Evaluating the impact of participation in a youth mental health peer education programme

Presentation First Author: 
Jeanne Forde

Introduction/Objectives: The use of peer education has been well documented within the discipline of health promotion generally, but most specifically within the realms of substance misuse prevention, sexual health promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention. Despite its popularity, peer education has not been widely used in the youth mental health domain. In 2015, Headstrong carried out a pilot schools peer education programme that involved training young people to deliver a workshop about mental health. This presentation describes the main findings from an evaluation of this programme, which was carried out to examine programme acceptability and to assess whether participation had any impact on peer educators’ skills, self-esteem, knowledge about mental health and beliefs about help-seeking.

Method: Participants were 30 peer educators, aged 15 to 17 years, from five post-primary schools in a large suburban area in Dublin, Ireland. Twelve (40%) males and 18 (60%) females took part in the peer education programme, with the majority of participants being Caucasian (n = 27; 90%). Most participants (n = 25; 83.3%) had not received any previous mental health training. After each training session (n = 4), participants completed a short questionnaire comprising several questions assessing their reactions to the training. Participants also completed a battery of measures at three time points: at the first peer education training session, at their final training session, and at the end of the peer education programme, after they had delivered the workshop about mental health in their schools. This consisted of a short sociodemographic questionnaire, the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), Self-stigma of Help-seeking Scale (SSOSH; Vogel, Wade, & Haak, 2006), Perception of Stigmatisation by Others for Seeking Help (PSOSH; Vogel, Wade, & Ascheman, 2009) and a short author designed measure about mental health knowledge and skills. Data were analysed using SPSS version 21.

Results: Overall, participants reported they enjoyed the peer education training, which they felt was well facilitated, well timed and contained an appropriate amount of easy-to-understand information. There were significant changes in participants’ presentation skills, understanding of mental health, awareness of what helps and hurts mental health, and beliefs about help-seeking across time. However, there were no significant changes in participants’ levels of self-esteem, comfort talking about mental health and team-working skills.

Conclusion: Findings from this evaluation indicate that the schools peer education programme is acceptable, and that participation in the programme has a number of benefits for young people.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
Type of presentation: 
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