Research suggests that up to 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14. The most recent survey of the mental health of children and young people in the UK demonstrated an increase in emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression among 11-15 year olds. Further to this, studies show that young people do not always recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in themselves and others.
Responding to the need to support young people’s mental health, the Mental Health Foundation’s Peer Education Programme (PEP) provides a potentially effective way of improving young people’s understanding of their own mental health at a critical developmental stage using a peer teaching method. Early evaluations of the PEP have produced encouraging findings which we are proposing to build on.
In this study we will look at how PEP is delivered in schools, what the challenges are with delivery, how it can best be embedded within wider school life and how it can be improved to be of most benefit to the widest number of young people. We will also examine whether it would be possible to conduct a larger study in the future, which will test out the extent to which PEP improves mental health literacy, and the best ways to measure such an improvement.
We will share the findings of this study widely with stakeholders including education leaders, young people and parents, and academics.