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Background: Mental disorders affect about one in seven children and adolescents worldwide. Investment in effective child and adolescent mental health prevention, promotion and care is essential. To date, however, the evidence from this field is yet to be comprehensively collected and mapped. Objectives: The objective of this evidence and gap map (EGM) is to provide an overview of the existing evidence on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at promoting mental health and reducing or preventing mental health conditions among children and adolescents in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs). Search Methods: We searched for studies from a wide range of bibliographic databases, libraries and websites. All searches were conducted in December 2021 and covered the period between 2010 and 2021. Selection Criteria: We included evidence on the effectiveness of any Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) interventions targeting children and adolescents from 0 to 19 years of age in LMICs. The map includes systematic reviews and effectiveness studies in the form of randomised control trials and quasi-experimental studies, and mixed-methods studies with a focus on intervention effectiveness. Data Collection and Analysis: A total of 63,947 records were identified after the search. A total of 19,578 records were removed using machine learning. A total of 7545 records were screened independently and simultaneously by four reviewers based on title and abstract and 2721 full texts were assessed for eligibility. The EGM includes 697 studies and reviews that covered 78 LMICs. Main Results: School-based interventions make up 61% of intervention research on child and adolescent mental health and psychosocial support. Most interventions (59%) focusing on treating mental health conditions rather than preventing them or promoting mental health. Depression (40%, N = 282) was the most frequently researched outcome sub-domain analysed by studies and reviews, followed by anxiety disorders (32%, N = 225), well-being (21%, N = 143), and post-traumatic stress disorder (18%, N = 125). Most included studies and reviews investigated the effectiveness of mental health and psychosocial support interventions in early (75%, N = 525) and late adolescence (64%, N = 448). Conclusions: The body of evidence in this area is complex and it is expanding progressively. However, research on child and adolescent MHPSS interventions is more reactive than proactive, with most evidence focusing on addressing mental health conditions that have already arisen rather than preventing them or promoting mental health. Future research should investigate the effectiveness of digital mental health interventions for children and adolescents as well as interventions to address the mental health and psychosocial needs of children in humanitarian settings. Research on early childhood MHPSS interventions is urgently needed. MHPSS research for children and adolescents lacks diversity. Research is also needed to address geographical inequalities at the regional and national level. Important questions also remain on the quality of the available research—is child and adolescent MHPSS intervention research locally relevant, reliable, well-designed and conducted, accessible and innovative? Planning research collaborations with decision-makers and involving experts by experience in research is essential.

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Campbell Systematic Reviews

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