ComBAT (comBAT)

“Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in people aged 15–19 years. Building socioemotional skills in children and adolescents and providing them with psychosocial support in schools and other community settings can help promote good mental health.” (World Health Organisation, 2021).

ComBAT stands for Community-based Behavioural Activation Training for Depression in Adolescents. Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), ComBAT is a 5-year research programme that will develop, implement and evaluate Behavioural Activation (BA), a brief psychological therapy, for young people aged 12-18 with mild to moderate depression. 

When a person is depressed, they may struggle to carry on with day-to-day activities that give their lives structure, purpose and a sense of accomplishment and pleasure. BA is based on one key principle: that enjoyable, purposeful and meaningful activities can lift our mood, energise us and stimulate our interest and pleasure in day-to-day life. BA helps people re-engage with these activities so that they can re-experience the associated emotional rewards and feel better. 

BA is already evidenced as an effective intervention for adults and a promising intervention for children and adolescents, when it is delivered by mental health specialists. As part of ComBAT, we will adapt BA so that it can be supported by a wider group of professionals in schools and other community settings, such as young people’s charities, youth justice services and social care.  ComBAT will evaluate the clinical effectiveness, acceptability and value for money of BA compared to usual care.

The ultimate ambition of ComBAT is to provide an evidence-based and scalable method of tackling mild to moderate depression in young people before the problem escalates and requires more specialist and resource-intensive mental health services. ComBAT will build on the experience and working knowledge of professionals who engage and support young people in the community, so that these professionals can deliver a clinically-informed intervention to make a meaningful change in young people's mental health.