Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems affecting children and adolescents. Current estimates indicate that 1 in 5 children or 4 to 6 students within a classroom of 30 children are at risk for developing an anxiety disorder (Boyd, Kostanski, Gullone, Ollendick, & Shek, 2000). Of these children, many will not receive clinical intervention. The school environment is the optimal setting to address this issue and to minimise the risk and prevent the development of anxiety disorders. This article examines the importance of early intervention and prevention within the school setting through an examination of the risk and protective factors of anxiety and the comparability of three approaches to prevention in schools — selective, indicated, and universal approaches. All three prevention approaches are discussed along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. The applicability of the universal approach to prevention is discussed in relation to the FRIENDS for Life (FRIENDS) program (Barrett, 2004, 2005) and its implementation within schools. The FRIENDS program is an evidence-based, cognitive–behavioural anxiety program for children and youth. It is the only evidence-based program endorsed by the World Health Organization as an effective program for the prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression in children and youth.
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