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How often do we hear fire alarms and practice drills in schools, workplaces and apartment buildings? We practice these drills all the time so that we know what to do in an emergency. If we’re informed of what to do when there’s no immediate threat, we’re prepared for when it comes to an actual emergency.

The same goes for mental health. We can’t wait for a crisis to act, because then it’s too late. When our brains are under stress, the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of logic and reasoning, shuts down. This is why we need to be educated and informed on these issues before our brain reaches that state of sympathetic (fight or flight) stress. Mental health is an essential component of our overall well-being. However, despite its importance, it is often overlooked or neglected until a crisis occurs. This is why prevention is crucial when it comes to mental health.

In order to address the substantial burden of disease and mental health issues globally attributed to substance use, depression, and anxiety, early intervention with high quality prevention education is essential. OurFutures Institute’s evidence-based school programs have responded to this burden with proven success.

OurFutures Insitute is a not-for-profit a joint venture with the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney. We offer a curriculum-aligned school program with a proven evidence-based prevention model that takes a harm minimisation approach.

The effectiveness of the OurFutures program has been established in 8  large randomised controlled trials (RCTs), including >21,000 students from 240 schools across Australia. This rigorous research sets us apart from other prevention programs which haven’t had their efficacy proven. Focusing on prevention means that we can intervene before harmful patterns of behaviour occur, reduce the prevalence of mental health conditions and substance use, and improve overall wellbeing. This leads to better outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.

Prevention involves taking proactive steps to maintain good mental health and prevent the development of mental health conditions. This can include lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet, as well as stress management techniques like meditation, mindfulness exercises, or therapy. Education from an early age is also key. If young people are informed of warning signs and coping strategies, they are equipped to deal with stressors as they arise and can seek help when they notice the warning signs. OurFutures’ evidence-based modules provide this informative education to equip young people to deal with stressors, mental health conditions, substance use, peer pressure, and scenarios that are bound to arise in teenage life. Our modules are based on a comprehensive social influence and skill development model, and we are the only Australian school-based drug and alcohol prevention program to receive the highest evidence rating from the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction.

Over 10+ years of research has shown that the OurFutures courses improve student outcomes by:

  • Increasing knowledge about alcohol, cannabis, MDMA and new psychoactive substances
  • Reducing alcohol consumption and binge drinking
  • Reducing cannabis and ecstasy use
  • Slowing the progression of anxiety symptoms (when the Alcohol & Cannabis Module and Mental Health Module are delivered together)
  • Reducing psychological distress
  • Reducing harms related to the use of alcohol and ecstasy
  • Reducing intentions to use MDMA, psychostimulants, new psychoactive substances and synthetic cannabis

At OurFutures Institute, we believe in the importance of prevention when it comes to mental health and substance use. Our mission is to empower individuals and communities to take control of their wellbeing through education, resources, and support. By working together to prioritise prevention, we can create a world where mental health is a priority and everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive.

OurFutures has the potential to deliver effective prevention to all students in Australia (and indeed globally) at a significantly smaller cost than traditional facilitator-based programs. If our programs were delivered to all 1.5 million secondary school students in Australia, we would see 120,000 fewer adolescents binge drink and 1,000 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol-related harms per year. We would see real cultural change in how new generations relate to alcohol and drugs, reducing harm and addiction and improving mental health.

Find more information on the evidence behind OurFutures education modules here:

https://ourfuturesinstitute.org.au/evidence/

Other research

Other research that proves the importance of prevention in mental and substance use disorders has been done through a collaboration between The Matilda Centre (the research team behind OurFutures), Black Dog Institute and Everymind. A 2021 study by S. Baker, M. Deady, L. Birrel, et al., highlighted the importance of a nationally coordinated, long-term approach in prevention efforts and implementation. Find it here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212657021000155?via%3Dihub

Another study from The Matilda Centre team that highlights the significance of early intervention and efficacy of the OurFutures programs (then known as Climate Schools) can be found here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00420.x

A 2023 article from the Matilda team that focuses specifically on OurFutures’ Mental Health module and the efficacy of our early intervention program over the usual high school health education curriculum can be found here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212657023000193

Thank you for your support in our mission to promote mental health and well-being.

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