Professors working to prevent child mental disorders at ASU find that treating anxiety early can yield great results
Most people have had times in their life when they’ve been too nervous to raise their hand in class or ask a crush out on a date.
But not everybody knows what it’s like when those tendencies interfere with daily life, making simple things like going outside or speaking to strangers nearly impossible.
That’s what can happen to someone whose anxiety disorder goes untreated, according to Arizona State University associate professor of psychologyThe Psychology Department at ASU is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Armando Pina.
“Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. But sometimes anxiety gets a little bit out of control. And sometimes it gets very out of control. And once it begins to get out of control or impair kids, then it begins to affect other areas of their lives,” he said.
Pina has been researching and implementing anxiety prevention strategies for children in grades three through five for the past five years with a program called REACH for Success.
“This is one of the most common problems in kids, period,” said Pina. “The prevalence of anxiety ranges from something like eight to 12 percent, and as high as 35 percent in adolescents.”
The program was developed as part of a grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Through REACH, Pina and fellow researchers work with local school districts to distribute materials and train teachers and school psychologists on how to use them to prevent and treat symptoms of anxiety in at-risk children.
The trial time for the program at each school is six weeks long and is comprised of six, 20 minute sessions in which students utilize materials such as board games or a mobile applicationPina’s team worked with associate professor Kevin Gary and assistant professor Ashish Amresh in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to develop the app. — which has just recently begun testing in schools — to learn tools necessary for coping with anxiety.
After the six week trial, children showed significant reductions in worries, improvements on emotion displays and expressions, and more confidence in coping with stressful situations at school.