Evaluation Report on Mental Health Capacity Building Research Project
The Mental Health Capacity Building (MHCB) initiative promotes collaboration between schools and communities to recognize and address barriers to well-being through evidence-informed mental health promotion efforts and activities.
The following outlines key findings from process and outcome measures to compare program operations in 2019/20 reporting year (June 2019 to May 2020) and 2020/21 reporting year (June 2020 to May 2021). Data is presented for all schools combined.
Key Findings: Better Health
The purpose of this evaluation objective was to demonstrate that MHCB staff had been able to provide evidence-based and innovative programming to enhance mental health and well-being in children, youth and families.
ü There was as a 13% decrease in the average number of unique programmed events per month; however, a substantial increase of 46% in total programmed event occurrences per month was documented, which may be attributed to the extension of programming to associate schools and a wider audience. Program delivery seemed to be gradually increasing to younger grades and about 60% of total programs delivered to younger grades resulted from extension to associate schools.
ü In contrast to the previous year, the OurSCHOOL Survey showed some positive results for students in the outcome measures related to positive relationships, feeling of safety, bullying and exclusion experience, and sense of belonging. Supported by the Narrative Summary, one student said, “I've never told anyone that I cut myself before because I never felt safe enough to.”
ü The qualitative data from parents and caregivers showed how students used MHCB resources in their home environment and supported the extension of the MHCB initiative to families and the community at large. One parent said, “And all of that is kind of spilled over at home as well. She has learnt so many valuable skills and she shares them with her sisters.”
Key Findings: Better Care
The purpose of this evaluation objective was to demonstrate that MHCB staff had supported early interventions and facilitated access to treatment for children, youth, and families that are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing mental health and addictions related issues.
ü On one hand, the average number of incoming referrals to the MHCB team decreased from 67 per month in 2019/20 to 48 per month in 2020/21, possibly due to reduced interactions resulting from COVID-19 protocols. On the other hand, the average number of outgoing referrals to school division support and external mental health agencies recorded a 100% increase from 8 per month in 2019/20 to 16 per month in 2020/21, after school re-opening.
ü The peak of incoming referrals was before the COVID-19 lock down (December 2019 to February 2020), which was mostly due to increasing self-referrals from grades 7-9. For the 2020/21 period, incoming referrals seem to be gradually spreading across other grades including PreK-6 and grades 10-12, while grades 7-9 is steadily decreasing, which could be attributed to the diversification of programs to a broader and mixed groups of audiences. In addition, teacher referrals increased in 2020/21 period while student self-referrals reduced drastically, possibly due to the reported impact of COVID-19 protocols on student attendance in schools.
Key Findings: Better Value
The purpose of this evaluation objective was to demonstrate that MHCB staff had been able to build capacity in school staff to deliver wellness presentations and programming.
ü Monthly trends showed the average number of co-facilitated programs increased from 14 per month in 2019/20 period to 26 per month in 2020/21. The proportion of teachers with improved confidence to deliver programs also increased to 50%, which was an 11% increase from the previous year. One teacher stated, “Most importantly, your programming gives me a way to open up more conversations with students about their mental health.”
ü Staff survey showed about 71% of respondents were satisfied (somewhat/very) with MHCB implementation in their schools. Similarly, 70% of respondents reported that they would recommend the initiative to other schools. This shows the need to focus the work of MHCB staff with school staff in order increase positive engagement and satisfaction levels.
Key Findings: Better Teams
The purpose of this evaluation objective was to demonstrate that the MHCB initiative had developed a network of resources that facilitated the promotion of mental well-being, and established the MHCB initiative as a resource within the mental health and addiction continuum of care.
ü School staff data regarding perceived barriers to mental health showed staff believed the barriers to mental health are reducing. For example, 18% of respondents (compared to 22% in the previous year) reported that students’ mental health is still considered a low priority in school, and 71% of those reported that MHCB support had helped overcome this barrier within their schools.
ü School staff reported the extent to which resources have been available for mental health emergencies since MHCB involvement in the schools. About 43% of staff reported that they have been trained on how to deal with students’ mental health emergencies, and 35% stated that people responsible to address mental health emergencies have been clearly defined. Furthermore, 34% of staff were aware of follow-up services internal to school, while 29% were aware of follow-up services external to school, since MHCB involvement. Given that all the measures were supported by less than 50% of respondents, more awareness and collaboration with school staff may be needed to better understand the available resources for students’ mental health emergencies.
ü The qualitative data showed reduced stigma and shifting mental health culture as a positive trend. One school staff stated, “Since the MHCB has been put at our school, the discussions around mental health are greatly improved. I am very grateful that they are a part of our school.”
ü In terms of COVID-19, 78% of school staff respondents rated access to resources since the pandemic as either good, very good or excellent. Additionally, the thematic analysis of qualitative data showed that some positive impacts of COVID-19 regarding the MHCB initiative were the use of larger promotional platforms, more favourable environment for one-on-one referrals due to restricted numbers in MHCB space, and reaching broader audiences. Meanwhile, the negative impacts were described as reducing unique programmed events, concerns with programming effectiveness due to remote delivery, and reduced social engagement from students in MHCB spaces, classrooms, and extra-curricular activities, resulting in reduced opportunities for students. One of the school coordinators stated, “We have had to reduce the type of programs that we offer due to pandemic protocols.”
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