can help prevent them from developing any disorders by intervening early on.

Indicated Preventative Interventions

This intervention is for high-risk individuals who have been identified as having signs or symptoms of a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. This can include those who have a biological predisposition for such a disorder, but who do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis at the current time.

For example, a program to develop social skills and coping mechanisms for children or youth who have been referred to child-serving systems due to their behavioral challenges, substance use, or truancy.


Lastly, the most intense type of intervention is for individuals who currently have a diagnosable disorder. The aim of this type of intervention is to cure or reduce the symptoms or effects of the disorder.

For example, individual/family/group psychotherapy or evidence-based practice for an individual or family that has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.


Prevention by Developmental Age

Just like a child’s discipline varies by age, so too do the prevention programs. This is because as they age there will be changes in their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional abilities.

The developmental stages include:

  • Prior to conception
  • Prenatal
  • Infancy
  • Early childhood
  • Childhood
  • Early Adolescence
  • Adolescence
  • Young Adulthood

From conception to age 5 is one of the most significant stages of development because changes occur at a much faster rate than other stages. Meanwhile, adolescence is when significant biological and social factors change and affect behavioral decision-making.

SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Program Framework

Prevention programs aren’t something you can just throw together. They require lots of research and adjustments before they are beneficial.

The Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administrations (SAMHSA)’s framework consists of:

  • Assessment – Gathering data to identify the youth’s problem and influencing factors
  • Capacity – Creating resources to address the problem and its factors
  • Planning – Developing a plan that details the prevention, programs to address problems and expected outcomes
  • Implementation – Implementing the plan and optimizing programs
  • Evaluation – Examine program to identify lessons learned and new opportunities to improve program

Keep in mind this graphic is a circle. This is because developing and maintaining a successful program is a never-ending loop.

Once you evaluate your prevention program and identify new opportunities or challenges, you need to gather and assess your data again starting the process all over.


Future Considerations

  • Recognize & Utilize Strengths – Put emphasis on personal-skills development and task-oriented skills training
  • Look At The Community and Individual – It is important to address both the youths’ community environment as well as perform mental health interventions targeting individuals.
  • Understand Cultural Values – Being sensitive to and reflecting on the cultural values of the targeted population can help you build a stronger connection with the children and impact them more.
  • Create Sustainability – Sustainability is crucial to program planning. While you may be able to produce positive prevention, it is not beneficial if it can not be maintained.

Create Sustainable Youth Promotion & Prevention Programs with C4 Consulting

Need help developing and managing your programs? At C4, our consultants are experts in youth mental health intervention and promotion programs.

Together we can create programming that greatly impacts the lives of our youth and in turn, creates the type of adults we want to leave our world to. We will help you assess your community’s needs and strategize a sustainable strategy for your program development.

We have decades of hands-on experience in behavioral health and have the knowledge to ensure your programs are impactful. Schedule a FREE consultation to learn more or call 866-329-7170.