Three key factors in evaluating mental health programmes, blog by Diarmid Campbell-JackClient: Mental Health Schools Link | Sectors: Social Policy
In his latest Blog, Diarmid Campbell-Jack (Ecorys Associate Director) reflects on the learning from a series of mental health programme evaluations at Ecorys.
At Ecorys, we’ve recently worked on a lot of studies looking into mental health issues among young people, often in school settings. As part of our overall reflections, I’ve spent some time discussing with colleagues to identify the key factors in understanding programme interventions:
1. The culture of individual settings is vital. Our Peer Support Pilot evaluation really benefitted from detailed understanding of the school context and culture – not just the history of similar provision and the extent that senior management supported initiatives, but broader attitudes and approaches to mental health provision. There is an increasing awareness that for programmes to work in the long-term, they need to be embedded in school culture for both staff and young people – really understanding this at an individual school level is vital.
2. Schools are not stand-alone organisations. Our current work on the Mental Health Schools Link evaluation (examining joint-working across schools and other systems) has shown the importance of looking at the education system in a wider context. Detailed understanding of referral processes and links to other organisations can explain the success of many programmes, but requires detailed work with other stakeholders.
3.Sustainability. We don’t just want programmes that help young people with their mental health now, we want sustainable programmes that work in 10 or 20 years as well. This requires the evaluator to think carefully, particularly around how best to examine sustainability at the start of a programme. One approach we’ve used has been the ‘pre-mortem’, to assess possible barriers and solutions in a creative way.
There are many other factors that are important in assessing the impact of any mental health evaluation – certainly our recent Peer Support Pilots and other evaluations give a lot of practical insight. What else do you think is particularly important?