Effectiveness of a psycho-educational intervention on the mental health and academic performance of students in eight public schools in Kiambu West and Nairobi Districts, Kenya
Background: School going students experience mental health problems which lead to negative consequences such as low academic performance. Cost effective interventions can be carried out within the school. Objective: To find if psycho-education intervention is effective in improving mental health and academic performance in the students studied. Study design: This was a quasi-experimental clinical trial to test the efficacy of psycho-education in reduction of mental health problems and improvement of academic performance. Methods and materials: Research and Ethical clearance was obtained from Kenyatta National Hospital/University of Nairobi Research and Ethics Committee. A multi-stage sampling procedure was used to identify four primary and four secondary schools, half of which were experimental and the other half was control. The study instruments included; social demographic questionnaire, the suicide questionnaire, SDQ, UCLA-PTSD RI, and the School Tool Kit. The instruments were administered at baseline and at follow-up except for the socio demographic questionnaire, which was administered only at baseline. For the experimental schools, psycho-education was given after the baseline. Data analysis: SPSS version 16 was used. Results: At baseline the following were found: 8.7% had Total Difficulties, 26.9% had PTSD, 14.2% were on current substance use, 9.1% were on current alcohol use while 7.3% were currently smoking cigarettes. Academic performance was associated with Total Difficulties and the current use of alcohol. Gender differences were observed in: current alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and substance use, where the male gender was a predictor, PTSD, and Total Difficulties where the female gender was a predictor, Age was also a predictor in the following: alcohol consumption was associated with the older groups/secondary schools, while PTSD was associated with the younger age group. Being in the rural schools was associated with PTSD and low academic performance. At baseline there was also no statistical significant difference between the control and experimental in any mental health problem. Psycho education improved Total Difficulties, PTSD, current alcohol use and academic performance. Conclusion: Students in public primary and secondary schools in Kiambu West and Nairobi have mental health problems which affect academic performance. Psycho- education is effective in improving mentaJ health and academic performance.