This project aims to investigate the long-term, life course effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of whole-school approaches to improving the mental health of children and young people. We also aim to identify what works best, where and for whom.
Mental health problems are increasing among children and young people in England with approximately one in six experiencing mental health difficulties in 2020. There is growing recognition that schools and colleges can play a key role in addressing poor mental health in children and young people.
There have been some encouraging findings from studies examining the impact of whole-school interventions on mental health, however, there is a lack of evidence about the cost-effectiveness and long-term societal outcomes of these approaches.
Simulation modelling has the potential to inform mental health and educational policy by estimating the long-term effects on costs, health, wealth and wider societal outcomes.
Design and methods
This project will be carried out in three parts:
• We will use a simulation model (LifeSim) to predict the long-term outcomes of whole school approaches for improving mental health among children and young people. LifeSim was developed using data collected from over 10,000 children born in the year 2000. We will add new data from three studies of whole-school approaches to improving mental health to predict how they may benefit people over much longer periods of time.
• We will undertake a thorough review of previous studies of effective whole-school approaches to improving mental health among children and young people to identify ‘active ingredients’, and to understand how these work and the local conditions that are needed for success.
• We will run several workshops with young people, parents, teachers and people who provide mental health support, to get their views on the most important parts of approaches to mental health in schools and where these approaches work best. This will help us to develop ‘logic models’ which will capture the important elements of the effective school-based approaches to improving mental health, to guide future adaptation and implementation.
We will closely with colleagues from BIHR, Healthy Minds and the McPin Foundation to establish an ‘experts by experience’ panel, including teachers, parents and young people. The panel will consist of approximately 10 members, and they will attend regular meetings with the study team to ensure that public and community involvement is embedded in the research project. This will include providing feedback on study materials (e.g., interview guides, consent forms, study invites and advertising) and advise on strategies to recruit individuals to stakeholder consultation workshops. Opportunities to be involved in the planning and delivery of these workshops will also be provided to public partners.
We will work closely with our public and practice partners to identify effective ways in which the project’s findings can be shared with the wider public. This will include supporting the development of outputs authored by lived experience experts which are lay friendly, and by identifying where these outputs should be shared. We will also utilise the Public mental health network, to share project updates and outputs through monthly newsletters to members of the public, practitioners and academics.