Co-produced evaluation of three-year mental health intervention completes, culminating in a report and short film.
The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) worked with staff at Rethink Mental Illness (Rethink) and champions with lived experience of mental health issues, to co-produce the evaluation of Step Up between December 2015 and August 2018. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Step Up was designed with and for young people aged 16-25 years. It aimed to enable young people to better plan for, manage and cope with periods of major age-related transitions (e.g. going to University). The aim was to support young people to develop coping strategies and greater confidence in dealing with difficult periods in life, helping improve participants’ wellbeing in the process.
A process and outcomes evaluation of Step Up was co-produced by TIHR, working with Rethink staff and Step Up champions. It began with the co-creation of a project Theory of Change and Mental Wellbeing Impact Assessment, which informed the co-design of participant surveys, a number of Action Learning Sets and evaluation meetings with champions and staff, interviews with Rethink staff and champions, and an evaluation film.
The final full Evaluation Report, the Executive Summary and a short evaluation film (which you can see below) are now available. As the film and report show, over 580 young people took part in 35 interventions. Over 90% of participants that completed surveys at the end of workshops reported:
improved knowledge of mental health services and other local support networks;
a clearer understanding of the process of transition;
new skills or tools for managing health and wellbeing during a period of change.
Over 75% of participants reported enjoying Step Up sessions, and particularly seemed to value the role of champions, with lived experience of mental ill-health, being involved in Step Up’s design and delivery. However, challenges with gathering longitudinal data following participation meant that it was not possible to say whether or not Step Up was of benefit to young people through later transitions or with subsequent mental health difficulties. Additionally, a number of factors prevented the project from being able to demonstrate the effects of interventions on participants’ resilience levels.
A whole range of benefits were reported by champions during interviews, including new networks and friendships, pride and increased confidence, employability skills including teamwork, presentation and communication skills. Most champions interviewed connected their involvement in Step Up with further volunteering and employment opportunities. Additionally, there were indications that the champion experience could be beneficial to a young person’s mental health and ongoing resilience.
Overall, whilst the project seemed to run well and achieve most of its objectives, there were changes during its lifespan which created some challenges for those involved and led to learning for individuals and Rethink as an organisation.
Further evaluation is needed to understand the potential longer-term benefits and harms of such activities as well as explore in more depth the mental health outcomes, such as increased resilience, for those undertaking the champion role. Overall, it seems that projects like Step Up do fulfil a need in supporting young people at times of increased stress, but more research is needed to find out what in particular works well.
Copyright of Tavistock Institute, Director: Justyn Hollett