05 SES 08, Resilience
In 2009 the World Health Organisation (2009) estimated that 10-20% of young people in Europe have a mental health problem. More recent evidence from the UK suggests that this is increasing, notably among adolescent girls where as many as 1 in 4 report high levels of depressive symptoms (Patalay & Fitzsimmons, 2017; Deighton et al, 2018). Although the UK government has recently committed funding, schools increasingly feel pressure to respond and increase mental health provision and support for their students. Given the high stakes accountability that characterises the school system in parts of the UK, notably England (Ball, 2000; Mansell 2007), this paper offers an opportunity to examine the extent to which interventions designed to improve young people’s mental health and resilience are successful in such a context and draw out lessons and implications for schools in Europe and elsewhere.
Recent research conducted in England has shown that while school and college leaders were committed to improving young people’s mental health, problems with commissioning support and funding, as well as lack of internal capacity in schools were acknowledged as barriers (NatCen, 2017). This paper focuses on the early findings from a four-year study of a programme intended to overcome these challenges by supporting children and young people to develop resilience; increase their awareness of their mental health and that of others; and prevent the development of lifelong mental health issues. Designed locally but funded nationally, the programme is located in an urban local authority in the West Midlands of England with relatively high numbers of young people considered at risk.
The programme brings together projects and interventions based both in primary and secondary schools and in communities with high levels of disadvantage, with an emphasis on co-producing activities with participants. Reflecting this, the theoretical framework for the research draws on elements of participatory research (Bergold & Thomas, 2012) and adopts a strengths-based and co-produced approach (Boyle et al, 2010; O’Neill, 2003) to determines the impact of the programme’s interventions on the resilience of the young people involved.
The paper will use early findings from the baselining phase of the research to begin to address the following guiding research questions:
- What effect have interventions had on the mental health and wellbeing of individual young people according to self-reporting scales?
- Can the interventions be associated with the development of behaviours and mechanisms which protect young people against the development of mental health disorders?
- Is there evidence of local system transformation in terms of increasing the capacity and capability of schools and communities to support young people with mental health issues?
The study adopts a mixed methods approach (Mertens, 2007). The data collected includes student-level surveys of resilience, behaviour and wellbeing using validated rating scales (Ravens-Sieberer & Cieza, 2000; Ungar & Liebenberg, 2011; Theron et al, 2015) in the 31 schools participating in the programme and qualitative explorations of the implementation and impact of interventions through participatory, semi-structured interviews with young people and participating adults in the programme’s four target communities and a sample of participating schools. The research focuses on the implementation of the programme’s interventions as well as their impacts. As well as reporting initial findings, the paper will examine the methodological challenges involved in integrating multiple data sources into a participatory approach and working closely with young people to assess the impact of initiatives in sensitive areas such as mental health and wellbeing. Limitations of the research include its sample and location in a single locality in England, although efforts will be made to assess the implications of its findings for other contexts.
The results outlined will offer a detailed picture of the extent to which young people involved in the programme have identifiable needs in terms of mental health and resilience support, as well as analysing the quantitative and qualitative data to assess the early impact of the programme as a whole and its constituent interventions. As such, the lessons from this large scale programme will be able to influence the development of similar initiatives elsewhere. The paper will also briefly explore the challenges of working in partnership with schools and community-based professionals in researching a programme of this kind, notably in determining how methods and outcomes are agreed, shared and presented.
Ball, S. (2000) Performativities and fabrications in the education economy: Towards the performative society, Australian Educational Researcher, 27, 2, 1-23. Bergold, J. and Thomas, S. (2012) Participatory research methods: a methodological approach in motion, Historical Social Research 37,4, 191-222. Boyle, D., Slay, J., and Stephens, L. (2010) Public services inside out: Putting co-production into practice. London: NESTA Children’s Commissioner (2017) Report on measuring the number of vulnerable children. London: Children’s Commissioner for England. Deighton, J., Lereya, T. Patalay, P., Casey, P., Humphreys, N. and Wolpert, M. (2018) Mental Health Problems in 11-14 year-olds: Results from the first HeadStart annual survey of 30,000 children. London: Evidence Based Practice Unit. Mansell, W. (2007) Education by Numbers. London: Politico. Mertens, D. M. (2007). Transformative paradigm: Mixed methods and social justice. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(3), 212-225. NatCen Social Research & the National Children’s Bureau Research and Policy Team (2017) Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges Summary report. London: Department for Education. O'Neil, D. (2003) Clients as researchers: The benefits of strengths-based research, in Munford, R. and Sanders, J. (eds.) Making a Difference in Families: Research that Creates Change. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 113-129. Patalay, P. and Fitzsimmons, E. (2017) Mental ill-health among Children of the New Century: Trends across Childhood with a Focus on Age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies. Ravens-Sieberer, U. and Cieza, A. (eds.) (2000) Lebensqualität und Gesundheitsökonomie in der Medizin – Konzepte, Methoden, Anwendung. München: Ecomed-Verlag. Theron, L.C., Liebenberg, L. and Ungar, M. (eds.) Youth Resilience and Culture. Commonalities and Complexities. Heidelberg: Springer Dordrecht. Ungar, M., and Liebenberg, L. (2011). Assessing resilience across cultures using mixed methods: Construction of the child and youth resilience measure, Journal of Multiple Methods in Research, 5,2 126-149. World Health Organization (2009) A Snapshot of the Health of Young People in Europe: A report prepared for the European Commission Conference on Youth Health, Brussels, Belgium, 9–10 July 2009. Copenhagen: World Health Organization.
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