Walker, Kimberley (2021) Impact of Targeted Mental Health Intervention on Children and Adolescents (aged 11 – 13 years old). Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

With the continued discussion within society of mental health issues, it has been suggested that stigmas and stereotypes surrounding mental health impact not only the understanding that people have about specific issues but also the perceived acceptability to discuss this topic. This in turn has the potential to affect self-management and acceptance of mental health issues that may develop during adolescence and in later life. Stigma and self-stigma can be considered to be barriers to starting the conversation and lead to uncertainty about how educational interventions should be formatted. However, previous research in this area highlights the importance of providing students with an education about mental health issues. Therefore, this research focused on improving knowledge and understanding of mental health issues in order to encourage open communication on this topic.

This research aimed to improve awareness of mental health issues, while reducing stigmas and stereotypes surrounding mental illness in school-aged children (aged 11 – 13 years old). Through a targeted intervention programme delivered via the Personal, Social and Health Education programme (PSHE), students were encouraged to discuss and investigate mental ill health in order to improve their understanding of the cause and treatment, support systems available and societal attitudes towards people who experience these issues.

After a systematic review of the impact of previous mental health interventions and different pedagogical approaches was completed, an intervention programme was designed to improve knowledge and understanding of mental health issues in children. Throughout six sessions, which took place during weekly Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education (SMSC), participants had the opportunity to gain an insight into mental health, their own wellbeing and consider how they could manage mental health issues that may arise. Signposting was highlighted throughout to ensure that students were aware of the avenues of support that they could access, should they feel that they would like someone to talk to. Data was collected through a pre- and post- intervention questionnaire design that generated quantitative data, the impact of these sessions was assessed using Exploratory Factors Analysis (EFA) and statistical analysis via a mixed ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) was completed.

This research generated mixed results, with some factors identified as yielding statistically significant results at the p = 0.05 level. It was found that these interventions had the most impact on male participants, with statistical significance being established in understanding of mental health support (p = .025) and social inclusion (p = .042). This research was also found to have a significant impact for year 7 participants, particularly in the topic of knowledge of mental health (p = .050).

Throughout this research a previously untested measure was used which could impact the reliability and validity of the results. However, it was found to support the belief that mental health education is multi-dimensional and therefore this research could be considered a pilot study, which would provide the opportunity to conduct further testing of both the intervention and the measure. This was highlighted in through the EFA results and the discussion of individual factors identified and therefore needs to be considered in all future intervention programmes.

This research supports previous research in this area that states that mental health intervention, regardless of the format, is beneficial in raising awareness of mental health issues and addressing stigma and stereotypes in children and adolescents, and should therefore be used to inform PSHE curriculum planning. This has become particularly relevant in the last months of this research, during the Covid-19 pandemic, where the mental health of children and adolescents has been impacted by lockdowns and local restrictions. Future research in this area could assess the impact of this (or a modified) intervention programme in the development of understanding of individual wellbeing and understanding of signposting available during this time.

Future research could also explore the impact of targeted interventions on younger students, for example, primary school aged participants as well as monitoring long-term impacts, including self-management of mental health issues. Further investigation may choose to also look at the impact of interventions in different educational contexts, such as selective educational facilities and city-based institutions.

FINAL THESIS - Walker, Kimberley.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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