A Cluster Randomized-Controlled Trial of a Classroom-Based Drama Workshop Program to Improve Mental Health Outcomes among Immigrant and Refugee Youth in Special Classes
The aim of this cluster randomized trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based theatre intervention program for immigrant and refugee youth in special classes for improving mental health and academic outcomes. The primary hypothesis was that students in the theatre intervention group would report a greater reduction in impairment from symptoms compared to students in the control and tutoring groups.
Special classrooms in five multiethnic high schools were randomly assigned to theater intervention (n = 10), tutoring (n = 10) or control status (n = 9), for a total of 477 participants. Students and teachers were non-blinded to group assignment. The primary outcome was impairment from emotional and behavioural symptoms assessed by the Impact Supplement of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) completed by the adolescents. The secondary outcomes were the SDQ global scores (teacher and youth reports), impairment assessed by teachers and school performance. The effect of the interventions was assessed through linear mixed effect models which incorporate the correlation between students in the same class, due to the nature of the randomization of the interventions by classroom.
The theatre intervention was not associated with a greater reduction in self-reported impairment and symptoms in youth placed in special class because of learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties than a tutoring intervention or a non-active control group. The estimates of the different models show a non-significant decrease in both self-reported and impairment scores in the theatre intervention group for the overall group, but the impairment score decreased significantly for first generation adolescents while it increased for second generation adolescents.
The difference between the population of immigrant and refugee youth newcomers studied previously and the sample of this trial may explain some of the differences in the observed impact of the theatre intervention.