Spotlight on Scholarship

NYU Silver Associate Professor Dr. Michelle Munson and Professor and Interim Dean James Jaccard recently co-authored an article, published online first in Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, that outlines practical, evidence-based principles that researchers and service providers can employ when developing programs to improve engagement in mental health services.

The article, entitled “Mental Health Service Use among Young Adults: A Communication Framework for Program Development,” fills a significant gap in the mental health services literature. As Drs. Munson and Jaccard explain, considerable mental health services research has focused on identifying the factors that impact engagement behaviors, but little attention has been paid to “evidence-based knowledge about how to bring about change in the identified determinants of engagement.” They proceed to fill that void by drawing upon mental health services research, communication theory, and evidence from related behavioral science research.

Drs. Munson and Jaccard review the literature on communication variables, cognitive and affective message processing, and other theories of attitude change. They consolidate their findings into a checklist of key questions that program designers can answer as they develop programs to enhance engagement in mental health services, with the proviso that they may have to pilot test their approaches to ensure they have identified the most effective way of communicating with their target populations.

Drs. Munson and Jaccard conclude by noting, “We hope that this exposure to communication theory and the checklist in Table 1 will serve as a basis for bringing evidence-based strategies to bear as we design programs to encourage consistent engagement and investment in mental health care for those in need.” The article is now available online here.