A SCHOOL BASED POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAM: PREVENTING MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AND ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Abstract - The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a Positive Psychology Addiction Prevention Program (PPAP) in reducing substance and screen use and improving mental health among school children during the COVID-19 pandemic. By translating the latest research from the fields of addiction prevention, resilience, and positive psychology into a comprehensive school intervention, the PPAP program aimed to prevent a range of mental health problems and addictions among young people, and promote overall well-being. The study included 1,670 children and adolescents from six elementary and secondary schools in Israel who were randomly assigned to either the PPAP program or a waiting-list control group. The PPAP program was delivered by teachers to their students over the course of a school year. The study used a repeated-measures randomized control design to examine changes in substance use, screen use, and mental health symptoms in both the intervention(n=833) and control groups(n=837) at three measurement points: before the start of the pandemic (September 2019), after the program was completed(May 2021), and at a 12-month follow-up(May 2022). The results showed that the 12-month prevalence of alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco use decreased significantly in the intervention group from the start of the study to the follow-up, while it increased significantly in the control group. Daily screen use increased in both groups during the pandemic, but the increase was significantly higher in the control group. The intervention group also reported significantly lower levels of depression, somatization, and anxiety after the program and at follow-up compared to the control group. These findings suggest that the PPAP program is effective in moderating substance and screen use and improving mental health among young people, making it a valuable resource for schools and communities in the post-COVID-19 era.